Today I'm writing about an important environmental issue that not many are talking about.
The North Fork Watershed Protection Act, a bill that would prevent mining, oil and gas exploration along the North Fork of the Flathead River just stalled in the Senate. This is nothing new. Though Congressman Pat Williams and Senators Baucus, Melcher, Burns, and Tester have all tried to pass legislation designating new wilderness areas in Montana, it's been over 30 years since Congress has done so.
I wrote last month about why I support the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, and it's more important now than ever.
Make sure to check out the latest issue of MEIC's Capitol Monitor, which concentrates on bills affecting land use in Montana. As MEIC put it, "Needless to say, there's mostly bad news. The Republican majorities are running wild in favor of unregulated development...and the costs could come home to roost at your house if these measures become law."
There are two major bills (HB 542 and SB 379) headed for Gov. Brian Schweitzer's desk. According to MEIC, "HB 542 is bad for agriculture, bad for the public, and bad for local governments." Meanwhile SB 379 is basically Plum Creek Timber Co's anti-zoning bill. E-mails and calls to the Governor asking him to veto both bills are our last, best shot to derail these measures.
During the legislative session, I'm going to make it a point to reprint the Montana Environmental Information Center's weekly Capitol Monitor, an excellent synopsis of the good, the bad and the 19th century concerning environmental issues at the 2011 Montana legislature.
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Under Attack By MEIC's Capitol Monitor
The first week of February saw a brief halt in the introduction of new anti-environment bills. But attacks on renewable energy and energy efficiency continued, with several bills passing the Senate and being transmitted to the House.
"It seems as if they are attacking the industries in Montana that should be promoted," said MEIC's Energy Policy lobbyist Kyla Wiens. "They should be encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy. But instead, they're discouraging them."
Here's how Mike Dennison, a reporter for the Lee Newspapers Capitol Bureau, summed it up in an article this past week: "As majority Republicans at the Legislature talk up oil, gas, and coal development in Montana, they're also pursuing another energy agenda - torpedoing the state's incentives for conservation and renewable power."
"The major focus of the session, according to both Republicans and Democrats, is job creation," says Wiens. "Instead they are picking winners and losers for the jobs they want to create and the businesses they want to thrive. Unfortunately, renewable energy jobs are not being favored."
In an interview this week, Governor Brian Schweitzer was straightforward in his opinion of the situation: "This action is irrational. [All energy development] creates jobs .... If the Flat Earth Society in the Montana Legislature continues to try to chase business away from Montana, it's going to have a devastating effect all across Montana." When asked if he would veto the bills he was referring to, the governor said he would "probably take a dim view" of the measures because they wouldn't create jobs.
MEIC members are urged to contact their legislators to oppose the anti-renewable energy and anti-conservation bills by e-mail, telephone calls [(406) 444-4800], or letters to the editor. A "thank you" for the Governor's support of renewable energy development and conservation would also be helpful.
Some good news came at the end of last week - Montana District Court Judge Haddon upheld the current travel plan which the USFS implemented over a year ago in the Badger Two Med region between Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness east of the Continental Divide in NW Montana. All arguments put forth by the plaintiffs who challenged the ban on motorized access were rejected.
The decision can be challenged to the US Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit. The Plaintiffs have 60 days.
It will be good to have this matter settled so volunteers currently raising money and spending time on the defense of the travel plan could then put their time and money to restoring the region. Weed control and healing the landscape are top priorities.
You should see more press on this early next week.
I am posting this on behalf of Matthew Koehler, who was encountering a strange java scripting error when he attempted to post it. All kudos to him. -RK
Today, November 18th, marks the 40th anniversary of the Bolle Report being entered into the Congressional Record.
Some of you might be saying, "The Bolle What?" - and I guess you might not be alone. So here's a quick summary.
Following World War II, the housing and building boom dramatically increased demand for timber. Up until that time, the US Forest Service (USFS) was largely what historians have come to call a "custodial" agency. Sure, between the USFS's founding in 1905 until the mid-1940s, the agency was cutting some trees and building some roads in America's National Forests. However, the USFS didn't fully get into the business of road building and timber production until the post-WWII era.
And boy did they ever get into it! For example, the USFS would become the largest road building agency in the world, bulldozing and jamming more than 440,000 miles of roads onto our National Forests. In the pre-1970s era, with no real environmental laws or regulations, roads were often built right through streams or riparian areas, or built one of top of another right up the sides of mountains.
