Daily Water Policy Update

Antibiotic Resistance (ABR) increasing, more than a million deaths now

Washington Post Editorial Board, 1-28, 22, Opinion: The shadow pandemic: Antibiotic resistance is growing, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/28/shadow-pandemic-antibiotic-resistance-is-growing/

Another global health crisis is unfolding in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. Antimicrobial resistance, the tendency of bacteria and other pathogens to evolve so they fight or evade lifesaving drugs, is a long-term threat to modern medicine. A new study, drawing from a vast array of data, estimates that 1.27 million deaths were caused worldwide by bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019, exceeding the combined toll of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Only ischemic heart disease and stroke that year accounted for more deaths. This is a long-festering problem that resembles climate change — a slow but escalating tide of danger, requiring action on many fronts. The new study suggests some of the poorest corners of the earth are suffering the highest burdens of antimicrobial resistance. In 2014, a major report on antimicrobial resistance by British economist Jim O’Neill estimated that it was responsible for at least 700,000 deaths worldwide each year. The new study, based on data from 204 countries and territories, took into account 471 million individual records or samples, and examined 23 bacterial pathogens and 88 drug-pathogen combinations. It used statistical modeling to estimate direct deaths at nearly twice the earlier figure, a more comprehensive picture of the global burden of antibiotic resistance than was available until now. Health economist and professor Christopher J.L. Murray, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and a large team of collaborators found that bacterial resistance to drugs “is a major global health problem” that “poses the largest threat to human health in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, but it is important in all regions.” The researchers found that the top six pathogens leading to deaths associated with drug resistance are Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. What’s at stake is the effectiveness of antibiotics, essential for surgery, chemotherapy, organ transplants and other medical procedures. Antibiotics were “wonder drugs” when discovered in the past century, starting with penicillin, but it has been known for decades that bacteria evolve to resist the drugs — and that overuse and abuse of antibiotics in human health and agriculture have contributed to the problem. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019 urged Americans to “Stop referring to a coming post-antibiotic era — it’s already here.” The study found that deaths because of antimicrobial resistance in the United States had dropped 18 percent since a 2013 report, largely due to improved procedures in hospitals, while pointing to continuing challenges outside health care. What to do about antimicrobial resistance has been clear for some time. We need better stewardship of antibiotics — avoiding overprescribing or wrongly prescribing them for viral infections. More attention must be devoted to preventing resistant infections in the first place. Accelerated development of new antibiotics is essential. New drug development requires large investments, but antibiotics yield smaller returns because they are used for a limited period of time. Thus, public-private partnerships for drug development are essential, such as Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator, a multinational effort. The problem of antimicrobial resistance isn’t going away, and it demands a broad response even in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic.


Russian-US conflict goes nuclear and ends civilization

Abolition 2000, January 22, 2022, https://www.pressenza.com/2022/01/ukraine-loitering-at-the-brink-of-doom/

The Doomsday clock-hands have been stuck, seemingly, at 100 seconds to Midnight since 2020, nearer to the metaphorical (and we hope never literal) apocalypse than they officially ever were even during the heights and depths of the cold war. For perspective, the furthest away from midnight they have ever been was 17 mins to midnight in 1990. They were at 2 mins to midnight during a period of intense H-Bomb testing by both the US and the USSR during the early 1950s, when US pre-emptive strikes on the USSR were actively contemplated. In the year the world nearly ended twice (1983), with the Stanislav Petrov incident and the Able Archer exercises, the Doomsday Clock hands were at 3 mins to midnight. They’ve been at 100 seconds to midnight for 2 and a bit years and three Doomsday Clock announcements – too long. A factor that surely must have fed into the considerations of the Doomsday Clock’s rather highly qualified advisory panel has to have been the current standoff over Ukraine, and the attendant speculation – certainly a worst case scenario but by no means an impossible one – that high intensity conflict over and in Ukraine might spill over into a wider Russia-NATO conflict, which could easily in turn go nuclear, possibly via the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad. A nuclear conflict between the US/NATO and Russia would of course, be civilisation-ending, and not merely because the targeting of any large number of cities would cause firestorms that would loft appx 150 million tonnes of soot into the upper stratosphere, replacing global warming temporarily with nuclear winter. A nuclear conflict even if it stopped with the use of only a very small number of weapons, and even if it targeted no cities at all, would, if it took place in space, destroy in its first nanoseconds, the technical basis of modern telecommunications. The effects of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) would damage or destroy everything from the internet to the high tension grid. Such nuclear use could get going either because events on the ground made use of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe take place (Maybe as a result of NATO attacks on the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, or because of their use in Belarus) – or because one side or the other decided to use nuclear weapons in space to disable the other. Russian senior strategic experts over a decade ago, seemingly warned Australian experts that in the event of nuclear conflict ‘missiles will go everywhere’, and that the ‘joint facilities’ in Pine Gap and Northwest Cape would be high priority targets.

War in the Ukraine goes nuclear

Abolition 2000, January 22, 2022, https://www.pressenza.com/2022/01/ukraine-loitering-at-the-brink-of-doom/

The Doomsday clock-hands have been stuck, seemingly, at 100 seconds to Midnight since 2020, nearer to the metaphorical (and we hope never literal) apocalypse than they officially ever were even during the heights and depths of the cold war. For perspective, the furthest away from midnight they have ever been was 17 mins to midnight in 1990. They were at 2 mins to midnight during a period of intense H-Bomb testing by both the US and the USSR during the early 1950s, when US pre-emptive strikes on the USSR were actively contemplated. In the year the world nearly ended twice (1983), with the Stanislav Petrov incident and the Able Archer exercises, the Doomsday Clock hands were at 3 mins to midnight. They’ve been at 100 seconds to midnight for 2 and a bit years and three Doomsday Clock announcements – too long. A factor that surely must have fed into the considerations of the Doomsday Clock’s rather highly qualified advisory panel has to have been the current standoff over Ukraine, and the attendant speculation – certainly a worst case scenario but by no means an impossible one – that high intensity conflict over and in Ukraine might spill over into a wider Russia-NATO conflict, which could easily in turn go nuclear, possibly via the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad. A nuclear conflict between the US/NATO and Russia would of course, be civilisation-ending, and not merely because the targeting of any large number of cities would cause firestorms that would loft appx 150 million tonnes of soot into the upper stratosphere, replacing global warming temporarily with nuclear winter. A nuclear conflict even if it stopped with the use of only a very small number of weapons, and even if it targeted no cities at all, would, if it took place in space, destroy in its first nanoseconds, the technical basis of modern telecommunications. The effects of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) would damage or destroy everything from the internet to the high tension grid. Such nuclear use could get going either because events on the ground made use of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe take place (Maybe as a result of NATO attacks on the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, or because of their use in Belarus) – or because one side or the other decided to use nuclear weapons in space to disable the other. Russian senior strategic experts over a decade ago, seemingly warned Australian experts that in the event of nuclear conflict ‘missiles will go everywhere’, and that the ‘joint facilities’ in Pine Gap and Northwest Cape would be high priority targets. Widespread conventional war over Ukraine could become the most intense conflict Europe has seen since 1945. In that case it would have a good chance to go nuclear, though nothing is inevitable. Even if it remained conventional it will be a catastrophe. An exit strategy that recognises the concerns of ALL involved – including Russia – has to be found.

The earth is undergoing a sixth mass extinction that is being driven by human activities

Robert Cowie et al, 2022, Pacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96822 U.S.A., Biological Reviews, The Sixth Mass Extinction: fact, fiction or speculation?, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/brv.12816

