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[1THING] Blog: Archive for June, 2017

[ Guardian Life Insurance Supports Local Farmers! ]

Guardian Life Supports Local Farmers


CSA veggies

As many of you heard at our Annual Meeting, we’re developing new ways to benefit your organization through our EarthShare at Work program! In Year 2 of our partnership with Guardian Life Insurance, we worked with their Pittsfield, MA Green Team to develop a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and connected them with American Farmland Trust to identify a local farm to support. Now the Guardian CSA program is up and running in Pittsfield from June through October, through Brattle Farms. Learn more in this interview with Brattle Farm owner Donna Chandler, by April Opatik of American Farmland Trust!

Donna Chandler is not your ordinary mother and grandmother— she is a full-time Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmer.

“I did not grow up as a farmer, but I grew up in a dense farming neighborhood. I enjoyed all the natural beauty on the land while growing up. As I grew older, my passion for farming became clearer as I noticed all the farms in my neighborhood disappearing,” Donna expressed.

About 15 years ago, Donna first got into aspects of farming by raising sheep on only a few acres of land for wool and her children’s 4-H projects. It started out with only two sheep, but as they started winning competitions their herd became over ten times the original size. 17 acres later, Donna decided to start selling her vegetables, meat, and other goods through her CSA: Brattle Farm.

“I wanted to see if I could get a steady cash flow before I went into CSA farming full-time. During that first year, I had 20 families signed up and it was very successful. Four years later, I now have 90 families! I am amazed that I could do this,” Donna stated.

It hasn’t been an easy road for her. One of the biggest challenges she had to overcome was educating others about what a CSA farm is. For 20-28 weeks, members pay a subscription cost to receive a portion of the farm’s produce—enjoying the flavors and challenges of seasonal eating. Joining a CSA is a powerful investment in your health, community, local economy—and even a possibility to explore new and exciting recipes. Donna is happy to note that Brattle Farm accepts SNAP. Some farms, like Donna’s, also allow members to pay for their share by committing to work a specified number of hours on the farm each week.

Donna’s CSA received around 20 new subscriptions through the Pittsfield Green Team, and Guardian employees learned more about American Farmland Trust’s work to protect farmland, promote sound farming practices, and keep farmers like Donna on the land. Guardian employees also plan to support AFT through volunteer projects to create recipe card packets and thank you notes for farmer’s market shoppers.

Help us incorporate your organization into our corporate partnerships! Please complete the Member Services Survey if you haven’t already.

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[ Cities and states are declaring climate independence from Trump ]

State and local leaders understand that by investing in clean energy and cutting emissions, we're betting on the future. What could possibly be more American?

     
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[ Congress almost always votes with Trump as 2018 midterms loom. Bad idea, polls suggest. ]

Congressional voting patterns are remarkable considering that midterm elections are just a year away.

     
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[ What Scott Pruitt doesn’t want you to know, and why it matters ]

Pruitt has ended the important transparency practice of sharing senior policy leaders’ schedules, a practice which has a long bipartisan history at EPA.

     
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[ Why it’d be dangerous to overlook Mike Pence’s record on the environment ]

Unlike his boss, Vice President Pence has a long and specific history on environmental issues.

     
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[ What has Trump done to the environment so far? A quick rundown. ]

In his latest essay in Foreign Affairs, EDF President Fred Krupp gives a broad overview of Trump's policies in a changing energy landscape. This is your two-minute summary.

     
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[ Healthier, safer summers – brought to you by the EPA ]

This government agency is working hard to keep beaches, national parks and outdoor air healthy and safe for us to enjoy. But for how much longer?

     
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[ Are You Still In? Americans Commit to Uphold the Paris Agreement ]

Americans Uphold the Paris Agreement

Bowser

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser commits to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris Agreement in June 2017. Photo: Mayor Muriel Bowser/Twitter


In 2015, nearly every country in the world came together in Paris and agreed on a plan to fight climate change, together. The plan allows countries to develop their own policies to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

This month, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the US from that historic agreement. While the actual process of pulling out of the Paris Accords will take years, the about-face was nevertheless a huge setback for a unified, global effort to build a better world.

Then, just hours following Trump’s announcement, prominent figures from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg began expressing their support for the Paris agreement and pledging to step up to ensure continuation of the progress we’ve made.