The decades of the 50s and 60s also saw the USFS greatly ramp up it's logging levels. In order to keep up with demand (and respond to Congressional pressure) the USFS increasingly looked to large-scale clearcutting to "get the cut out."
The Bitterroot National Forest took this one step further: clearcuts followed by building terraces on entire hillsides. Forest Service policy expert, Dr. Martin Nie of the University of Montana, has this account:
"Responding to increased demand, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) began to more aggressively harvest timber after World War Two. This national change in management philosophy, from so-called custodian to timber production agency, was very apparent on the Bitterroot National Forest (BNF).... Here, the USFS used clearcutting and terracing silvicultural techniques to meet its timber production goals. Several citizens of the Bitterroot Valley, however, disliked this degree of intensive forest management and charged that it was environmentally and aesthetically harmful. Among other complaints, citizens objected to the practice or intensity of clearcutting and/or terracing, stream siltation and watershed impacts, excessive road building, the level of timber harvesting, real estate effects, and the inadequate attention given to other multiple uses."
One of those citizens was longtime Bitterroot Valley resident Guy M. Brandborg, who just happened to be the Supervisor of the Bitterroot National Forest from 1935 to 1955. Historian Frederick H. Swanson, who is currently putting the finishing touches on a book about Brandborg, last year published an excellent essay titled A Radical in the Ranks: G.M. Brandborg and the Bitterroot National Forest.
"[Brandborg] wrote mountains of correspondence to politicians, reporters, agency heads, and fellow activists, urging them to return the Forest Service to the principles he had followed while supervisor. Brandborg accompanied reporters such as Gladwin Hill of the New York Times, James Risser of the Des Moines Register, and James Nathan Miller of the Reader's Digest on a circuit of Bitterroot clearcuts, contrasting the agency's high-impact approach with the much more limited selective cutting he had once employed.... Brandy's þannel-shirt-and-suspenders appearance did not hurt his credibility with reporters. As a professed "sourdough forester," he lacked the scientiÞc training of most contemporary Forest Service timber staffers, yet he drew on years of Þeld experience to inform his views. He could be abrasive toward those he disagreed with, using his newspaper commentaries to castigate politicians, bureaucrats, and industry leaders whom he believed were selling out the public's forests. Yet he acutely understood how to bring pressure on those in power, and beginning in 1968 he organized a calculated and persistent campaign that resulted in significant changes in forestry practices throughout the Forest Service."
Dr. Nie picks up the story:
"Montana Senator Lee Metcalf, from the Bitterroot Valley himself, responded to widespread constituent complaints about forest management, especially about clearcutting and the dominant role of timber production in USFS policy, by requesting an independent study of the problem by Dean Arnold Bolle of the University of Montana's School of Forestry. Bolle appointed a select group of faculty members from the University of Montana to investigate, and this group went further in its critique of forest management on the Bitterroot and beyond.
The Committee began its report with the startling statement that "[m]ultiple use management, in fact, does not exist as the governing principle on the Bitterroot National Forest." It viewed the controversy as substantial and legitimate, with local and national implications. The Committee's approach was to contrast the actions of the USFS with the written policies and laws governing forest management. From there, the Bolle Report, as it became known, criticized the Bitterroot's "overriding concern for sawtimber production" from an environmental, economic, organizational, and democratic standpoint. Other multiple uses and resource values were not given enough serious consideration according to the Report: "In a federal agency which measures success primarily by the quantity of timber produced weekly, monthly and annually, the staff of the [BNF] finds itself unable to change its course, to give anything but token recognition to related values, or to involve most of the local public in any way but as antagonists." The subculture of forestry, it seemed to the Committee, was out of step with shifting American values and goals. Though professional dogma was partly to blame, the Bolle Report also found that "[t]he heavy timber orientation is built in by legislative action and control, by executive direction and by budgetary restriction." The Report also focused on the economic irrationality of clearcutting and terracing on the Bitterroot, and the serious lack of democratic participation in forest management.
Together with a parallel case on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, the Bitterroot controversy helps explain the significant changes that were made to U.S. forest policy in the 1970s, including new guidelines on clearcutting in the National Forests, and passage of the National Forest Management Act in 1976. Though its significance continues to be debated, the latter at least partly addressed some of the issues in the Bitterroot conflict, like by placing limits on clearcutting, and giving the public a more meaningful role to play in forest management and planning."