There have been five Mass Extinction events in the history of Earth’s biodiversity, all caused by dramatic but natural phenomena. It has been claimed that the Sixth Mass Extinction may be underway, this time caused entirely by humans. Although considerable evidence indicates that there is a biodiversity crisis of increasing extinctions and plummeting abundances, some do not accept that this amounts to a Sixth Mass Extinction. Often, they use the IUCN Red List to support their stance, arguing that the rate of species loss does not differ from the background rate. However, the Red List is heavily biased: almost all birds and mammals but only a minute fraction of invertebrates have been evaluated against conservation criteria. Incorporating estimates of the true number of invertebrate extinctions leads to the conclusion that the rate vastly exceeds the background rate and that we may indeed be witnessing the start of the Sixth Mass Extinction. As an example, we focus on molluscs, the second largest phylum in numbers of known species, and, extrapolating boldly, estimate that, since around AD 1500, possibly as many as 7.5–13% (150,000–260,000) of all ~2 million known species have already gone extinct, orders of magnitude greater than the 882 (0.04%) on the Red List. We review differences in extinction rates according to realms: marine species face significant threats but, although previous mass extinctions were largely defined by marine invertebrates, there is no evidence that the marine biota has reached the same crisis as the non-marine biota. Island species have suffered far greater rates than continental ones. Plants face similar conservation biases as do invertebrates, although there are hints they may have suffered lower extinction rates. There are also those who do not deny an extinction crisis but accept it as a new trajectory of evolution, because humans are part of the natural world; some even embrace it, with a desire to manipulate it for human benefit. We take issue with these stances. Humans are the only species able to manipulate the Earth on a grand scale, and they have allowed the current crisis to happen. Despite multiple conservation initiatives at various levels, most are not species oriented (certain charismatic vertebrates excepted) and specific actions to protect every living species individually are simply unfeasible because of the tyranny of numbers. As systematic biologists, we encourage the nurturing of the innate human appreciation of biodiversity, but we reaffirm the message that the biodiversity that makes our world so fascinating, beautiful and functional is vanishing unnoticed at an unprecedented rate. In the face of a mounting crisis, scientists must adopt the practices of preventive archaeology, and collect and document as many species as possible before they disappear. All this depends on reviving the venerable study of natural history and taxonomy. Denying the crisis, simply accepting it and doing nothing, or even embracing it for the ostensible benefit of humanity, are not appropriate options and pave the way for the Earth to continue on its sad trajectory towards a Sixth Mass Extinction. I. INTRODUCTION In her book The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert (2014) presented the mounting evidence that the Earth is at the start of, or perhaps in the midst of, the sixth major episode of mass biodiversity extinction since life on Earth arose, the first such event to be caused entirely by humans. She is by no means the first to have drawn this conclusion (e.g. Diamond, 1987, 1989; Leakey & Lewin, 1995; Wake & Vredenburg, 2008) and it continues to be reiterated (e.g. Ceballos et al., 2015; McCallum, 2015; Régnier et al., 2015a; Plotnick, Smith & Lyons, 2016; Ceballos, Ehrlich & Dirzo, 2017; Cowie et al., 2017; Ceballos & Ehrlich, 2018; Dasgupta & Ehrlich, 2019; IPBES, 2019; Ceballos, Ehrlich & Raven, 2020). The evidence for a major biodiversity crisis appears overwhelming. Yet there are some who deny that such evidence really exists and consider that it has been exaggerated by conservation and biodiversity scientists to attract greater public and political attention to biodiversity loss and to enhance opportunities to obtain research grants (e.g. Lomborg, 2001; Briggs, 2014b, 2014c, 2016, 2017). Such denials made the headlines when the IPBES (2019) report was released (e.g. Platt, 2019); they continue to increase, as noted by Lees et al. (2020). Denial differs from scepticism (Jylhä, 2018; Washington, 2018). The latter is a genuine component of scientific research and discovery, questioning assumptions, results, interpretations and conclusions, until the weight of evidence supports one conclusion or another. Denial, on the other hand is plain disbelief in that weight of evidence. The notion of the Sixth Mass Extinction, or at least a major biodiversity crisis, faces both scepticism and denial, as does the notion of anthropogenic climate change (Jylhä, 2018; Washington, 2018), the fact of evolution (Ayala, 2008; Nieminen, Ryökäs & Mustonen, 2015; Hansson, 2017), the negative impacts of invasive species (Tassin, 2014; and see Ricciardi & Ryan, 2018a, 2018b), and many other aspects of science in general (Hansson, 2017; Rutjens, van der Linden & van der Lee, 2021). Scepticism and denial may be fuelled by media headlines over-dramatising dire short-term prognoses combined with exaggeration of perceived professional differences of opinion among scientists, regarding, for instance, analysis and interpretation of data (e.g. Leung et al., 2020) and the likelihood of insect ‘Armageddon’ (Leather, 2017; Desquilbet et al., 2020; Van Klink et al., 2020). Much of this denial of science is not published in reputable peer-reviewed scientific journals, and some may have political undertones, as was the case with the reaction of Republican officials in the USA after the release of the IPBES report in 2019 (Tobias, 2019). Two primary critiques have been levelled at those who claim we are at what may be a watershed point in the history of our planet. First is the claim that estimated extinction rates have been exaggerated and that the current extinction rate is not significantly greater than the natural background rate (e.g. Lomborg, 2001; Briggs, 2014b, 2014c, 2015, 2016, 2017). Second are the inter-related claims that any extinctions are offset by an equivalent or greater origination of newly evolved species, and that because humans are part of the natural world, human-caused extinctions are a natural phenomenon, a part of the evolutionary trajectory of life on Earth. This view has appeared in various forms in the popular press (e.g. Pyron, 2017), websites (e.g. Brand, 2015; Middleton, 2017) and the writings of some academic ecologists (e.g. Thomas, 2017). The consequence of this opinion is that we should embrace this new trajectory of evolution (Briggs, 2014b, 2014c, 2015, 2016, 2017). Thomas (2017) suggested that the rate of evolution, and therefore speciation, is now increasing in the face of change wrought by humans. Some acknowledge that although they consider there is no mass extinction, at least not yet, many species are becoming rarer or more localised, with an accompanying loss of genetic diversity, and that this is where we should focus our efforts, as rarity could have dire consequences for global ecosystems (e.g. Heywood & Stuart, 1992; Stork, 2010; Briggs, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c, 2015, 2017; Hull, Darroch & Erwin, 2015). Notably, increased rarity may result in functional extinction, which can drive further declines via coextinction (Dunn et al., 2009; Sellman, Säterberg & Ebenman, 2016). Increased rarity is undoubtedly true (Dirzo et al., 2014; Ceballos et al., 2017; Hallmann et al., 2017) but that does not mean that mass extinction is not also occurring. Does the current episode differ from previous mass extinctions? There have been a number of such episodes in the history of the Earth, with most authors accepting five substantial mass extinctions since the Cambrian (e.g. Sepkoski, 1996; Avise, Hubbell & Ayala, 2008; Barnosky et al., 2011; Harper, Hammarlund & Rasmussen, 2014). These have all been caused by a diversity of natural phenomena (Bond & Grasby, 2017) and have been defined, for instance by Barnosky et al. (2011), as events standing out from a steadier background rate of extinction in having extinction rates spiking higher than in any other geological interval of the last 540 million years and involving, somewhat arbitrarily, a loss of over 75% of estimated species. By contrast, the current high rate of extinction is being caused directly by humans. Alroy (2008, p. 11541) emphasised this difference succinctly in stating that “the numerous anthropogenic causes of today’s mass extinction are deeply unrelated to the known causes of earlier ones.” Indeed, while the current crisis is essentially a non-marine phenomenon, the previous events were mostly defined based on marine, largely invertebrate, fossils, although the end-Cretaceous event involved the demise of non-avian dinosaurs. Furthermore, various authors have arrived at as few as two or as many as 61 mass extinctions, as reviewed by Bambach (2006), who concluded there were 18 but that only three stood out from the continuum of surrounding extinction intensities, although many authors continue to accept the traditional five (e.g. Hull, 2015; Hull et al., 2020). Wiens, Sweet & Worsley (2020), while arguing philosophically that the terms ‘background extinction’ and ‘mass extinction’ are inappropriate because these phenomena are indeed the two extremes of a continuum, nonetheless acknowledged that the current crisis is qualitatively different because of its anthropogenic cause. Implicit in all the arguments denying the current crisis is that there is no need to worry, either because there is no such mass extinction event, or, as suggested hypothetically by Doug Erwin (as quoted by Brannen, 2017), if we really are in the midst of a mass extinction, then it is too late and there is no point in trying to do anything about it anyway (note that Erwin himself in fact seemed to believe that there is no mass extinction or that the process is only beginning, and that we may have a chance to prevent it if we figure out how). Along with numerous others, we take issue with these conclusions primarily for three reasons: (i) there is mounting evidence that the extinction rate is not normal; (ii) the exponential rise in the human population and in human impacts on the natural world are abnormally rapid; and crucially (iii) we are not just another species evolving in the face of external influences because we have conscious choice regarding our future and that of Earth’s biodiversity. Thus not only are we losing species at a greater than normal rate, but also the processes of evolution (speciation) cannot keep up with this loss (Barnosky et al., 2011; Ceballos & Ehrlich, 2018). We consider that the Sixth Mass Extinction has probably started and present arguments to counter those who would deny this. We will probably not convince those who consider this episode part of the natural evolution of life on Earth and therefore that it is acceptable to just let it happen, that is, that they are wrong. Nor will we convince those who think that it is too late to stop it and that we should therefore embrace it, that is, that they also are wrong. However, we hope that we will at least give pause to those who by denying or downplaying it play into the hands of those who advocate doing nothing about it, or those who, accepting it, advocate that we should do our best to manipulate biodiversity primarily if not solely for human, essentially economic, benefit. This latter view has been expressed to a greater or lesser extent by some prominent conservationists (Kareiva & Marvier, 2007, 2012; Kareiva, Lalasz & Marvier, 2011; Thomas, 2017) and has become a key feature of the ‘New Conservation’ or ‘Neoliberal Conservation’, although the paradigm has been strongly criticised, for example by Büscher et al. (2012), Soulé (2013) and Rolston (2018). II. DEFINING THE SIXTH MASS EXTINCTION If one considers a mass extinction event as a short period when at least 75% of species are lost (Barnosky et al., 2011), the current ongoing extinction crisis, whether labelled the ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ or not, has not yet occurred; it is “a potential event that may occur in the future” (MacLeod, 2014, p. 2). But the fact that it has not yet happened – which can only be asserted once it has happened – does not mean that it will not happen or is not in the process of happening. Indeed it could happen within just one or a few centuries if nothing is done to slow or stop the current rate of biodiversity loss (Barnosky et al., 2011). But it has surely begun (Thomas, 2017), and is being caused by human activities.

No marine mass extinction

Robert Cowie et al, 2022, Pacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96822 U.S.A., Biological Reviews, The Sixth Mass Extinction: fact, fiction or speculation?, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/brv.12816

VII. MARINE SPECIES Environmental health of the oceans is the subject of considerable media attention, that to a large extent tends to treat pollution (e.g. the “seventh continent” of plastic; Ter Halle & Perez, 2020), the collapse of fisheries, and extinction as different manifestations of the same problem. Ironically, although the first five mass extinctions are documented based on the marine fossil record, there is remarkably little evidence that a Sixth Mass Extinction may have begun in the oceans. Two much cited studies (Myers & Worm, 2003; Worm et al., 2006) have documented the overfishing, past, present and projected, of commercial fish stocks and their collapse by the middle of the 21st century, leading to media statements such as “seafood off the menu by 2048” (Biello, 2006) and “no more fish by 2048” (Burrows, 2018). However, commentators have confused commercial extinction (the economic and ecological collapse of fish stocks) and biological extinction (the disappearance of all individuals of a species). It cannot be denied that commercial fish stocks have been, and continue to be depleted and the reduction of size in target fishes throughout the 20th century provides compelling evidence of “shifting baselines” (Pauly, 1995; Jackson et al., 2001; Pauly, Watson & Alder, 2005; Zeller & Pauly, 2018). It is, therefore, remarkable that, in contrast to this massive body of evidence, there is a just one documented extinction of a truly marine fish: Sympterichthys unipennis (Cuvier), known from a single specimen collected in Tasmania in 1802 (Last, Edgar & Stuart-Smith, 2020). Additionally, the houting, Coregonus oxyrinchus (L.), from the estuaries of the North Sea basin, and the amphidromous New Zealand grayling, Prototroctes oxyrhynchus Günther, are also extinct (Freyhof & Kottelat, 2008; West, David & Ling, 2014). All other 72 fish species listed as Extinct (62) or Extinct in the Wild (10) on the Red List (IUCN, 2020) are strictly from fresh water. In addition to fishes, marine species listed as extinct include the iconic Steller’s Sea Cow, Hydrodamalis gigas (Zimmermann) (Fig. 7), the Caribbean monk seal, Neomonachus tropicalis (Gray), the great auk, Pinguinus impennis (L.), and several other seabird species (although the monk seal and the seabirds faced threats when on land rather than in the sea), as well as just one alga species (the rhodophyte Vanvoorstia bennettiana (Harvey) Papenfuss), from Sydney Harbour, not recorded since 1886, and four species of marine molluscs. Of these molluscs, Littoraria flammea (Philippi) from the mangroves and saltmarshes of China, has been rediscovered (Dong, Huang & Reid, 2015), although its survival remains uncertain; and the assimineid Omphalotropis plicosa(Pfeiffer) from Mauritius qualifies more as a halophile terrestrial species than as a marine snail. In fact, the New England eel-grass limpet, Lottia alveus (Conrad), remains the only marine invertebrate the taxonomic status of which is undisputed and which has a well-documented extinction history (Carlton et al., 1991). The decline of the fourth mollusc species, Lottia edmitchelli (Lipps), first described as a Pleistocene fossil, is not linked to obvious modern environmental changes and may have been natural. Roberts & Hawkins (1999, p. 245) argued that “there are several reasons to suspect that many marine extinctions have gone unnoticed”, an assertion with which we agree. But we do not share their judgement that “compared with terrestrial ecosystems, the sea has been far less studied and the historical baseline of information tends to be brief. It is harder to sample marine ecosystems” (p. 245); whereas their statement that “our taxonomic knowledge of many groups remains fragmentary” (p. 245) applies just as well to most non-marine invertebrate groups. Beyond the Red List, there are indeed additional cases of marine species declared extinct (e.g. Carlton, 1993; Peters et al., 2013; White, Kyne & Harris, 2019; Tenorio et al., 2020), and Gravili et al. (2015) even speculated that of 53 species of Mediterranean Hydrozoa not recorded in the literature in the preceding 41 years, 60% (i.e. 32 species) could be declared Extinct. Just as on land, species declared extinct may also be rediscovered (de Weerdt & Glynn, 1991; Glynn & Feingold, 1992; Díaz, Gast & Torres, 2009). Admittedly, the vastness of the marine realm and the remoteness of some places make it difficult to conduct exhaustive surveys to document the conservation status of many of its species components. However, this vastness and this remoteness are precisely what makes marine species less prone to global extinction. We agree with Roberts & Hawkins (1999, p. 245) that “what is now beyond doubt is that many marine species have begun walking the path to global extinction”, that the various threats continue to mount (e.g. Sullivan, Constant & Lubchenco, 2019) and that extreme rarity may be the harbinger of extinction (Hull et al., 2015), but we conclude, in line with the review of Monte-Luna et al. (2007) and with the views defended by Briggs (2017), that there is no evidence that a Sixth Mass Extinction has already hit marine biota.

Sixth mass extinction is underway; we have a(moral) obligation to prevent it

Robert Cowie et al, 2022, Pacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96822 U.S.A., Biological Reviews, The Sixth Mass Extinction: fact, fiction or speculation?, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/brv.12816