Several days later, more than 1,000 governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities from across the US declared their intent to ensure America remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions under the banner “We Are Still In”.

“There’s a $5.5 trillion market for low-carbon goods and services. We are ready to capitalize on this business opportunity… at Autodesk, we are all in, and are more committed than ever to enlist our customers to design, build and manufacture net positive climate solutions,” said Lynelle Cameron, Vice President of Sustainability for Autodesk.

Cameron’s sentiments were echoed, over and over again, by hundreds of other business leaders. Among the signatories of this new coalition are Ikea North America, Target, L’Oréal, Google, Adobe, The North Face, Nike, Apple, Unilever and many others.

While the process of reducing emissions will take many years, businesses and local governments have already been making changes that put them on the right path and set an example for others to follow.

California’s SB-32 bill that was originally passed in 2006 and updated in 2016 has expanded the state’s solar capacity, subsidized electric cars, and encouraged development around transit. Companies like Microsoft and Patagonia are taxing themselves for environmental damages, increasing building efficiency, scrutinizing their supply chains for sustainability, and much more. And cities and states across the country are passing more ambitious renewable energy targets.

What can individuals do to encourage these trends, aim higher, and help others get involved?

All of us are part of something bigger, whether it’s a company we work for or a county we live in. Get to know who your local, state and federal representatives are and talk to them about their strategy for addressing climate change. Talk to  the brands you purchase from and encourage them to make sustainable changes, too.

You can also help your coworkers commit to your organization’s corporate sustainability goals by becoming an EarthShare Corporate Alliance partner or joining the EarthShare at Work program. We’ll give you the ability to directly assist the nonprofits working to find solutions, while learning more about the impacts of our changing climate on our environment, our work, and our lives.

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[ The Environmental Price of the Border Wall ]

The Environmental Price of the Border Wall

Long_border_fence


A few American politicians have been clamoring to expand the border wall lately. That has many conservationists thinking about what the environmental impacts might be. For this post we sat down with Dan Millis, Borderlands Program Coordinator for the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter. Based in Tucson, Arizona, Dan and his program have been fighting border walls since George W. Bush was building them in 2007 and 2008.

 

What does the US-Mexico border look like today? How did it get that way?

Our borderlands are beautiful. We’re talking about a region that spans 2,000 miles, the majority of it along the Rio Grande, and the rest of it cutting through some of the most remote and biodiverse landscapes on the continent. The US-Mexico border looks like the columnar cacti of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the bustling cities of San Diego, Tijuana, Ambos Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, El Paso, and the beautiful faces of the good people who live here.

Today’s border line was drawn by the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, intended to make way for a railroad across the southern US. But where there’s no river, the line is arbitrary, and it cuts across communities, tribal nations, forests, mountains – entire ecosystems. So building a wall on that line causes many problems.

Right now we have 354 miles of the border where steel or concrete walls have already been constructed. An additional 300 miles have vehicle barriers. There are several drones, dozens upon dozens of surveillance towers, hundreds of aircraft, thousands of vehicles and more than 18,000 Border Patrol agents. The costs are enormous and the footprint is huge.

 

What problem was the border fence/wall intended to solve? Has it done so?

The walls are intended to stop people from walking across the border. Instead, people just climb over it, dig under, cut through it or go around. It’s a waste of money.

 

What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about the border?

People think the border is a bunch of sand dunes that have been overrun by drug smugglers. I’m born and raised in Arizona, and, until college, even I thought that. The fact is, the border is meant to unite us, not divide us. Our border communities facilitate legitimate cross-border trade that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in the US and Mexico. And the wildlands in between these communities are prime destinations for tourists and wildlife enthusiasts – places like Big Bend National Park in Texas and the San Pedro River in Arizona and Sonora.

 

What are the environmental impacts of the current barrier? What are the human impacts?

Border walls block wildlife migration, fragment wildlife habitat, and block the natural flow of water, which can result in floods, erosion damage – in fact, the wall itself has been knocked over by floodwaters several times!

Studies identify many species impeded by the walls, including puma, coati, desert bighorn, jaguarundi, even reptiles and birds (example: the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, which flies low and avoids clearings and high obstacles).