So there you have it. If you care about America's National Forest legacy give a cold and snowy shout-out to Dean Bolle and Guy Brandborg!
So I'm reading this op-ed by Jonathan Kay on how global warming denialists "are a liability to the conservative cause," and I'm half shouting, yes! yes! when he talks about how denialism is a "phenomenon" fueled by echo-chamber blogs and staffed by people who will "assign credibility to any stray piece of junk science that lands in their inbox," and how denalist paranoia approaches conspiracy theory territory. And I'm nodding when Kay says "rants and slogans...aren't the building blocks of a serious ideological movement."
...the impulse toward denialism must be fought if conservatism is to prosper in a century when environmental issues will assume an ever greater profile on this increasingly hot, parched, crowded planet. Otherwise, the movement will come to be defined--and discredited--by its noisiest cranks and conspiracists.
Sounds good! I mean, I'm no free-market conservative...but if someone can posit a free-market solution to global warming (any solution!) and sell it, I'm all ears!
But the interesting point here is when Kay examines the psychological readiness among conservatives - who are otherwise, according to Kay, so practical when it comes to policy-making - to believe in wild illogical claims about climate change conspiracies:
But there is something deeper at play, too--a basic psychological instinct that public-policy scholars refer to as the "cultural cognition thesis," described in a recently published academic paper as the observed principle that "individuals tend to form perceptions of risk that reflect and reinforce one or another idealized vision of how society should be organized ... Thus, generally speaking, persons who subscribe to individualistic values tend to dismiss claims of environmental risks, because acceptance of such claims implies the need to regulate markets, commerce and other outlets for individual strivings."
In simpler words, too many of us treat science as subjective -- something we customize to reduce cognitive dissonance between what we think and how we live.
Why, yes...that does make sense. I'm sure I've been victim to similar bits of cognitive dissonance, sure.
In the case of global warming, this dissonance is especially traumatic for many conservatives, because they have based their whole worldview on the idea that unfettered capitalism -- and the asphalt-paved, gas-guzzling consumer culture it has spawned -- is synonymous with both personal fulfillment and human advancement. The global-warming hypothesis challenges that fundamental dogma, perhaps fatally.
"Unfettered capitalism"? "Spawned" the "asphalt-paved, gas-guzzling consumer culture"?
If there's any part of our lives that's been more underwritten and centrally planned than our asphalt crusin' gas guzzling, I'm not aware of it. The construction of the nation's highway system wasn't the result of free-market pressure by consumers looking for someplace to drive cars. It was a huge government-subsidized project to build highway and paved road infrastructure largely at the behest of corporate magnates who needed a market for oil and automobiles, and rigged taxation and public funding to derail (pun intended) the streetcar and passenger train system already in place.
Calls for a green economy and transportation system represents nothing new, as far as government ventures are concerned. And, if it were up to me, it wouldn't involve any extra funding. If I were dictator, I'd simply start trimming money earmarked for highway projects, and giving it to mass transit projects. And, frankly, in building a green economy, we have a chance to do so openly and democratically, and not at the behest of corporations
But that just underscores the cognitive, dissonance, right? I mean, resistance to climate change legislation isn't opposition to a conspiracy of environmentalists looking to destroy American industry; instead, it's a blind defense of a kind of American socialist experiment that went horribly wrong. Admitting that the last century of car culture was a big mistake implies admitting it's nothing but a big government project, even if it does feel free-spirited to roll your window down and stick your elbow out the window while you drive 278 from Jackson to Dillon...
As if we needed any more evidence demonstrating that anthropogenic climate change is real, that it is occurring right now, and that it poses a major threat to the planet's environment, we now have it -- in spades. Let's begin with the assessment by a Penn State University investigation, which completely exonerated climate scientist Michael Mann from any wrongdoing in the ridiculous, trumped-up, never-any-truth-to-it, pseudo-"scandal" known as "climate-gate." In reaction to this report, former House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) -- full disclosure, Boehlert's on the NRDC Action Fund board -- issued a statement which read:
This exoneration should close the book on the absurd episode in which climate scientists were unjustly attacked when in fact they have been providing a great public service. The attacks on scientists were a manufactured distraction, and today's report is a welcome return to common sense. While scientists can now focus on their work, policy makers need to address the very real problem of climate change.
Well said, Congressman, and keep up the great work, Professor Mann!