As we have shown, many publications based on independent methods demonstrate the reality of the crisis. The Sixth Mass Extinction may have not occurred yet, but heightened rates of extinction and huge range and population declines have already occurred, and whatever it is called, biodiversity is changing at a greater rate than it would in the absence of anthropogenic influences. This is a fact. Denying it is simply flying in the face of the mountain of data that is rapidly accumulating, and there is no longer room for scepticism, wondering whether it really is happening. We understand the costs of over-estimating extinction rates (Akçakaya et al., 2017), notably that by doing so, species incorrectly assessed as extinct would be excluded from conservation support, with a loss of credibility should the species be subsequently discovered to be extant (e.g. Battarbee, 2014). Recording an invertebrate as Probably Extinct garners no headlines, but its rediscovery does, especially in this era of science denial. But under-estimating rates provides fuel to those who consider there to be no biodiversity crisis, as stressed by Diamond (1987), which may lead to even greater exclusion from support. With all the uncertainty that is inherent in declaring a species – especially an invertebrate – extinct, our review indicates that the most probable scenario is that the true levels of anthropogenic extinctions rank among what environmental sceptics call “over-estimation”. It is an over-estimation only to those who reject facts that do not conform to their personal or political agendas. That the Sixth Mass Extinction has begun on land and in freshwater seems increasingly likely. Humankind has the power to manipulate the Earth on a grand scale. We are the only species with such power and choices (Deer, 2019). We are not, therefore, as some would argue (e.g. Thomas, 2017), just another species going about its business in the greater evolutionary scheme of things, an argument that gives carte blanche to those who would destroy the Earth for their own short-term gain. Neither should we, as others argue, focus solely (or at least primarily) on manipulating the Earth for human well-being, whatever that means. Such attitudes, reviewed and criticised by Meine (2018) and Rolston (2018), are an abdication of responsibility – indeed an abdication of morality (e.g. Cafaro & Primack, 2014; Rolston, 2018). In our power, we are qualitatively different from all other organisms. Neither is our impact on the Earth just another major impact like an asteroid collision; we have choice, asteroids do not. We have a moral and ethical obligation to use that power judiciously not capriciously (Dasgupta & Ehrlich, 2019; Sullivan et al., 2019). But we cannot help but feel that humanity is allowing a probable Sixth Mass Extinction to unfold, and it is pie in the sky to think that this situation will change in any major way, despite attempts by some to influence politicians and business people. Specific conservation programs try to save a species here and another there, mostly birds and mammals; and some will indeed be successful (e.g. Bolam et al., 2020) – even if ex situ – giving the false impression, which will be touted by the deniers, that we are successful in combatting the crisis. Agencies, including IUCN, document threats but have little impact in terms of ameliorating those threats on a large scale. Editors exhort us to conclude our publications with an effort to be positive but it is surely better to be realistic. So what can we do? The good news is that conservation efforts may sometimes be effective. When specific threats are removed, target species may recover from being on the brink of extinction. For example: recoveries of marine mammal species following hunting bans (Lowry et al., 2014; Bejder et al., 2016); recovery of native faunas, including invertebrate species, after invasive species eradication on islands (Jones et al., 2016); peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus Tunstall, 1771, recovery from near-extinction in North America after banning of DDT (Cade & Burnham, 2003). However, these rare successes should not hide the fact that since most species population decreases are caused either multifactorially or by large-scale habitat degradation or loss, removing the cause of the decrease is usually beyond the reach of single conservation actions. Moreover, most such bright spots target vertebrates; for the vast majority of threatened invertebrate species, targeted actions to remove threats will never be undertaken. There are multiple initiatives, at various levels, to try to slow or prevent the Sixth Mass Extinction: initiatives by individuals, non-governmental organisations, and green parties at the political/social level (e.g. Extinction Rebellion; or the ban of neonicotinoids by the European Union in 2018 after decades of lobbying by environmentalists and already suffering exceptions), efforts by conservation agencies to protect individual species or set up protected areas, etc. None of these initiatives is enough, many will have little or no impact, but all are needed to try to slow the process, even though they may barely reduce the rate of extinction (Engel et al., 2021). Most such initiatives are not species oriented (except for some charismatic vertebrates) and work at a large scale (protected areas, environmental legislation, environmental education). We know that there cannot be specific actions to protect all living species individually. = In the context of limited time, funding and people to fight the biodiversity crisis, conservationists have suggested several approaches to help establish taxonomic or geographic priorities for action, including, among many others: selecting areas with both the highest diversity and highest threat level, that is, biodiversity hotspots (Myers et al., 2000; Myers, 2003); selecting species based on threat level and phylogenetic value (Redding & Mooers, 2006; Isaac et al., 2007; Volkmann et al., 2014); taking into account taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity (Cadotte & Tucker, 2018); incorporating comprehensiveness, representativeness, surrogacy, but also persistence of investments and cost-efficiency in spatial prioritisation (Wilson, Cabeza & Klein, 2009); integrating ecosystem services in conservation planning (Chan et al., 2006); taking into account human population pressure, habitat and protection status (Shi et al., 2005); capacity building in megadiverse countries (Fan et al., 2020; Tong, 2020); and increased efforts to combat extinction denial (Lees et al., 2020) and improve public education and outreach to address science denial in general (Rutjens et al., 2021). The list is almost endless, and although these tools may help conservation planning and are certainly useful, we should admit that they are not sufficient to solve the crisis. But this is where we, as taxonomists and systematists, should play our part, since we are better informed than most other scientists about the fate of individual species. We must nurture the innate human appreciation of biodiversity – why is David Attenborough so popular and famous? We must spread the message that the biodiversity that makes our world so fascinating and beautiful is going extinct unnoticed at an unprecedented rate, far faster than some would have us believe, and that preserving ecosystem function (e.g. by restoring habitats) is not enough to prevent extinctions. And because it is not feasible to conserve all species we must do our best to collect (and if possible describe) species before they go extinct – “salvage sampling” (Mesibov, 2004) – an effort emphasised by Boehm & Cronk (2021) and Engel et al. (2021). All this will depend on reviving the venerable but no longer trendy study of natural history and taxonomy – “bionomy” as espoused by Dijkstra (2016), especially in academic institutions in the Global North where it has declined drastically. Much of this has been said many times by many people, but rarely more eloquently than by Dijkstra (2016, p. 174): “In an era of extinction, there are no greater priorities than to accelerate the synthesis of life, salvage knowledge and increase awareness. To do so, we need our strongest familiarity with all species.” Furthermore, to develop a sound view of all life on Earth it is crucial that in addition to the large, beautiful and charismatic animals we also focus our attention on the “endless forms most stupid, icky, and small” – the non-charismatic invertebrates (Czekanski-Moir & Rundell, 2020, p. 12638). However, at the current pace of exploration and discovery (IISE, 2012), it will take over 300 years to describe the remaining undocumented 6 million species of the planet (Bouchet et al., 2016). Yet the bottlenecks to finding, collecting, describing and naming the remaining species of the world are not technical or technological, but sociological and regulatory. For example, with all good intentions, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and in particular its 2010 appendix, the Nagoya Protocol, introduced regulatory changes that, rather than facilitating it, have made biodiversity collecting and research extremely difficult to undertake, especially in some of the most biodiverse countries and for the multitudes of little-known invertebrates for which local capacity to describe species is lacking (Bouchet et al., 2016; Prathapan et al., 2018). In the preparation for the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the CBD, numerous world leaders, in September 2020, made declarations that biodiversity extinction must be stopped by 2030. And the first resolution of the Kunming Declaration (COP 15, 2021), released on 13 October 2021 during the first part of the COP 15, “commits … to reverse the current loss of biodiversity and ensure that biodiversity is put on a path to recovery by 2030 at the latest …”. We naturally hope that the COP 15 will go beyond declarations of goodwill, and will constrain the parties to set up capacity building in megadiverse countries, combat extinction denial and scepticism and promote better public outreach, among many other effective steps humanity can take to fight the crisis. Sound ideas for action are many, and encompass a vast array of subjects, from proper design of protected areas to taxation, family planning and green agriculture, as listed in reviews such as IPBES (2019) and Ripple et al. (2017), but it seems that political will is lacking. Furthermore, we feel that overly strict restriction of international collaboration, aimed at protecting individual countries’ biological resources from external commercial exploitation, should be revisited as it is currently putting roadblocks in the way of a deeper basic understanding of biodiversity and the crisis it faces, especially in the tropics. Local capacity building may go some way to ameliorating this problem. The precedent of the European Union, that had earlier failed to reach its ambitious target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010, and the failure of the world’s countries (IPBES, 2019) to reach the Aichi target number 12 set in 2010 by the CBD in Nagoya (“By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained”), admittedly does not lead to optimism, on top of which there are concerns that indicators used to measure biodiversity erosion do not measure extinction risk (Fontaine et al., 2007). But we are not throwing up our hands and embracing a likely Sixth Mass Extinction. Rather, we are realistically accepting that there will be many more losses and suggesting that it is important to preserve and document representatives of those future losses. But perhaps, with efforts to publicise the crisis, biodiversity scientists may achieve some successes, such that a significant component of currently extant global biodiversity can be preserved in the wild, and many of those species that will be lost from the wild can at least be preserved in museums for future generations to study and marvel at. Denying the Sixth Mass Extinction, simply accepting it and doing nothing about it or even embracing it for the benefit (defined by whom?) of humanity, paves the way for it to happen. X. CONCLUSIONS The Sixth Mass Extinction of Earth’s biodiversity, distinct from previous such events because it is caused by human activities, has been acknowledged by many for at least 30 years. We define this crisis for biodiversity as including all anthropogenic extinctions since modern humans expanded out of Africa between 200,000 and 45,000 years ago, although extinction rates are now much greater than they were at the start. Yet some deny that there is a crisis, based on two primary critiques: (i) the claim that estimated extinction rates have been exaggerated and that the current extinction rate is not significantly greater than the natural background rate, and (ii) that because humans are part of the natural world, human-caused extinctions are a natural phenomenon, a part of the evolutionary trajectory of life on Earth. We counter these arguments by showing that current extinction rates, notably in terrestrial invertebrates, are far higher than background extinction rates. We also show that use of IUCN Red List extinction data to determine current extinction rates inevitably leads to dramatic under-estimation of rates, except for birds, mammals and perhaps amphibians. Red List data have been used inappropriately by some to deny that there is a crisis. And as humanity has the power of choice, we further argue that a laissez-faire attitude to the current extinction crisis is morally wrong. We review alternative approaches for assessing extinctions, focusing on the need to address invertebrates, and argue that molluscs have significant advantages among invertebrates because of their shells, which remain after death as a permanent record, while most other invertebrates vanish without trace and would therefore never be known had they not been collected prior to going extinct. (We note, however, the not-insignificant body of work on fossil insects.) We review our own studies of extinction in molluscs and by logical extrapolation conclude that 7.5–13% (150,000-260,000) of all ~2 million known species may already have gone extinct since around 1500. This is orders of magnitude greater than the 882 (0.04%) listed as extinct by IUCN (2020). We briefly discuss the marine realm and conclude that many marine species face significant threats, which continue to increase, but we also conclude that there have been relatively few extinctions and that there is no evidence that the Sixth Mass Extinction has already involved the marine biota. Plants, however, face many of the threats faced by terrestrial animals and suffer from similar conservation biases as do invertebrates, although there are hints that they may have suffered lower rates of extinction. The prognosis for the survival of a large proportion of extant species is not good. Our review lays out arguments clearly demonstrating that there is a biodiversity crisis, quite probably the start of the Sixth Mass Extinction. Dedicated conservation biologists and conservation agencies are doing what they can, focused mainly on threatened birds and mammals, among which some species may be saved from the extinction that would otherwise ensue. But we are pessimistic about the fate of most of the Earth’s biodiversity, much of which is going to vanish without us ever knowing of its existence. Denying the crisis, accepting it and doing nothing about it, or embracing it and manipulating it for the fickle benefit of people, defined no doubt by politicians and business interests, is an abrogation of moral responsibility.

Cafaro, P. & Primack, R. (2014). Species extinction is a great moral wrong. Biological Conservation 170, 1– 2.

Dasgupta, P. S. & Ehrlich, P. R. (2019). Why we’re in the Sixth Great Extinction and what it means to humanity. In Biological Extinction: New Perspectives (eds P. Dasgupta, P. H. Raven and A. L. McIvor), pp. 262– 284. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Meine, C. (2018). Biodiversity conservation. In Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene Volume 2 (eds D. A. DellaSala and M. I. Goldstein), pp. 205– 214. Elsevier, Oxford.

Rolston, H. III (2018). Endangered species and biodiversity. In Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene. Volume 2 (eds D. A. DellaSala and M. I. Goldstein), pp. 199– 203. Elsevier, Oxford.