It’s important to understand that walls on the border were built without consideration for basic environmental protections like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. More than three dozen laws protecting communities, public health, historic and cultural sites, even religious freedom – these laws were waived in order to build walls more hastily. This happened under former President George W. Bush, but the scary thing is that these laws are still off the books today in our border communities and wildlands, and the Trump Administration still has the power to waive even more laws if they so choose.

The wall does nothing to address the root causes of undocumented migration, so people are still motivated to cross the border. They often circumvent areas that are heavily militarized with walls and patrols, opting instead to walk for days, at night, through some of the most difficult and remote terrain imaginable. Since the late 1990s, more than 6,000 people have been found dead after attempting to make a harrowing crossing.

How is the recently proposed border wall different than the current physical barriers?

There is no difference between Trump’s wall and existing border walls. Building a solid concrete wall across an 800-mile land border full of mountains and canyons, and then down the middle of a 1,200-mile river, is not going to happen. Instead, they will try to build steel walls, about 20 feet high, made of closely spaced posts so that Border Patrol agents can see through. Along the river, pro-wall politicians clamor for concrete ‘levee-walls’ that isolate animals from much-needed water, or entrap them when the river floods. These are the same walls we have today, the walls that block nature but not people, the walls that are based on hate and fear, and the walls that are profoundly un-American.

What are the Sierra Club and affiliated organizations asking for?

Though Trump’s wall isn’t feasible, he has shown he can gain approval for more border walls. The 2017 government funding compromise included $146 million to replace 20 miles of vehicle barriers, which do less damage to wildlife and water flows than walls, with so-called ‘pedestrian fencing,’ which is just another way to say border walls. This is unacceptable, so we are asking political leaders to oppose all border walls, both those that stand and damage our environment and our integrity today, and those that may be requested in the future.

 

What’s the best way for people to make a difference on this issue? What’s the timeline to act?

If you care about wildlife, landscapes, environmental justice and community health, then please contact your members of congress now! You can take action online here. Letters, phone calls and in-district office visits to your US Representative and both of your US Senators can make all the difference.  

People can learn more and stay informed via SC_Borderlands on Twitter and on the Sierra Club Borderlands Facebook group. Sign up for our monthly email update list and learn more at sierraclub.org/borderlands, where you can also see images of deer and mountain lions stranded at the wall, or watch videos about the destructive power of border militarization.

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[ Der Spiegel Just Published the Minutes From Trump’s Contentious Meeting With G7 Leaders ]


German magazine Der Spiegel has been given access to minutes from a contentious meeting of G7 leaders in Taormina, Sicily, at the end of May, in which they applied last-ditch pressure on President Donald Trump to stay in the Paris climate agreement.

The meeting came toward the end of Trump’s first trip abroad as president—and became an opportunity for world leaders to intensely lobby the American president before Trump’s final decision on whether the United States would leave the historic climate accord.

The leaders told Trump in no uncertain terms that if the United States abandoned the agreement, China would be the direct beneficiary.

“Climate change is real and it affects the poorest countries,” said Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected French president, at the outset of the private conversation.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then told Trump that the success of repairing the ozone layer proved that industry could be persuaded to act on harmful emissions, according to the account.

Then, German Chancellor Angela Merkel brought up China: “If the world’s largest economic power were to pull out, the field would be left to the Chinese,” she said. According to Der Spiegel, Merkel added that Chinese President Xi Jinping was preparing to take advantage of the vacuum left by America’s exit. Even Saudi Arabia, she added, was preparing for a world without oil.

Trump was unmoved. “For me,” the president reportedly said, “it’s easier to stay in than step out,” adding that green regulations were killing American jobs.

As it became clear Trump would not budge, Macron admitted defeat, according to this account.

“Now China leads,” he said.

The account adds fresh details to the president’s fraught European trip. Following the meeting, the G7 broke with tradition to release a statement where six nations reaffirmed the Paris climate agreement, without the United States. The president also caused a diplomatic scuffle in Italy after accusing Germany of being “very bad” on trade and appeared to literally shove aside a leader of a NATO ally.

In a Rose Garden ceremony last Thursday, Trump announced that the United States would leave the historic Paris climate agreement—promising to “begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.”

In response to the president’s announcement, President Macron of France released a video statement, saying, “If we do nothing, our children will know a world of migrations, of wars, of shortage. A dangerous world.”

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