"no errors that would undermine the main conclusions in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on possible future regional impacts of climate change"
"the summary conclusions are considered well founded, none have been found to contain any significant errors"
"ample observational evidence of regional climate change impacts, which have been projected to pose substantial risks to most parts of the world, under increasing temperatures"
In fairness, the Dutch report leveled several criticisms of the IPCC report: 1) even the few, minor errors shouldn't have been allowed to slip by; 2) the report's summary statement should have been written to provide a higher amount of transparency regarding its sources and methods; and 3) the report tended to focus solely on the adverse consequences of climate change, not on potentially positive impacts. These are non-trivial issues that need to be addressed. Having said that, as Joe Romm points out, "the overwhelming majority of research since the IPCC has found that the IPCC has consistently underestimated many key current and future impacts, particularly sea level rise (and carbon-cycle feedbacks)."
In the end, the bottom line from these reports is clear: the science behind human-induced climate change has emerged from this entire, ridiculous, episode overwhelmingly intact -- if not strengthened. The only real question now is, what are we going to do about it?
As if the oil companies from Texas - and their allies in the corridors of power - hadn't done enough harm to our country already (for more, see the late, great Gulf of Mexico), now they are at it once again. This time, it's Valero and Tesoro, pouring money into a campaign this election season to undo California's landmark, clean energy and climate law, AB 32. On Tuesday, the oil companies' proposition was certified for the November ballot. The fight, as they say, is on!
For the first time in 35 years, there is agreement between Montana and Canada to permanently forbid mining and exploration in a beautiful and wild area next to Glacier and Waterton Parks. All that is needed is 17 million dollars from Congress to seal the deal. Yet last week Baucus stated publicly, and incredibly, that the request for the appropriation "came in the wrong form". This claim merits serious examination. As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as a "form" for requesting federal money. When a state needs something from the federal government, the Congressman/Senator is supposed to bring it home. Plus, Baucus could be heard saying recently that he has been working very hard on this environmental issue for 35 years.
It is a very peculiar state of affairs that no doubt traces to the ego-bumping between Schweitzer and Baucus. Some activists on this issue hope perhaps Tester can do better. Nobody expects Rehberg to do anything, of course. The best part is that Max Baucus's staff continues to send out press releases describing Max as "America's most powerful senator."
The fish in the North Fork of the Flathead, which will be killed off by coal sludge if this deal falls apart, clearly do not understand that they need either a high-powered corporate fish lobbyist, or must write fish checks to the Baucus campaign, in order to see that their home is protected.
Winner: John Adams. In tracking down the draft bill, Adams wrote an extremely fair post about transparency, Jon Tester, and the legislative process in the US Senate.
Did Jon's staff egregiously mislead Adams' about the existence of a draft bill? Yes. Did members of the collaborative group working on the bill see the draft? Yes. Did Jon Tester promise more transparency than we've received? Yes. But do US Senate committees typically share draft legislation with the public? No. And is the bill's semi-transparent collaborative legislative-writing process typical for Washington DC? No.
What we've got is a quasi-public process that's more open than the inside-the-Beltway gang is used to, and much less open than Montanans want. Is it Tester's fault? No. It wasn't his draft, and the other members of the committee didn't make the transparency pledges that Tester did. (Tester promised to make his changes public.) If there's fault to be put on Tester, it's that his rhetoric didn't match reality. An up-front explanation and tempering of expectations at the beginning of the process would have served him well.
Loser: Jon Tester. Not for falling short of his rhetoric, but for opposing the removal of mandated logging language from the draft:
A "discussion draft" of Tester's S. 1470 legislation started circulating last week among critics of the bill. This version did not have the requirement to log at least 10,000 acres a year in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Kootenai national forests, or the one-year limitation on U.S. Forest Service environmental reviews. It also deleted language from the wilderness sections that would have allowed military helicopter training and off-road vehicle use for livestock herding.
For his part, Tester said this week that he would not accept removing the logging mandate.
"There are a number of changes folks would like to see made to S. 1470," Tester said. "Some will be implemented, all will be considered. Make no mistake, if the timber mandates are not part of the deal, I'll pull the plug on the whole thing."
The mandate makes no sense. Sure, I get why they put it in - it's probably an end run around lawsuits against logging ventures on public lands. But...a mandate doesn't change the legal conditions around the lawsuits, and doesn't account for dropping timber prices - if the bottom falls out of the timber market...and no one wants to cut...then what?