Sullivan, J. M., Constant, V. & Lubchenco, J. (2019). Extinction threats to life in the ocean and opportunities for their amelioration. In Biological Extinction: New Perspectives (eds P. Dasgupta, P. H. Raven and A. L. McIvor), pp. 113– 137. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Economic rebound

AP News, 11-5, 21, https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-business-health-economy-unemployment-f14fb105865ba6b1a84b5f9277f0f99b, US hiring rebounded in October, with 531,000 jobs added

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s employers stepped up their hiring in October, adding a solid 531,000 jobs, the most since July and a sign that the recovery from the pandemic recession may be overcoming a virus-induced slowdown. Friday’s report from the Labor Department also showed that the unemployment rate fell to 4.6% last month, from 4.8% in September. That is a comparatively low level but still well above the pre-pandemic jobless rate of 3.5%. The economy’s emergence from the pandemic, by most measures, remains on course. Services companies in such areas as retail, banks and warehousing have reported a sharp jump in sales. More Americans bought new homes last month. And consumer confidence rose in October. Still, the recovery would gain strength from a sustained acceleration in hiring. The economy grew at a healthy 6.5% annual rate in the first half of the year as vaccinations spread and Americans showed themselves more willing to travel, shop, eat out and attend entertainment events. Yet the delta variant held economic growth in the July-September quarter to just a 2% annual rate and sharply slowed hiring. Recent economic gauges have cast a hopeful picture. After several rounds of stimulus checks and other government support payments, Americans as a whole have amassed about $2.5 trillion more in savings than they had before the pandemic. As that money is spent, it will likely fuel further economic activity. The Conference Board, a business research group, said that in its October consumer confidence survey, the proportion of Americans who said they planned to buy cars, homes or major appliances all rose. And nearly half the survey respondents said they planned to vacation in the next six months — the highest such proportion since February 2020, before COVID-19 ripped through the economy. Yet some companies say they still can’t find enough workers to fill jobs. Many parents, particularly mothers, haven’t returned to the workforce after having left jobs during the pandemic to care for children or other relatives. Defying the predictions of some, the expiration of a $300-a-week federal unemployment supplement hasn’t caused more people to look for work. Roughly 5 million fewer people have jobs now than did before the pandemic. Most economists say they’re hopeful that with vaccinations helping to suppress the delta wave, more people will seek and find jobs because they’re no longer sick or caring for someone who is or because they no longer fear becoming infected. Those health issues had sidelined more people in September than in previous months. America’s workers, who now enjoy greater leverage in the job market than they have in decades, are receiving solid pay increases. The draw of higher income could entice more people to come off the sidelines and look for work again. Wages and salaries in the July-September quarter, compared with a year earlier, jumped by the most in 20 years. Most of that gain, though, went to already employed people who left their jobs: The number of people who quit, mostly to take new positions, has reached a record high. Rising inflation, though, has eroded much of the value of those pay increases and has become the most serious headwind for the U.S. economy. Higher costs for food, heating oil, rents and furniture have burdened millions of families. Prices rose 4.4% in September compared with 12 months earlier, the sharpest such increase in three decades. That inflation surge was a key reason why the Federal Reserve announced this week that it would begin winding down the stimulus it has given the economy since the pandemic recession struck last year. The Fed will do so by reducing its monthly bond purchases, which have been intended to hold down long-term interest rates to spur borrowing and spending. Chair Jerome Powell suggested that it won’t be possible to gain a clear picture of the job market’s health until the impact of COVID-19 declines further, which could take months. Yet in the meantime, there are plenty of signs that the economy is healing: The number of people applying for first-time unemployment benefits fell for a fifth straight week, to a level nearly as low as the pace of jobless claims before the pandemic struck 20 months ago. And while hiring has slowed for now, consumers as a whole have solid financial cushions. After several rounds of stimulus checks and other government support payments, Americans overall have amassed about $2.5 trillion more in savings than they had before the pandemic. As that money is spent, it will likely fuel further economic activity.

Economic fundamentals are strong

Catherine Rampbell, 11-25, 21, Washington Post, Opinion: The economy is actually pretty good. Here’s why Biden has had difficulty selling that.l https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/05/october-jobs-report-analysis-catherine-rampell/

The economy is doing pretty well. So why doesn’t it feel that way? And why isn’t the Biden administration selling it that way? Let’s start with the good news, coming from the jobs report released Friday. Opinions to start the day, in your inbox. Sign up. U.S. employers added 531,000 jobs on net in October, significantly higher than each of the previous two months. Those months’ (initially very disappointing) figures have just been revised upward, too. Job gains in October were widespread, with growth across leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing. The impact of the covid-19 delta variant seems to be fading. We still have a jobs deficit relative to the level of employment when the pandemic recession began, but we’re digging out of it. The unemployment rate, which comes from a different survey, has ticked down again, to 4.6 percent. That’s higher than when the recession began (3.5 percent in February 2020) but still relatively low by historical standards. During the mid-2000s boom years, right before the housing bust, the lowest the unemployment rate hit was 4.4 percent. Meanwhile, Americans’ perceptions of the job market are stellar. Gallup recently found that 74 percent of Americans say now is a good time to find a quality job. That’s the highest share since it began asking the question 20 years ago. Other economic indicators also look quite good. Nominal wage growth (not adjusted for inflation) is high, up 4.9 percent from a year ago. Overall economic output (gross domestic product) is above its pre-pandemic level. Various measures of the stock market are around all-time highs. Former president Donald Trump would have trumpeted numbers like these — regardless of whether he was actually responsible for them. (As I’ve written many times, sitting presidents always gets too much credit or blame for economic conditions, relative to the limited economic influence they have.) So why did that same Gallup poll (among other surveys) find that overall economic confidence is sliding? Maybe it has something to do with the current president’s positive-but-not-quite-gushing approach. “I would humbly suggest this is a significant improvement from when I took office, and a sign that we’re on the right track,” President Biden said Friday about the strong jobs report. Why isn’t the Biden administration shouting these numbers from the rooftops, as Trump surely would? Well, first there’s that little elephant in the room called inflation. Price pressures have persisted for much longer than most economists had predicted. That’s a consequence of persistent labor shortages here and abroad, and other delta-related supply-chain disruptions. It’s also due to unusually strong demand for consumer goods, driven by big transfers from the federal government to U.S. households; stockpiled savings; and the relative risk of buying services such as travel or restaurant dining right now. People are trying to buy even more stuff than they did pre-pandemic, but the pipeline that stuff must travel through is unusually fragile. That leads to price hikes and shortages. Inflation is, obviously, painful for businesses, consumers and workers. Especially when it outruns workers’ (nominal) gains in compensation, as has been the case recently. As of September, workers’ compensation was below its pre-pandemic level once adjusted for inflation. Many Biden staffers and allies are also somewhat scarred from past experience. Both President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were sometimes accused of being too upbeat about economic conditions, of emphasizing how far the economy had come rather than how much further it had to go. Given that many working-class Americans were struggling — and feeling left behind by the economic recovery — messages of optimism and progress sometimes came off as tone-deaf or disconnected.

Contemporary federalism destroys public health and rights

Gerzon, 10-4, 21, Washington Post, Opinion: MAGA politics has broken federalism. For the country’s sake, we need to repair it — carefully. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/04/maga-politics-broken-federalism-state-national-power/

The problem with “Make America Great Again” politics is not only the bad things it does but the good things it ruins. For many, patriotism has been transformed from love of country into hatred of outsiders. Religion is less concerned with justice and human dignity than with nostalgia for an era of White dominance. But no traditional commitment has been more brazenly abused than federalism. For James Madison, federalism recognized the distinction between “local” and “national” matters, while ensuring that states and the federal government would argue incessantly over which is which. This was supposed to be America’s vertical separation of powers. “In the compound republic of America,” Madison wrote, “the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments” — i.e., branches. “Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.” If this is the model, something has gone terribly wrong. We have seen federalism at work in the pandemic response. Public health has traditionally been the responsibility of states and localities, backstopped by a strong, respected Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the initial covid-19 response, the CDC stumbled. But that was nothing compared with the epidemiological insanity of Republican governors such as Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, who actively sabotaged basic public health responses in their states. This form of federalism has been so disastrous — so costly in human lives — that it requires some reconsideration of basic roles. A serious post-pandemic review, by a country capable of formulating complex policy, might make the federal government entirely responsible for pandemic response, since the spread of an infectious disease is never really a “local” matter. We have seen federalism at work in recent debates over voting rights. Election procedures have typically been seen as a state responsibility. But now there is a concerted movement among Republicans not merely to undo the electoral innovations of the covid era, but to give Republican state legislatures more control over the way elections are administered and votes are counted — to create disputed elections where none exist. The main purpose of Republican recounts of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and even Texas is not to change a past outcome but to create a miasma of doubt around future Republican losses. The GOP is actively looking for ways to game the electoral system, and even to game the electoral college system, to secure illegitimate victories. And the federal government has been prevented from legislating on voting rights by the prospect of a Republican filibuster in the Senate. We have also seen federalism recently at work on abortion policy. Republican officials and legislators in Texas have managed to enrage supporters of abortion rights and embarrass many pro-life activists at the same time. Not an easy feat. The state’s open invitation to enforce its antiabortion law through the bringing of private suits against those who enable abortions was designed as a clever ruse to escape Supreme Court scrutiny. In practice, it is a dystopian form of culture war vigilantism that brings discredit to the pro-life cause. This action by Texas comes at a particularly disturbing time because the country is likely to be headed toward greater abortion policy federalism. Whether the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, it seems inclined to grant states greater legislative leeway than currently exists. Republican, pro-life legislators could easily move past a sustainable public consensus on a highly divisive matter and undermine their ideals through Texas-like foolishness and extremism. All this has naturally put progressives in a centralizing mood. They generally want to pursue national mandates on covid to counteract self-destructive federalism. They want to pass the For the People Act, which already cleared the House as H.R. 1 and would nationalize and regularize voting rights and campaign finance. They want to pass federal protections of abortion rights as the Roe legal regime weakens. And much of their agenda depends on finally removing or changing the filibuster as the main obstacle to majority rule. The desire to centralize power in the right hands is understandable. But we should be clear where this tendency takes us. If the federal government is empowered to clean up the failures and excesses of federalism, it means national elections will take on even higher stakes. Control of all three branches of government would yield a concentrated, purified form of power, freed from minority constraint. And what happens if that power is placed in authoritarian hands?

We are starting to experience climate impacts, must act now to avoid devastating impacts of 1.5 degree climate change

Mazria, 10-6, 21, Edward Mazria, FAIA, is founder and CEO of the nonprofit Architecture 2030 and an internationally recognized architect, author, researcher, and educator. He was awarded the 2021 AIA Gold Medal for his “unwavering voice and leadership” in the fight against climate change, among others. Peter Exley, FAIA, is the 2021 President of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the co-founder of Architecture Is Fun, a Chicago-based architecture, design, and consulting firm, which is dedicated to helping the next generation of architects. Peter has also been an adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) for more than 25 years, On climate change, it’s time to lead, https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/575488-on-climate-change-its-time-to-lead

Devastating wildfires and brutal heat waves. Expanding drought. Disastrous storms and deadly flooding. Billions of dollars of damage and heartbreaking stories of lost lives and destroyed businesses and homes. Climate change is upon us, and the impacts we are witnessing and experiencing this year are but a harbinger of what’s to come in the years ahead if we collectively fail to act. Despite the very real and present impacts of climate change, far too many world leaders continue to effectively sit on the sidelines. Collectively, at a moment when bold action is needed, global leaders have yet to mount a response commensurate with the challenge even as the window for action closes. Buildings are the largest source of the world’s carbon emissions globally, accounting for approximately 40 percent of total emissions due to the energy used for heating, cooling, lighting, appliances and building construction. When you add the embodied carbon of building interiors, systems and associated infrastructure, that percentage is substantially higher. The building industry has a critical role to play in solving the climate crisis, and fortunately for all of us, they are leading the way. For example, today, the entire U.S. building sector’s CO2 emissions are 30 percent below 2005 levels even though over 50 billion square feet was added to its building stock over that same period. And now, more than 60 of the largest and most influential international architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, planning and construction firms, collectively responsible for over $300 billion in annual construction, along with two dozen organizations that represent more than one million building industry professionals worldwide, announced a shared commitment to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, and they have challenged sovereign governments to do the same. The firms and organizations are signatories to the 1.5oC COP26 Communiqué — an open letter to sovereign governments calling on them to commit to reducing carbon emissions to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5oC carbon budget — which scientists have determined is necessary for a good probability to avoid the worst impacts of climate change — a 50 percent to 65 percent reduction by 2030 and fully decarbonize all sectors by 2040. The timing for this announcement is deliberate: In a few weeks, government leaders from around the world will convene for climate negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) taking place Oct. 31 — Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. These negotiations have been going on for years, and for those of us watching and hoping for true leadership, progress has been heartbreakingly slow. The window for action is closing. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5oC will be beyond reach. To put that in context, the extreme weather we’re experiencing this year — the record-breaking floods, wildfires, drought and storms — is what we get with 1.02oC of warming. Additional warming means even more extreme impacts. Warming beyond 1.5oC means a litany of catastrophic impacts for billions of people that will make many of the places we now call home uninhabitable. Many nations are still operating under insufficient emissions-reduction targets that put the planet in danger of exceeding 1.5oC warming. Recent analyses from the United Nations and Climate Action Tracker found that none of the world’s major economies — including the G20 — have a climate plan that would meet their obligations under the Paris Agreement. At the COP 26 in Scotland, will our government leaders finally step up and lead? Will they chart a collective path to dramatically reduce emissions? Will they follow the building industry and make clear and aggressive commitments? Or will they continue to say the right things, but kick the proverbial can down the road, burdening future generations with an inhospitable planet? On behalf of all of us, and especially our children and grandchildren, we can only hope the era of inaction is over, and our government leaders are ready to step up and lead.