I'm no free-market maven, but it seems...irrational...to force supply on a market without any demand.
If the timber industry wants to log public lands, they should probably work together with environmental groups to make sure they're following the law and pay attention to environmental concerns. Shoving timber on the market seems a pretty poor "compromise."
Winner: The public. Tester's forest bill has been more transparent than most, and the controversies around the draft only make the issue keener and puts more pressure on Tester to follow through on his promises of openness. Hopefully, it'll put some pressure on the Senate to make its committee-work more open. But don't hold your breath.
Losers: Conservatives. Until Dennis Rehberg starts releasing drafts of bills discussed in the House Appropriations committee, I think we can all agree that conservatives' criticism of Tester's efforts to make his committee-work open and transparent is clearly hypocritical.
Sometimes it's good to be cautious--and other times it's better to go with your gut.
People told us not to visit Madagascar, that political conflict made the country unsafe for tourists.
But we decided to go anyway because if we had listened to those voices, we'd never have gone to Nairobi, Kampala, or Kigali.
We are cautious when we travel, but aware that our best and most eye-opening experiences are places well off the beaten path.
And, Anantanrivo, Madagascar's capital city, is a place we fell in love with.
The narrow streets, alleyways, cobblestone roads, and historic buildings remind you, at times, of parts of Western Europe. At the same time the markets, the noise, the traffic, the energy, the goats and livestock walking along the highways, were all quintessentially African.
Our journey started as we did a field visit to RTM. RTM is an Italian NGO, working with farmers to provide alternatives to slash and burn agriculture--which is practiced in many rural areas as a way to provide nutrients to the soil. Unfortunately, the nutrients don't last more than a season or two, forcing farmers to burn more forest.
Afterwards we met with Xavier Rakotonjanahary, Rice Breeding Coordinator, National Center of Applied Research for Rural Development. Xavier works with rural rice farmers, helping develop different breeds of rice that will help reduce labor, fertilizer, and other inputs.
We spent Danielle's birthday trekking in the rainforest in search of lemurs in the national rainforest of Antanarivo. Lemurs are only found in Madagascar (with the exception of the island of Comoros) largely because their ancestors were displaced everywhere else due to monkeys and apes.
In Madagascar, 90 percent of the country's original forest has been destroyed and lemurs are presently endangered due to deforestation and hunting. Additionally several species of lemurs are extinct, especially the larger species. The smaller lemurs are nocturnal and all we could see was their amazing red eyes on a night trek. We also saw large chameleons, turtles and giant snails.
During the day we saw lemurs playing (they travel as families) and eating flowers, leaves and fruits. In our video below you will see them playing, and can listen to a brief explanation about lemurs from our tour guide. They are pretty incredible animals with deposable thumbs and long tails that they use to balance themselves between trees.
In summary, if you are considering a visit to Madagascar, go. You won't regret it!
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Paul Krugman wrote a must-read piece yesterday in the New York Times Sunday magazine on building a green economy. He essentially explains the various market solutions to global warming, analyzes future cost scenarios, and discusses the risk of not acting.
Read it. It's one of the better single-piece story laying out the case for government action on climate change I've seen.
And here's a quote that's especially relevant to Montana:
That said, some specific rules may be required. James Hansen, the renowned climate scientist who deserves much of the credit for making global warming an issue in the first place, has argued forcefully that most of the climate-change problem comes down to just one thing, burning coal, and that whatever else we do, we have to shut down coal burning over the next couple decades.
Not too long ago from a reader I got a link to a post suggesting that the "effort to establish climate science as the basis" for cutting down on carbon "lies in ruins":
Climate science, even at its most uncontroversial, could never motivate the remaking of the entire global energy economy. Efforts to use climate science to threaten an apocalyptic future should we fail to embrace green proposals, and to characterize present-day natural disasters as terrifying previews of an impending day of reckoning, have only served to undermine the credibility of both climate science and progressive energy policy.
Citing flatlined public support for belief in climate change, Nordhaus and Shellenberger advocate moving away from using immediate weather events - especially natural disasters - as a basis for supporting good, progressive low-carbon energy policy that's in our nation's "economic, national security, and environmental interest." (However, they never mention what line of reasoning should be used to support said policy.)
I'm down with avoiding using specific weather events to support climate change. That's something I can get behind. But that's not why I received the link. The reader sent the link to discourage me from mentioning climate change at all when I write about energy, as if somehow we've reached a state where the doubt of enough misinformed Americans trumps scientific reality, as if somehow the state of the climate were a battle of wills, not levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Of course, that's a foolish notion. For one, policy should not be based on irrational public opinion. As Todd Tanner writes in New West, most climate skeptics are "past the point where scientists can convince them or where logical arguments can persuade them," and that they've become ideologues, and whether they're driven by religion or politics or their distrust of the science is ultimately irrelevant." Tanner:
Here's what we need to know. The science is clear and unequivocal. We are dumping huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and all that carbon is warming the planet and making our oceans more acidic. Our dependence on fossil fuels has created a worldwide crisis that threatens every single aspect of our lives.
And, yes, wouldn't it be great if we could find some rhetorical silver bullet that utterly convinced the country that we need to wean ourselves off of our fossil fuel addiction - if not for the carbon, say, but for the deadly air pollution? Of course, I don't even agree that talk around climate change has failed just because a handful of people still claim it doesn't exist. A vast majority of Americans believe the US government should put a "great deal" (pdf) of effort into dealing with global warming, and a plurality believe the US sign on to an international treaty to "reduce significantly greenhouse gas emissions." If this is failure of message, I'd love to see the numbers on a successful public campaign. (Numbers, by the way, courtesy of Tanner.)
But the fact is that there are deep-pocketed people out there who have a strong interest in burning fossil fuels, who will work actively to combat any effort to change our energy infrastructure, and who will sow misinformation and doubt among the citizenry and who will politicize health and safety to thwart reform. That is, it doesn't matter what rhetoric you use to support progressive energy policy, you will be attacked. It's better to ignore the concern trolls and forge on ahead with values that most Americans share, like a clean and healthful environment and a better future for our children.
Climate change exists. We need to do something about it.
This is the first in a two-part series about Nourishing the Planet co-director Danielle Nierenberg's visit with COMACO in Zambia. Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.
One of the first things you notice about grocery stores in Zambia is the plethora of processed foods from around the world, from crackers made in Argentina and soy milk from China to popular U.S. breakfast cereals. Complementing these foreign foods, however, are a variety of locally made and processed products, including indigenous varieties of organic rice, all-natural peanut butter, and honey from the It's Wild brand.
It's Wild was started by the Community Markets for Conservation(COMACO), an organization founded over 30 years ago to conserve local wildlife. COMACO helps farmers improve their agricultural practices in ways that can protect the environment-such as through conservation farming-while also creating a reliable market for farm products. It organizes the farmers into producer groups, encouraging them to diversify their skills by raising livestock and bees, growing organic rice, using improved irrigation and fisheries management, and other practices, so that they don't have to resort to poaching elephants or other wildlife.
By targeting hard-to-reach farmers that live near protected areas, "we're trying to turn things around," says Dale Lewis, Executive Director of COMACO. For decades, many farmers in eastern Zambia practiced slash-and-burn agriculture and were involved in widespread elephant poaching. Farmers killed elephants and burned forests not because they were greedy, but because it was their only alternative, Lewis explains. Degraded soils, the lack of effective agricultural inputs, and drought left many farmers in the region desperate, forcing them to turn to poaching and environmentally destructive farming practices.
By training more than 650 "lead" farmers to train other farmers, COMACO hopes to not only protect the environment and local wildlife, but also help farmers increase their incomes by connecting them to the private market.
COMACO supports the creation of regional processing centers and trading depots to make it easier for farmers to process their crops and transport them to market. The group also offers a higher price to farmers who grow rice and other products organically, and for those use the conservation farming techniques they've learned from COMACO trainers and lead farmers. Where farmers "comply with COMACO, they see benefits," Lewis says, including improvements in food security and health.
The resulting products are then sold under the It's Wild brand in major supermarket chains across Zambia, such as ShopRite, Checkers, and Spar. Next year, COMACO plans to export its products to Botswana. The organization is trying to do as much of the product distribution as possible so that the money stays with the farmers and not middlemen.
COMACO has also gotten technical support from multinational food giant General Mills. The company paid for a COMACO food technician to visit its headquarters in early 2009 to learn how different food processing techniques can increase the nutritional and economic value of the foods that the organization is selling.
Lewis hopes that eventually COMACO will be self sufficient-and profitable-without the current heavy dependence on donor funding. But that's not easy for an organization that works with thousands of farmers and has high administrative, transport, and salary costs.