Global water crisis

AP, 10-5, 21, UN report warns of global water crisis amid climate change. https://www.wagmtv.com/2021/10/05/un-report-warns-global-water-crisis-amid-climate-change/

Much of the world is unprepared for the floods, hurricanes and droughts expected to worsen with climate change and urgently needs better warning systems to avert water-related disasters, according to a report by the United Nations’ weather agency. Global water management is “fragmented and inadequate,” the report published Tuesday found, with nearly 60% of 101 countries surveyed needing improved forecasting systems that can help prevent devastation from severe weather. As populations grow, the number of people with inadequate access to water is also expected to rise to more than 5 billion by 2050, up from 3.6 billion in 2018, the report said. Among the actions recommended by the report were better warning systems for flood- and drought-prone areas that can identify, for example, when a river is expected to swell. Better financing and coordination among countries on water management is also needed, according to the report by the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization, development agencies and other groups. ADVERTISEMENT “We need to wake up to the looming water crisis,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization. The report found that since 2000, flood-related disasters globally rose 134% compared with the previous two decades. Most flood-related deaths and economic losses were in Asia, where extreme rainfall caused massive flooding in China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal and Pakistan in the past year. The frequency of drought-related disasters rose 29% over the same period. African countries recorded the most-drought related deaths. The steepest economic losses from drought were in North America, Asia and the Caribbean, the report said. Globally, the report found 25% of all cities are already experiencing regular water shortages. Over the past two decades, it said the planet’s combined supplies of surface water, ground water and water found in soil, snow and ice have declined by 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) per year. Population growth will further strain water supplies, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, said Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of hydrology and climate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who wasn’t involved in the report. “The availability of water in rising populations shapes where water adaptation will be quite urgent,” he said. Despite some progress in recent years, the report found 107 countries would not meet goals to sustainably manage water supplies and access by 2030 at current rates.

Political action is the best way to achieve progressive goals; outside action fails

Albert Hunt, 10-3, 21, The Hill, Political study should give Democrats a jolt, https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/575056-political-study-should-give-democrats-a-jolt,  Political study should give Democrats a jolt

Political study should give Democrats a jolt Joe Biden’s narrowest victory last year was in Georgia; his closest loss was in North Carolina. Both states were considered competitive. The surprise: It wasn’t North Carolina that went blue, but Georgia in the presidential contest and two months later in two U.S. Senate races. Why is captured in an in-depth analysis by three Harvard scholars, on the political performance of the two states over a decade. While social and political activists in North Carolina, led by the Rev. William Barber, waged intense protests and sit-ins against the “immoral” policies of the right-wing Republican legislature, Stacey Abrams, in Georgia, waged an equally intense campaign to register voters linked to her Democratic party. It turns out the most effective vehicle for social change, the three Harvard scholars report, is the political arena. These two Southern states are similar in population and demographics; Georgia has a higher percentage of Blacks, and North Carolina probably has slightly more Democratic-leaning well-educated whites. In recent elections cycles, including 2020, national Democrats were more focused on North Carolina, which had voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and had two Democratic governors since then. Republicans were more dominant in Georgia. The most vocal anti-Republican voice in the Tar Heel state was the Rev. Barber, starting from his perch as head of the state’s NAACP, and his campaign for social justice and racial equity. This was elevated after Republicans captured the state house in 2010. The charismatic Barber assailed their policies and also criticized progressives for “fawning over politicians” who then betray them. The Harvard study recounts how Forward Together attracted national attention, considerable media coverage, with its protests, thousands descending on Raleigh. There were the “Moral Monday” demonstrations and sit-ins at the state Capitol; more than a thousand supporters were arrested. A right-wing organization examined the background of those arrested. They were predominately white, female, older, ministers, retired public sector workers and professors and overwhelmingly registered Democrats. They weren’t new converts to the cause. There were minimal links to electoral politics. Despite the emphasis on the poor, the Harvard scholars found the movement “actually boosted progressive metropolitan liberalism and reinforced the Democrats reliance on college educated voters.” In Georgia, with less national attention, Stacey Abrams, a young black woman who had become Democratic leader in the State House, was taking a different tack, a thoroughly political one aimed at unregistered voters of color to help elect Democrats. Her New Georgia Project (NGP) reached out to prospective voters across the state, setting up non-profit voter registration projects and prospective voters across the state, as she vigorously campaigned around the state. In her first three years as minority leader, she had over 400 days of travel per diem expenses, crisscrossing Georgia with white and black legislators. She linked voting to policies favored by Democrats. When the Republican Georgia legislature refused to accept the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Health Care Act, she explained the only antidote was to register Democrats. At the same time, unlike Barber, she was shaking the money trees from left wing Democratic fat cats to fund these efforts. While the North Carolina social justice initiative focused heavily on metropolitan areas, the NGP worked the small towns and rural areas of Georgia. Almost half of Georgia’s Blacks live outside the Atlanta metropolitan area, and over half of Blacks in North Carolina live outside the state’s three major metropolitan areas. The Abrams network organized funeral directors in parts of rural Georgia, always connecting the dots to voting for Democrats. Abrams said Democrats would reach “lonely” Democrats and people who don’t know they’re Democrats yet. She also reached out to the growing — and often unregistered — population of Hispanics and Asian citizens. It clicked in 2018, when Abrams ran for Governor, narrowly losing, barely missing a run-off. (Unless a candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote, Georgia requires a runoff.) The payoff came last year when Biden carried Georgia by 11,000 votes, a state where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 211,000 votes. But the real bonanza was two months later when the Democrats won two special run-offs for U.S. Senate seats. Typically in Georgia runoffs, the Black vote drops, one reason Republicans usually win. This past January, the GOP turnout was good, the Harvard researchers note, 89.2 percent of the November presidential vote. Remarkably, the Democrats — fueled by a surge with Black voters — was better: 92.5 percent. There was an even higher performance in counties where NGP was active. There always are unique issues. Last year, North Carolina did reelect a popular Democratic governor, and the party’s losing Senate candidate was embroiled in a sex scandal. Theda Skocpol, the Harvard political scientist and one of the authors of the study, notes the Harvard study is “a substantial report of an ongoing project” with more data forthcoming. Arizona Democrats’ frustration with Sinema comes to a head Sanders says there may be ‘give and take’ on reconciliation price tag For Democrats, there is more momentum in Georgia — a lesson for liberals. The Harvard analysis concludes: “Social Justice Campaigns can make more headway through grassroots organizing aligned with a political party than by mounting issue-focused protests and non-partisan moral appeals.”

Green capitalism fails to protect the environment

Kathrina Pistor, 9-27, 21, The Myth of Green Capitalism, https://socialeurope.eu/the-myth-of-green-capitalism, Katharina Pistor is professor of comparative law at Columbia Law School. She is the author of The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality.

Heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires are devastating communities around the world, and they will only grow more severe. While climate-change deniers remain powerful, the need for urgent action is now recognised well beyond activist circles. Governments, international organisations and even business and finance are bowing to the inevitable—or so it seems. In fact, the world has wasted decades tinkering with carbon trading and ‘green’ financial labelling schemes, and the current vogue is merely to devise fancy hedging strategies (‘carbon offsets’) in defiance of the simple fact that humanity is sitting in the same boat. ‘Offsetting’ may serve individual asset holders, but it will do little to avert the climate disaster that awaits us all. The private sector’s embrace of ‘green capitalism’ appears to be yet another gimmick to avoid a real reckoning. If business and finance leaders were serious, they would recognise the need to change course drastically to ensure that this planet remains hospitable for all of humanity now and in the future. This is not about substituting green assets for brown ones, but about sharing the losses that brown capitalism has imposed on millions and ensuring a future even for the most vulnerable. Privatised gains, socialised losses The notion of green capitalism implies that the costs of addressing climate change are too high for governments to shoulder on their own and that the private sector always has better answers. So, for advocates of green capitalism, public-private partnership will ensure that the transition from brown to green capitalism will be cost-neutral. Efficiently priced investments in new technologies supposedly will prevent humanity from stepping over into the abyss. But this sounds too good to be true, because it is. Capitalism’s DNA makes it unfit to cope with the fallout from climate change, which in no small part is the product of capitalism itself. The entire capitalist system is premised on the privatisation of gains and the socialisation of losses—not in any nefarious fashion but with the blessing of the law. The law offers licences to externalise the costs of despoiling the planet to anybody who is smart enough to establish a trust or corporate entity before generating pollution. It encourages the offloading of accrued environmental liabilities through restructuring in bankruptcy. And it holds entire countries hostage to international rules that privilege the protection of foreign investors’ returns over their own people’s welfare. Several countries have already been sued by foreign companies under the Energy Charter Treaty for trying to curb their carbon dioxide emissions. Two-thirds of total emissions since the industrial revolution have come from just 90 corporations. Yet even if the managers of the world’s worst polluters were willing to pursue rapid decarbonisation, their shareholders would resist. For decades, the gospel of shareholder-value maximisation has reigned supreme, and managers have known that if they deviate from the orthodoxy they will be sued for violating their fiduciary duties. Lavish fossil-fuel subsidies No wonder Big Business and Big Finance now advocate climate disclosures as a way out. The message is that shareholders, not managers, must spur the necessary behavioural change; solutions must be found through the price mechanism, not through science-based policies. Left unanswered is the question of why investors with an easy exit option and plenty of hedging opportunities should care about the disclosure of future harm to some companies in their portfolio. There is obviously a need for more drastic changes: carbon taxes, permanent moratoria on extracting natural resources and so forth. These policies are often dismissed as mechanisms that would distort markets, yet this is to idealise markets that don’t exist in the real world. After all, governments have lavishly subsidised fossil-fuel industries for decades—to the tune of $5.5 trillion (both pre- and post-tax), or 6.8 per cent of global gross domestic product, in 2017. And should fossil-fuel companies ever run out of profits to offset these tax breaks, they can simply sell themselves to a more profitable company, thereby rewarding their shareholders for their loyalty. The script for these strategies has long been written in the law of mergers and acquisitions. Please help our mission to drive forward policy debates Social Europe is an independent publisher and we believe in freely available content. For this model to be sustainable we depend on the solidarity of our loyal readers – we depend on you. Please support our work by becoming a Social Europe member for less than 5 Euro per month. Thank you very much for your support! Become a Social Europe Member But the mother of all subsidies is the centuries-old process of legally encoding capital through property, corporate, trust and bankruptcy law. It is law, not markets or firms, that protects the owners of capital assets even as they saddle others with enormous liabilities. Advocates of green capitalism are hoping to continue this game. That is why they are now lobbying governments to subsidise asset substitution, so that as the price of brown assets declines the price of green ones will rise to compensate the asset holders. Again, this is what capitalism is all about. Whether it represents the best strategy for ensuring the planet’s habitability is an entirely different question. Market-friendly mechanisms Instead of tackling such questions, governments and regulators have once again succumbed to the siren song of market-friendly mechanisms. The new consensus focuses on financial disclosure because that path promises change without having to deliver it. (It also happens to generate employment for entire industries of accountants, lawyers and business consultants with powerful lobbying arms of their own.) Not surprisingly, the result has been a wave of greenwashing. The financial industry has happily poured trillions of dollars into green-labelled assets that turned out not to be green at all. According to a recent study, 71 per cent of ESG-themed funds (those supposedly reflecting environmental, social or governance criteria) are negatively aligned with the goals of the Paris climate agreement. We are running out of time for such experiments. If greening the economy were really the goal, the first step would be to eliminate all direct subsidies and tax subsidies for brown capitalism and mandate a halt to carbon ‘proliferation’. Governments should also place a moratorium on shielding polluters, their owners and investors from liability for environmental damages. Incidentally, these moves would also remove some of the worst market distortions around.

Supreme Court credibility collapsing

Robert Barnes and  Seung Min Kim, 9-26, 21, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-public-opinion/2021/09/25/379b51ec-1c6c-11ec-bcb8-0cb135811007_story.html, Supreme Court observers see trouble ahead as public approval of justices erodes

The Supreme Court’s approval rating is plummeting, its critics are more caustic, and justices are feeling compelled to plead the case to the public that they are judicial philosophers, not politicians in robes. All of this as the court embarks Oct. 4 on one of the most potentially divisive terms in years. Docketed cases concern gun control, separation of church and state, and the biggest showdown in decades on the future of Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to an abortion. Meanwhile, a presidential commission studying the court is being bombarded with criticism from the left, and occasionally the right, that the justices are too political, too powerful and serve for too long. Justices say they have philosophical — not partisan — differences Even those who value the court see trouble ahead. “Not since Bush v. Gore has the public perception of the court’s legitimacy seemed so seriously threatened,” the Georgetown Supreme Court Institute’s executive director, Irv Gornstein, said last week at a preview of the court’s upcoming term. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska) said she has grave concerns for the court, and government in general. “I worry a great deal about it, because when the public begins to question and doubt the independence of this third, separate but equal branch of government, they’ve got a problem here,” she said, adding, “I think the public needs to be able to trust that the judiciary will be that independent, unbiased check” on the political branches. A Gallup poll released last week said Americans’ opinions of the Supreme Court have dropped to a new low, with only 40 percent approving of the justices’ job performance. “At this point, less than a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents approve of the job the court is doing,” said Gallup, which has been tracking the trend since 2000. A recent survey by Marquette University Law School documented the same dramatic drop. Its numbers showed public approval sliding from 60 percent in July to 49 percent in September. Those weeks are usually quiet at the court, with justices on summer recess. But in emergency decisions in August and September, the court ruled against two Biden administration initiatives, ending a nationwide eviction moratorium and reimposing an abandoned immigration policy. And in a bitter 5-to-4 split that sparked controversy and prompted congressional action, the court allowed to take effect a Texas law banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, while legal challenges to it continue. The Supreme Court allowed a Texas law banning abortion past six weeks to remain in effect. Other conservative states may adopt similar measures going forward. (Blair Guild/The Washington Post) Supreme Court won’t block restrictive Texas abortion law Those late-summer rulings apparently came with a cost. “Whatever people might have seen as moderation on the court over the past year was followed by these three rulings, right in a row and close together, that all took a conservative tilt,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette poll, explaining the drop in approval. In recent weeks, three justices — the newest, Amy Coney Barrett, the most senior, conservative Clarence Thomas, and liberal Stephen G. Breyer — have defended in speeches and interviews the court’s decision-making and independence. “My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” Barrett said in a speech in Kentucky, asserting that judicial philosophies, not partisan leanings, dictate the court’s rulings. Thomas, in a speech at the University of Notre Dame, said justices do not rule based on “personal preferences” and suggested that the nation’s leaders should not “allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcome that we like.” Breyer increasingly finds himself in dissent, especially in the emergency orders that come without the court’s normal briefing and argument. But while promoting a new book that warns that restructuring the court would be seen as a partisan move imperiling its authority, he has pointed out controversial areas in which liberal and conservative justices have reached agreement, including upholding the Affordable Care Act for a third time and staying out of election challenges brought by former president Donald Trump and his allies. Breyer the optimist shakes off defeats but worries about threats to court “I think these last few years have really been very dangerous and potentially devastating to the Supreme Court’s credibility because the public is seeing the court as increasingly political, and the public is right,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who served as a Supreme Court clerk to Justice Harry A. Blackmun. “The statements by Thomas, Barrett, Breyer, you know, give me a break . . . they are just inherently noncredible.” Democrats remain chafed at Trump’s ability, with a push from then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to transform the Supreme Court. McConnell refused to allow a hearing on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court choice Merrick Garland in 2016, saying it was inappropriate in an election year. He then rushed through Barrett’s confirmation to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just before Election Day, after voters had begun casting early ballots that denied Trump a second term. Along with replacing Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Trump nominated and McConnell’s Republican-majority Senate confirmed Barrett and Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, overwhelmingly along party lines, giving the court a 6-to-3 conservative majority that is likely to remain for years to come. Sixth conservative justice puts Supreme Court in political fray Some conservatives contend that questions about the court’s legitimacy are cooked up by Democrats and liberals, who they say turn every disliked decision into a call for expanding the number of justices while Democrats control the White House and Senate. Roman Martinez, a Washington lawyer who clerked for Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., said at the Georgetown event that the “incendiary language” plays a role in public disapproval of the court. “I do think there is a substantial campaign to delegitimize the court that has gotten some traction on the left,” said Martinez, who praised Breyer for showing “courage” by speaking out. He contended that Senate Democrats and liberal interest groups from the beginning have attempted to brand Trump’s nominees as partisan and biased. Critics have argued that “the reason these individuals were being put on the court was they were going to hand the election to Donald Trump, they were going to shield him from investigation and they were going to overturn Obamacare,” Martinez said. “And none of those things came to pass.” Of course, Trump himself was the source for some of those expectations. He said Barrett was needed so that a full court could hear litigation arising from the election, and he proclaimed that the people he nominated to the high court would overturn Roe. His transactional approach to judicial appointments was on display when Roberts chided the president for referring to a federal judge as an “Obama judge.” “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country,” Trump tweeted at the time. Roberts defends independence of judiciary, rebukes Trump’s comments President Donald Trump introduces newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett during a swearing-in ceremony at the White House last year. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) Such criticism stings whether from the left or right, as the justices’ recent appearances have shown. But their responses have brought criticism as well. Barrett’s comments came during an appearance with McConnell at a University of Louisville center that bears the senator’s name. Rebutting charges that the court is partisan after being introduced by one of the Senate’s chief partisans — McConnell is noncommittal on whether a Republican-led Senate would take up a Supreme Court nomination from President Biden — made Barrett an easy target. McConnell will appear with Thomas next month as a keynote speaker when the Heritage Foundation holds a tribute to Thomas’s three decades on the Supreme Court. Similar to Roberts’s criticism, Breyer has complained that the media often notes the party of the president who nominated a justice when writing about his or her opinions. Barrett and Thomas have criticized coverage they say is results-oriented rather than focused on the court’s reasoning. Justice Thomas defends Supreme Court’s independence But there is ample evidence that media reports detail the justices’ reasoning. At any rate, that would not explain the drop in approval, which in the Marquette polls has declined from 66 percent in 2020. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said he agrees with the perception that the court “is increasingly a political institution.” But Congress shares the blame, he said. “We give opportunities for the court to be perceived as political because we don’t legislate,” Murphy said. “So the court ends up stepping into really important areas of law because Congress has left huge vacuums on immigration policy and telecommunications policy. So if we were more effective legislating, we would eliminate a lot of the ambiguities that the court then takes advantage of.” Murkowski said the view of the court reflects a larger societal trend. “I don’t think that the justices are becoming more political,” she said, adding, “Maybe it’s just that everything now has become more political.” One bright spot for the court: Marquette’s Franklin said that even though the public’s approval of the court has dipped, trust in the institution has remained relatively stable. Gornstein, of Georgetown, wondered whether that was sustainable. “It is all well and good for justices to tell the public that their decisions reflect their judicial philosophies, not their political affiliations,” he said. “If the right side’s judicial philosophies always produce results favored by Republicans and the left side’s judicial philosophies always produce results favored by Democrats, there is little chance of persuading the public there is a difference between the two.”

Supreme Court credibility collapsing

Joseph Choi, 9-23, 21, Supreme Court approval drops to 40 percent, hitting a new low: Gallup, https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/573588-supreme-court-approval-drops-to-40-percent-hitting-a-new-low-gallup

The surveys were conducted from Sept. 1-17, around the time the Supreme Court declined to block an extremely restrictive Texas abortion law as well as allow college vaccine mandates to continue, Gallup noted. At 53 percent, a slight majority of respondents said they disapproved of the Supreme Court. Since 2001, the high court’s approval rating has dipped as low as 42 percent in 2005 and 2017. In July 2020, the court had an approval rating of 49 percent, marking a drop of nearly 10 percentage points within the span of just a couple of months. “Americans’ opinions of the Supreme Court are now the worst Gallup has measured in its polling on the institution over the past two-plus decades,” Gallup said. “At this point, less than a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents approve of the job the court is doing. Barely half of Democrats and independents are confident in it, while confidence is slightly higher among Republicans.” The survey also found a sharp decline in the amount of Americans who say they have confidence in the Supreme Court. In 2020, 67 percent said they had “a great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the judicial branch, but according to the more recent survey only 54 percent now say the same. Gallup also noted this new low was recorded a little over a year after the court had an approval rating of 58 percent, just 3 percentage points shy of the highest approval rating it has seen with Gallup. When it came to political opinions of the court, 40 percent of respondents said it was “Too conservative” while 20 percent said it was “Too liberal.” Of the remainder, 37 percent said the court was “about right.” Gallup noted that this appraisal was largely affected by individual political leanings, with Republican more likely to say that the court is “about right.” The Gallup conducted a random survey of 1,005 adults in all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points with a 95 percent confidence level. Gallup’s poll follows a Quinnipiac University survey released last week that also found the Supreme Court had an all-time low approval rating, with only 37 percent saying they approved. This marked the lowest rating since Quinnipiac began recording approval ratings in 2004. Approval of the U.S. Supreme Court fell to a new low of 40 percent this month, according to a new poll released by Gallup on Thursday.

Democracy collapse non-unique: Election rigging

Robert Kagan, 9-23, 21, Washington Post, Opinion: Our constitutional crisis is already here, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/23/robert-kagan-constitutional-crisis/