Stay tuned this week for more about Dale Lewis and COMACO's work.
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So. The health care legislation is essentially done. Whew. Honestly, it was getting old, wasn't it? I mean, I was writing posts about it last summer. I'm glad to have self-appointed license to think of something else. Like climate change.
Today, the concept is in wide disrepute, with opponents effectively branding it "cap and tax," and Tea Partyfollowers using it as a symbol of much of what they say is wrong with Washington.
Mr. Obama dropped all mention of cap and trade from his current budget. And the sponsors of a Senate climate bill likely to be introduced in April, now that Congress is moving past health care, dare not speak its name.
"I don't know what 'cap and trade' means," Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said last fall in introducing his original climate change plan.
One thing a scientist must know is how ignorant we are about a lot of things; otherwise, we don't need scientists to discover new stuff. But the remark points to a naive hubris that is pretty pervasive among a "consensus" in the scientific world.
Just fifty years ago, the few believers in "continental drift" were derided by the geologic establishment as kooks on the fringe of science (if not worse). But evidence accumulated, and the theory, repackaged in the '60s and '70s as plate tectonics, is now recognized as the grand unifying theory of earth science.
So-called "Progressives" have a tendency to evaluate everything in life as if it were a deterministic, zero sum game. What goes up, must come down. In with the good, out with the bad. What goes around, comes around. Input X necessarily results in Output Y.
But real life systems don't often obey these rules; they tend toward chaos and often lead to counterintuitive conclusions. In business, they often create examples of The Law of Unintended Consequences.
The Laffer Curve is a perfect example. To a "Progressive", if you want the government to have more tax revenue, you raise tax rates. Cutting tax rates only benefits "the rich".
But the real world is governed by the chaotic rules of economics and personal choices. Arthur Laffer made the simple observation that if tax rates are zero, tax revenue is zero. If tax rates are 100%, tax revenue is also zero. Somewhere in between is a maximum, and tax rates above that optimum rate actually result in less tax revenue.
Businessmen don't need to have this concept explained, so they tend to be conservatives. Academics, trade unionists and Hollywood types will never get it, so they become "Progressives".
Pretty funny stuff, eh? Of course, the plate tectonics idea is a good example - only it's the Vladimirs of the world who are the left-behind skeptics decrying climate change as kook-ish. As for calling progressives "deterministic" and implying they're simplistic? Bad maneuver using to the Laffer curve as evidence, that over-simplistic and crudely deterministic bow hastily scrawled onto a napkin in a 1974 political meeting and ever since used to support the most simplistic conservative tax-cut rhetoric, that raising taxes invariably leads to lower government revenue, and cutting taxes leads to greater revenue. (Both are canards divorced from the reality of the actual, complex marketplace.)
All this complex thinkin' leads Vladimir to this post: "The Unbearable Complexity of Climate," whose basic premise is that the climate is very complex and we don't understand it completely; therefore, it's possible climate change may not be happening, and, therefore, doesn't need to be addressed. Follow this line of reasoning to its ultimate, late-night-smoking-pot-at-college conclusion, and nothing is worth doing or believing because, ultimately, no system or object is capable of being understood completely. Not climate change, not the existence of your friends, and certainly not the Laffer Curve's efficacy (or lack thereof) for predicting tax revenues.
Why get out of bed in the morning when your alarm goes off, when there's a chance all life on the planet will be obliterated during your morning commute by a wayward asteroid?
If the climate is as all-unknowable as Eschenbach claims, then there's a chance that climate change is happening...right? And do you, in good faith, knowing that there's a chance - what with the unknowable-ness of climate - that climate change will make the Earth uninhabitable for humans, do you in good faith sit by, or worse, actively obstruct any measures that might mitigate the possibility of ecological disaster?
That, of course, is countering the argument with their own brand of sophism. In reality, climate scientists do have more than a passing familiarity of climate science, and there is actual evidence of climate change accompanying varying carbon dioxide rates. And we should probably form policy around the evidence at hand.
But just as Ross Douthat isn't really pleading for more complex movies about war, neither are these folks concerned about shades of gray in scientific discourse. They're all engaging in sophistry to obscure facts that are politically unpalatable to them. A climate change "skeptic" represents a political position, not a scientific one. Such a "skeptic" doesn't question climate change, he rejects it out of hand, and opposes any political solution to reduce carbon emissions. Not because there's a good reason to, but because it happens to stake out a position defined by political allies.
And to what end, is the question? To defend the interests of Big Oil?
The Senate Environment and Public Works committee today passed the Senate's version of the cap-and-trade climate-change legislation bill - Sens. Kerry and Boxer's "Clean Energy Jobs Act." The bill passed by a 10-1 margin...with Republicans boycotting the vote.
Ah, so who's the sole Democrat that voted against the legislation?
Not that it's much of a surprise. Baucus raised "concerns" with the bill last month, saying the 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 was too lofty a goal. Baucus' statement -- "we cannot afford a first step that takes us further away from a conceivable consensus on climate change" - hints that he'll stall the bill in the Tax and Finance committee, likely convening a "green" "Gang of Six" to gut the bill, or kill it altogether.
Sadly, Dennis McDonald demonstrates how you can join Baucus in opposing climate change legislation while simultaneously keeping your enviro "cred," from his Facebook page:
Cap and trade has proven to be complex, inefficient, and an obstacle to investment in alternative energy. I think a straightforward carbon emissions tax would be a lot simpler and a more effective way of getting people to invest in alternative energy.
(Those crazy environmentalist extremists! Turning to lawsuits instead of working with stakeholders to forge consensus -- what's that? It isn't enviros who are suing? - promoted by Jay Stevens)
After a public comment period where the vast majority of respondents favored banning motorized access, and with the active participation and endorsement by the Blackfeet Tribe, the USFS recently enacted a new travel plan that forbids motorized vehicle access in the Badger/TwoMedicine region - located immediately west of the Blackfeet reservation, south of Glacier National Park and east of the Continental Divide. The travel plan, which went into effect on October 1st, is now the subject of a suit claiming that the USFS violates tribal treaties (remember, the plan has the SUPPORT of the Tribal Business Council, that the new travel plan gives unfair consideration to the Blackfeet religion and that it restricts access unfairly (Horse access is still permitted).
This parcel of land is fragile and beautiful and unique. It is a needed buffer zone for Glacier NP and it holds particular cultural significance for the Blackfeet. This travel plan is legal, but more importantly it is morally and ethically the right course of action for this region.
The fact that the travel plan, despite the support of both the tribe and the majority of comments from citizens, is being contested shows how little tolerance there is for any advance of wilderness protection on the Rocky Mountain Front by the must-have-motorized-access-everywhere crowd. Ironic that there would be no need to advance protection were it not for the rapid pollution, degradation, and destruction wrought by ever more powerful off-road vehicles. This desire by the few to disrupt the enjoyment of the many seems the worse kind of greed...
Helena's city commission met last week to earnestly discuss something that three years ago would have been a sacrilege: logging Mount Helena city park.
The mountain park, as iconic to the capital as the Rims are to Billings or the "M" to Missoula, is now streaked with ribbons of dead, red pine trees, the victims of a fast-moving epidemic of pine bark beetles that is visible from every house in town.
Helena and Butte are in the epicenter of the infestation, but the tiny killers have also been found in the Beartooth Mountains and other Montana and Wyoming forests. The dead trees they leave behind have changed more than the landscape, say loggers, mill operators and politicians. They've changed the way people think about cutting down trees.
Question: given the epidemic is a result of climate change, why isn't the bark beetle epidemic reshaping the debate on global warming legislation?
Turns out the Mayan civilization practiced a form of forest conservation - until they abandoned the years-old practice in a building frenzy...which may have led to their downfall:
So what led to the downfall of the Maya? Whether it was the gods' displeasure or not, the answer came from the heavens.
"When you clear all the forests, it changes the hydrologic cycle," says Lentz. "The world is like a flat surface with all the trees acting as sponges on it. The trees absorb the water. Without the trees, there is no buffer to stop the water from runoff. That causes soil erosion, which then chokes the rivers and streams. With no trees, you lose water retention in the soil or aquifers so the ground dries up and then there is less transpiration, so therefore less rainfall as well."
In addition to using the trees as timber, the Maya also burned the trees, adding carbon to the air in the form of carbon dioxide. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and return oxygen in its place, thus cleaning and purifying the air.
"Forests provide many benefits to society," says Lentz. "The Maya forests provided timber, fuel, food, fiber and medicine in addition to the ecosystem services of cleansing the air and water. Just as forests provided essential resources for the ancient Maya, the same is true for our civilization today."