The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial. But about these things there should be no doubt: First, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. The hope and expectation that he would fade in visibility and influence have been delusional. He enjoys mammoth leads in the polls; he is building a massive campaign war chest; and at this moment the Democratic ticket looks vulnerable. Barring health problems, he is running. Second, Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way. Some Republican candidates have already begun preparing to declare fraud in 2022, just as Larry Elder tried meekly to do in the California recall contest. Meanwhile, the amateurish “stop the steal” efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to “find” more votes for Trump are being systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the election certification process. As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election” by a simple majority vote. Some state legislatures seek to impose criminal penalties on local election officials alleged to have committed “technical infractions,” including obstructing the view of poll watchers. The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020. Would governors call out the National Guard? Would President Biden nationalize the Guard and place it under his control, invoke the Insurrection Act, and send troops into Pennsylvania or Texas or Wisconsin to quell violent protests? Deploying federal power in the states would be decried as tyranny. Biden would find himself where other presidents have been — where Andrew Jackson was during the nullification crisis, or where Abraham Lincoln was after the South seceded — navigating without rules or precedents, making his own judgments about what constitutional powers he does and doesn’t have. Today’s arguments over the filibuster will seem quaint in three years if the American political system enters a crisis for which the Constitution offers no remedy. Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation. The political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015. They underestimated the extent of his popularity and the strength of his hold on his followers; they underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party; and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power. The fact that he failed to overturn the 2020 election has reassured many that the American system remains secure, though it easily could have gone the other way — if Biden had not been safely ahead in all four states where the vote was close; if Trump had been more competent and more in control of the decision-makers in his administration, Congress and the states. As it was, Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year. All that prevented it was a handful of state officials with notable courage and integrity, and the reluctance of two attorneys general and a vice president to obey orders they deemed inappropriate. These were not the checks and balances the Framers had in mind when they designed the Constitution, of course, but Trump has exposed the inadequacy of those protections. The Founders did not foresee the Trump phenomenon, in part because they did not foresee national parties. They anticipated the threat of a demagogue, but not of a national cult of personality. They assumed that the new republic’s vast expanse and the historic divisions among the 13 fiercely independent states would pose insuperable barriers to national movements based on party or personality. “Petty” demagogues might sway their own states, where they were known and had influence, but not the whole nation with its diverse populations and divergent interests. Such checks and balances as the Framers put in place, therefore, depended on the separation of the three branches of government, each of which, they believed, would zealously guard its own power and prerogatives. The Framers did not establish safeguards against the possibility that national-party solidarity would transcend state boundaries because they did not imagine such a thing was possible. Nor did they foresee that members of Congress, and perhaps members of the judicial branch, too, would refuse to check the power of a president from their own party. In recent decades, however, party loyalty has superseded branch loyalty, and never more so than in the Trump era. As the two Trump impeachments showed, if members of Congress are willing to defend or ignore the president’s actions simply because he is their party leader, then conviction and removal become all but impossible. In such circumstances, the Framers left no other check against usurpation by the executive — except (small-r) republican virtue. Critics and supporters alike have consistently failed to recognize what a unique figure Trump is in American history. Because his followers share fundamentally conservative views, many see Trump as merely the continuation, and perhaps the logical culmination, of the Reagan Revolution. This is a mistake: Although most Trump supporters are or have become Republicans, they hold a set of beliefs that were not necessarily shared by all Republicans. Some Trump supporters are former Democrats and independents. In fact, the passions that animate the Trump movement are as old as the republic and have found a home in both parties at one time or another. Suspicion of and hostility toward the federal government; racial hatred and fear; a concern that modern, secular society undermines religion and traditional morality; economic anxiety in an age of rapid technological change; class tensions, with subtle condescension on one side and resentment on the other; distrust of the broader world, especially Europe, and its insidious influence in subverting American freedom — such views and attitudes have been part of the fabric of U.S. politics since the anti-Federalists, the Whiskey Rebellion and Thomas Jefferson. The Democratic Party was the home of white supremacists until they jumped to George Wallace in 1968 and later to the Republicans. Liberals and Democrats in particular need to distinguish between their ongoing battle with Republican policies and the challenge posed by Trump and his followers. One can be fought through the processes of the constitutional system; the other is an assault on the Constitution itself. What makes the Trump movement historically unique is not its passions and paranoias. It is the fact that for millions of Americans, Trump himself is the response to their fears and resentments. This is a stronger bond between leader and followers than anything seen before in U.S. political movements. Although the Founders feared the rise of a king or a Caesar, for two centuries Americans proved relatively immune to unwavering hero-worship of politicians. Their men on horseback — Theodore Roosevelt, Grant, even Washington — were not regarded as infallible. This was true of great populist leaders as well. William Jennings Bryan a century ago was venerated because he advanced certain ideas and policies, but he did not enjoy unquestioning loyalty from his followers. Even Reagan was criticized by conservatives for selling out conservative principles, for deficit spending, for his equivocal stance on abortion, for being “soft” on the Soviet Union. Trump is different, which is one reason the political system has struggled to understand, much less contain, him. The American liberal worldview tends to search for material and economic explanations for everything, and no doubt a good number of Trump supporters have grounds to complain about their lot in life. But their bond with Trump has little to do with economics or other material concerns. They believe the U.S. government and society have been captured by socialists, minority groups and sexual deviants. They see the Republican Party establishment as corrupt and weak — “losers,” to use Trump’s word, unable to challenge the reigning liberal hegemony. They view Trump as strong and defiant, willing to take on the establishment, Democrats, RINOs, liberal media, antifa, the Squad, Big Tech and the “Mitch McConnell Republicans.” His charismatic leadership has given millions of Americans a feeling of purpose and empowerment, a new sense of identity. While Trump’s critics see him as too narcissistic to be any kind of leader, his supporters admire his unapologetic, militant selfishness. Unlike establishment Republicans, Trump speaks without embarrassment on behalf of an aggrieved segment of Americans, not exclusively White, who feel they have been taking it on the chin for too long. And that is all he needs to do. There was a time when political analysts wondered what would happen when Trump failed to “deliver” for his constituents. But the most important thing Trump delivers is himself. His egomania is part of his appeal. In his professed victimization by the media and the “elites,” his followers see their own victimization. That is why attacks on Trump by the elites only strengthen his bond with his followers. That is why millions of Trump supporters have even been willing to risk death as part of their show of solidarity: When Trump’s enemies cited his mishandling of the pandemic to discredit him, their answer was to reject the pandemic. One Trump supporter didn’t go to the hospital after developing covid-19 symptoms because he didn’t want to contribute to the liberal case against Trump. “I’m not going to add to the numbers,” he told a reporter. Because the Trump movement is less about policies than about Trump himself, it has undermined the normal role of American political parties, which is to absorb new political and ideological movements into the mainstream. Bryan never became president, but some of his populist policies were adopted by both political parties. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters might not have wanted Biden for president, but having lost the nomination battle they could work on getting Biden to pursue their agenda. Liberal democracy requires acceptance of adverse electoral results, a willingness to countenance the temporary rule of those with whom we disagree. As historian Richard Hofstadter observed, it requires that people “endure error in the interest of social peace.” Part of that willingness stems from the belief that the democratic system makes it possible to work, even in opposition, to correct the ruling party’s errors and overreach. Movements based on ideas and policies can also quickly shift their allegiances. Today, the progressives’ flag-bearer might be Sanders, but tomorrow it could be Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or someone else. For a movement built around a cult of personality, these adjustments are not possible. For Trump supporters, the “error” is that Trump was cheated out of reelection by what he has told them is an oppressive, communist, Democrat regime. While the defeat of a sitting president normally leads to a struggle to claim the party’s mantle, so far no Republican has been able to challenge Trump’s grip on Republican voters: not Sen. Josh Hawley, not Sen. Tom Cotton, not Tucker Carlson, not Gov. Ron DeSantis. It is still all about Trump. The fact that he is not in office means that the United States is “a territory controlled by enemy tribes,” writes one conservative intellectual. The government, as one Trump supporter put it, “is monopolized by a Regime that believes [Trump voters] are beneath representation, and will observe no limits to keep them [from] getting it.” If so, the intellectual posits, what choice do they have but to view the government as the enemy and to become “united and armed to take care of themselves as they think best”? The Trump movement might not have begun as an insurrection, but it became one after its leader claimed he had been cheated out of reelection. For Trump supporters, the events of Jan. 6 were not an embarrassing debacle but a patriotic effort to save the nation, by violent action if necessary. As one 56-year-old Michigan woman explained: “We weren’t there to steal things. We weren’t there to do damage. We were just there to overthrow the government.” The banal normalcy of the great majority of Trump’s supporters, including those who went to the Capitol on Jan. 6, has befuddled many observers. Although private militia groups and white supremacists played a part in the attack, 90 percent of those arrested or charged had no ties to such groups. The majority were middle-class and middle-aged; 40 percent were business owners or white-collar workers. They came mostly from purple, not red, counties. Most Trump supporters are good parents, good neighbors and solid members of their communities. Their bigotry, for the most part, is typical white American bigotry, perhaps with an added measure of resentment and a less filtered mode of expression since Trump arrived on the scene. But these are normal people in the sense that they think and act as people have for centuries. They put their trust in family, tribe, religion and race. Although jealous in defense of their own rights and freedoms, they are less concerned about the rights and freedoms of those who are not like them. That, too, is not unusual. What is unnatural is to value the rights of others who are unlike you as much as you value your own. As it happens, however, that is what the American experiment in republican democracy requires. It is what the Framers meant by “republican virtue,” a love of freedom not only for oneself but also as an abstract, universal good; a love of self-government as an ideal; a commitment to abide by the laws passed by legitimate democratic processes; and a healthy fear of and vigilance against tyranny of any kind. Even James Madison, who framed the Constitution on the assumption that people would always pursue their selfish interests, nevertheless argued that it was “chimerical” to believe that any form of government could “secure liberty and happiness without any virtue in the people.” Al Gore and his supporters displayed republican virtue when they abided by the Supreme Court’s judgment in 2000 despite the partisan nature of the justices’ decision. (Whether the court itself displayed republican virtue is another question.) The events of Jan. 6, on the other hand, proved that Trump and his most die-hard supporters are prepared to defy constitutional and democratic norms, just as revolutionary movements have in the past. While it might be shocking to learn that normal, decent Americans can support a violent assault on the Capitol, it shows that Americans as a people are not as exceptional as their founding principles and institutions. Europeans who joined fascist movements in the 1920s and 1930s were also from the middle classes. No doubt many of them were good parents and neighbors, too. People do things as part of a mass movement that they would not do as individuals, especially if they are convinced that others are out to destroy their way of life. It would be foolish to imagine that the violence of Jan. 6 was an aberration that will not be repeated. Because Trump supporters see those events as a patriotic defense of the nation, there is every reason to expect more such episodes. Trump has returned to the explosive rhetoric of that day, insisting that he won in a “landslide,” that the “radical left Democrat communist party” stole the presidency in the “most corrupt, dishonest, and unfair election in the history of our country” and that they have to give it back. He has targeted for defeat those Republicans who voted for his impeachment — or criticized him for his role in the riot. Already, there have been threats to bomb polling sites, kidnap officials and attack state capitols. “You and your family will be killed very slowly,” the wife of Georgia’s top election official was texted earlier this year. Nor can one assume that the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers would again play a subordinate role when the next riot unfolds. Veterans who assaulted the Capitol told police officers that they had fought for their country before and were fighting for it again. Looking ahead to 2022 and 2024, Trump insists “there is no way they win elections without cheating. There’s no way.” So, if the results come in showing another Democratic victory, Trump’s supporters will know what to do. Just as “generations of patriots” gave “their sweat, their blood and even their very lives” to build America, Trump tells them, so today “we have no choice. We have to fight” to restore “our American birthright.” Where does the Republican Party stand in all this? The party gave birth to and nurtured this movement; it bears full responsibility for establishing the conditions in which Trump could capture the loyalty of 90 percent of Republican voters. Republican leaders were more than happy to ride Trump’s coattails if it meant getting paid off with hundreds of conservative court appointments, including three Supreme Court justices; tax cuts; immigration restrictions; and deep reductions in regulations on business. Yet Trump’s triumph also had elements of a hostile takeover. The movement’s passion was for Trump, not the party. GOP primary voters chose Trump over the various flavors of establishment Republicanism (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio), and after Trump’s election they continued to regard establishment Republicans as enemies. Longtime party heroes like Paul Ryan were cast into oblivion for disparaging Trump. Even staunch supporters such as Jeff Sessions eventually became villains when they would not do as Trump demanded. Those who survived had a difficult balancing act: to use Trump’s appeal to pass the Republican agenda while also controlling Trump’s excesses, which they worried could ultimately threaten the party’s interests. That plan seemed plausible in 2017. Unlike other insurgent leaders, Trump had not spent time in the political wilderness building a party and surrounding himself with loyalists. He had to choose from an existing pool of Republican officials, who varied in their willingness to do his bidding. The GOP establishment hoped that the presence of “adults” would restrain him, protecting their traditional agenda and, in their view, the country’s interests, from his worst instincts. This was a miscalculation. Trump’s grip on his supporters left no room for an alternative power center in the party. One by one, the “adults” resigned or were run off. The dissent and contrary opinions that exist in every party — the Northeast moderate Republicans in Reagan’s day; the progressives in today’s Democratic Party — disappeared from Trump’s Republican Party. The only real issue was Trump himself, and on that there could be no dissent. Those who disapproved of Trump could either keep silent or leave The takeover extended beyond the level of political leadership. Modern political parties are an ecosystem of interest groups, lobby organizations, job seekers, campaign donors and intellectuals. All have a stake in the party’s viability; all ultimately depend on being roughly aligned with wherever the party is at a given moment; and so all had to make their peace with Trump, too. Conservative publications that once opposed him as unfit for the presidency had to reverse course or lose readership and funding. Pundits had to adjust to the demands of their pro-Trump audiences — and were rewarded handsomely when they did. Donors who had opposed Trump during the primaries fell into line, if only to preserve some influence on the issues that mattered to them. Advocacy organizations that had previously seen their role as holding the Republican Party to certain principles, and thus often dissented from the party leadership, either became advocates for Trump or lost clout. It was no surprise that elected officials feared taking on the Trump movement and that Republican job seekers either kept silent about their views or made show-trial-like apologies for past criticism. Ambition is a powerful antidote to moral qualms. More revealing was the behavior of Republican elder statesmen, former secretaries of state in their 80s or 90s who had no further ambitions for high office and seemingly nothing to lose by speaking out. Despite their known abhorrence of everything Trump stood for, these old lions refused to criticize him. They were unwilling to come out against a Republican Party to which they had devoted their professional lives, even when the party was led by someone they detested. Whatever they thought about Trump, moreover, Republican elders disliked Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Democrats more. Again, this is not so unusual. German conservatives accommodated Adolf Hitler in large part because they opposed the socialists more than they opposed the Nazis, who, after all, shared many of their basic prejudices. As for conservative intellectuals, even those who had spent years arguing that Woodrow Wilson was a tyrant because he created the Federal Reserve and supported child labor laws seemed to have no concerns about whether Trump was a would-be despot. They not only came to Trump’s defense but fashioned political doctrines to justify his rule, filling in the wide gaps of his nonexistent ideology with an appeal to “conservative nationalism” and conservative populism. Perhaps American conservatism was never comfortable with the American experiment in liberal democracy, but certainly since Trump took over their party, many conservatives have revealed a hostility to core American beliefs. All this has left few dissenting voices within the Republican ecosystem. The Republican Party today is a zombie party. Its leaders go through the motions of governing in pursuit of traditional Republican goals, wrestling over infrastructure spending and foreign policy, even as real power in the party has leached away to Trump. From the uneasy and sometimes contentious partnership during Trump’s four years in office, the party’s main if not sole purpose today is as the willing enabler of Trump’s efforts to game the electoral system to ensure his return to power. With the party firmly under his thumb, Trump is now fighting the Biden administration on separate fronts. One is normal, legitimate political competition, where Republicans criticize Biden’s policies, feed and fight the culture wars, and in general behave like a typical hostile opposition. The other front is outside the bounds of constitutional and democratic competition and into the realm of illegal or extralegal efforts to undermine the electoral process. The two are intimately related, because the Republican Party has used its institutional power in the political sphere to shield Trump and his followers from the consequences of their illegal and extralegal activities in the lead-up to Jan. 6. Thus, Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Elise Stefanik, in their roles as party leaders, run interference for the Trump movement in the sphere of legitimate politics, while Republicans in lesser positions cheer on the Jan. 6 perpetrators, turning them into martyrs and heroes, and encouraging illegal acts in the future. This pincer assault has several advantages. Republican politicians and would-be policymakers can play the role of the legitimate opposition. They can rediscover their hawkish internationalist foreign policy (suspended during the Trump years) and their deficit-minded economics (also suspended during the Trump years). They can go on the mainstream Sunday shows and critique the Biden administration on issues such as Afghanistan. They can pretend that Trump is no longer part of the equation. Biden is the president, after all, and his administration is not exactly without faults. Yet whatever the legitimacy of Republican critiques of Biden, there is a fundamental disingenuousness to it all. It is a dodge. Republicans focus on China and critical race theory and avoid any mention of Trump, even as the party works to fix the next election in his favor. The left hand professes to know nothing of what the right hand is doing. Even Trump opponents play along. Republicans such as Sens. Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse have condemned the events of Jan. 6, criticized Trump and even voted for his impeachment, but in other respects they continue to act as good Republicans and conservatives. On issues such as the filibuster, Romney and others insist on preserving “regular order” and conducting political and legislative business as usual, even though they know that Trump’s lieutenants in their party are working to subvert the next presidential election. The result is that even these anti-Trump Republicans are enabling the insurrection. Revolutionary movements usually operate outside a society’s power structures. But the Trump movement also enjoys unprecedented influence within those structures. It dominates the coverage on several cable news networks, numerous conservative magazines, hundreds of talk radio stations and all kinds of online platforms. It has access to financing from rich individuals and the Republican National Committee’s donor pool. And, not least, it controls one of the country’s two national parties. All that is reason enough to expect another challenge, for what movement would fail to take advantage of such favorable circumstances to make a play for power? Today, we are in a time of hope and illusion. The same people who said that Trump wouldn’t try to overturn the last election now say we have nothing to worry about with the next one. Republicans have been playing this game for five years, first pooh-poohing concerns about Trump’s intentions, or about the likelihood of their being realized, and then going silent, or worse, when what they insisted was improbable came to pass. These days, even the anti-Trump media constantly looks for signs that Trump’s influence might be fading and that drastic measures might not be necessary. The world will look very different in 14 months if, as seems likely, the Republican zombie party wins control of the House. At that point, with the political winds clearly blowing in his favor, Trump is all but certain to announce his candidacy, and social media constraints on his speech are likely to be lifted, since Facebook and Twitter would have a hard time justifying censoring his campaign. With his megaphone back, Trump would once again dominate news coverage, as outlets prove unable to resist covering him around the clock if only for financial reasons. But this time, Trump would have advantages that he lacked in 2016 and 2020, including more loyal officials in state and local governments; the Republicans in Congress; and the backing of GOP donors, think tanks and journals of opinion. And he will have the Trump movement, including many who are armed and ready to be activated, again. Who is going to stop him then? On its current trajectory, the 2024 Republican Party will make the 2020 Republican Party seem positively defiant. Those who criticize Biden and the Democrats for not doing enough to prevent this disaster are not being fair. There is not much they can do without Republican cooperation, especially if they lose control of either chamber in 2022. It has become fashionable to write off any possibility that a handful of Republicans might rise up to save the day. This preemptive capitulation has certainly served well those Republicans who might otherwise be held to account for their cowardice. How nice for them that everyone has decided to focus fire on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Yet it is largely upon these Republicans that the fate of the republic rests. Notes of the vote count taken by the staff of the House impeachment mangers are seen after the Senate voted to acquit former president Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 13. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post) Seven Republican senators voted to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection and attempting to overturn a free and fair election: Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Romney, Sasse and Patrick J. Toomey. It was a brave vote, a display of republican virtue, especially for the five who are not retiring in 2022. All have faced angry backlashes — Romney was booed and called a traitor at the Utah Republican convention; Burr and Cassidy were unanimously censured by their state parties. Yet as much credit as they deserve for taking this stand, it was almost entirely symbolic. When it comes to concrete action that might prevent a debacle in 2024, they have balked. Specifically, they have refused to work with Democrats to pass legislation limiting state legislatures’ ability to overturn the results of future elections, to ensure that the federal government continues to have some say when states try to limit voting rights, to provide federal protection to state and local election workers who face threats, and in general to make clear to the nation that a bipartisan majority in the Senate opposes the subversion of the popular will. Why? It can’t be because they think they have a future in a Trump-dominated party. Even if they manage to get reelected, what kind of government would they be serving in? They can’t be under any illusion about what a second Trump term would mean. Trump’s disdain for the rule of law is clear. His exoneration from the charges leveled in his impeachment trials — the only official, legal response to his actions — practically ensures that he would wield power even more aggressively. His experience with unreliable subordinates in his first term is likely to guide personnel decisions in a second. Only total loyalists would serve at the head of the Justice Department, FBI, CIA, National Security Agency and the Pentagon. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs will not be someone likely to place his or her own judgment above that of their civilian commander in chief. Nor would a Republican Senate fail to confirm Trump loyalists. In such a world, with Trump and his lieutenants in charge of all the levers of state power, including its growing capacity for surveillance, opposing Trump would become increasingly risky for Republicans and Democrats alike. A Trump victory is likely to mean at least the temporary suspension of American democracy as we have known it. We are already in a constitutional crisis. The destruction of democracy might not come until November 2024, but critical steps in that direction are happening now. In a little more than a year, it may become impossible to pass legislation to protect the electoral process in 2024. Now it is impossible only because anti-Trump Republicans, and even some Democrats, refuse to tinker with the filibuster. It is impossible because, despite all that has happened, some people still wish to be good Republicans even as they oppose Trump. These decisions will not wear well as the nation tumbles into full-blown crisis. It is not impossible for politicians to make such a leap. The Republican Party itself was formed in the 1850s by politicians who abandoned their previous party — former Whigs, former Democrats and former members of the Liberty and Free Soil parties. While Whig and Democratic party stalwarts such as Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas juggled and compromised, doing their best to ensure that the issue of slavery did not destroy their great parties, others decided that the parties had become an obstacle to justice and a threat to the nation’s continued viability. Romney & Co. don’t have to abandon their party. They can fashion themselves as Constitutional Republicans who, in the present emergency, are willing to form a national unity coalition in the Senate for the sole purpose of saving the republic. Their cooperation with Democrats could be strictly limited to matters relating to the Constitution and elections. Or they might strive for a temporary governing consensus on a host of critical issues: government spending, defense, immigration and even the persistent covid-19 pandemic, effectively setting aside the usual battles to focus on the more vital and immediate need to preserve the United States. It takes two, of course, to form a national unity coalition, and Democrats can make it harder or easier for anti-Trump Republicans to join. Some profess to see no distinction between the threat posed by Trump and the threat posed by the GOP. They prefer to use Trump as a weapon in the ongoing political battle, and not only as a way of discrediting and defeating today’s Republican Party but to paint all GOP policies for the past 30 years as nothing more than precursors to Trumpism. Although today’s Trump-controlled Republican Party does need to be fought and defeated, this kind of opportunistic partisanship and conspiracy-mongering, in addition to being bad history, is no cure for what ails the nation. Senate Democrats were wise to cut down their once-massive voting rights wish list and get behind the smaller compromise measure unveiled last week by Manchin and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. But they have yet to attract any votes from their Republican colleagues for the measure. Heading into the next election, it is vital to protect election workers, same-day registration and early voting. It will also still be necessary to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which directly addresses the state legislatures’ electoral power grab. Other battles — such as making Election Day a federal holiday and banning partisan gerrymandering — might better be postponed. Efforts to prevent a debacle in 2024 cannot. Democrats need to give anti-Trump Republicans a chance to do the right thing. One wonders whether modern American politicians, in either party, have it in them to make such bold moves, whether they have the insight to see where events are going and the courage to do whatever is necessary to save the democratic system. If that means political suicide for this handful of Republicans, wouldn’t it be better to go out fighting for democracy than to slink off quietly into the night?

Delta collapsing the economy

Fillipovic, 9-8, 21, https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/08/opinions/economy-weakening-goldman-sachs-covid-filipovic/index.html, Let’s be clear on why the US economy is weakening

The American economy is weakening. And we know who is responsible. On Monday, Goldman Sachs economists downgraded their projections for economic growth in 2021. (“The Delta variant is already weighing on Q3 growth,” wrote Goldman economist Ronnie Walker.) August’s job growth was sluggish. The Delta variant continues to ravage the unvaccinated and sicken so many, with the country hitting the dark milestone of 40 million Covid cases. And about 1,500 Americans are dying every day — almost all of them not fully vaccinated. The people who are refusing the vaccine and refusing to mask up aren’t just killing themselves and infecting their neighbors. They’re destroying the American economy. Life in the United States had been looking up. Cases had plummeted in the summer as mass vaccinations began to take hold. President Joe Biden was being pressured to ship extra vaccine doses overseas so developing countries could keep their populations safe, too. In the big cities hit hardest by Covid in 2020, people poured into the streets for a Hot Vax Summer. Restaurants and bars were packed. Unemployment payments meant a lot of people had a little more cash in their pockets and weren’t having to choose between their lives and their jobs. Many businesses were booming. But now, summer is coming to an end — and so is the hot economy. Republican governors, spurred on by business owners who say they can’t find low-wage workers, slashed unemployment benefits. And even though this doesn’t seem to be pushing more potential low-wage workers into the labor force, some Democrats seem poised to do the same. The stubborn refusal of so many Americans to get vaccinated and wear masks is likely to continue doing damage in the weeks and months ahead, as kids go back to school, the weather cools and more activities move inside. Cue still more economic devastation. There’s good and bad news about Covid-19 Take schooling. There is little more fundamentally human than wanting to protect your child, but right-wing propaganda and conservative polarization seems to have undermined even that very basic impulse. Several Republican-run states have gone as far as to ban mask mandates in schools, even as the Delta variant rages. Meanwhile, hospitalizations — hospitalizations — of children in America are soaring. Between August 20 and 26, an average of 330 children were admitted to hospitals every day with Covid-19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children now represent more than a quarter — or 26.8% — of weekly Covid-19 cases nationwide, according to data released Tuesday from the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Keep your kids from getting a new and potentially deadly disease” should be argument enough for masking in schools — or at the very least, not preventing schools from requiring masking in areas with high Covid rates. But it’s been clear throughout this pandemic that far too many Americans don’t buy the argument that you have an obligation not to infect and potentially kill your family members and neighbors. So let’s try another: Avoiding common-sense public health measures hurts the economy. When schools shut down because of Covid outbreaks, the emergency child-care plan is often Mom. Women have already shouldered much of the economic burden of Covid. Another year of inconsistent schooling because of the unbroken cycle — reopen school, have an outbreak, close again and repeat — is going to push many more women out of the workforce. Note that in more than half of American households, women are the primary breadwinners — that is, they are the economy at home. And many families, and especially mothers, are now making an impossible choice: Send a child to a school that doesn’t require masking, or vaccinating for adults, and risk your family’s health — but keep your job. Or give up your job to homeschool full-time and put your family on thin economic ice. Every woman who drops out of the workforce is a hit to the economy. Every worker who decides they’d rather struggle financially than work for $7.25 an hour and risk Covid death or long-term disability is a hit to the economy. Every business that can’t keep its doors open because of the outbreak cycle, or the refusal of employees to risk their lives to wait tables or wash dishes, is a hit to the economy Get our free weekly newsletter Sign up for CNN Opinion’s new newsletter.

Optimism and growth are surging.

DiBlasi ’21 [Joseph; May 19; Associate Director of Corporate Communications at the Conference Board; the Conference Board, “CEO Confidence Hits All-Time High in Q2,” https://www.conference-board.org/research/CEO-Confidence/]

The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™ in collaboration with The Business Council improved further in the second quarter of 2021, following a sharp increase in Q1. The measure now stands at 82, up from 73. This marks the highest level of CEO confidence recorded since the measure began in 1976. (A reading above 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses.)

CEOs’ assessment of current economic conditions rose substantially, after slightly moderating last quarter. In Q2, 94 percent said conditions are better compared to six months ago, up from 67 percent in Q1. CEOs also expressed greater optimism about conditions in their own industries, with 89 percent reporting better conditions compared to six months ago, up from 68 percent in Q1. Historically high expectations in Q1 climbed even further in Q2: 88 percent of CEOs expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, up from 82 percent.

“This quarter’s survey marks a remarkable turnaround from a year ago—when CEO confidence reached a nadir of 34 at the height of COVID-19’s first wave,” said Dana Peterson, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “For CEOs, the challenge of navigating a once-in-a-century pandemic is receding, as the focus turns to hiring and investing to compete in an economy poised to see the fastest growth in decades over the months ahead.”

In the job market, the pace of hiring is expected to accelerate over the next 12 months, with 54 percent of CEOs expecting to expand their workforce, up from 47 percent in Q1. While the outlook for wages was virtually unchanged in Q2, more CEOs are reporting difficulty finding qualified workers—57 percent in Q2, up from 50 percent in Q1.

“Optimism is surging in C-suites and boardrooms across industries,” said Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., Vice Chairman of The Business Council and Trustee of The Conference Board. “For CEOs, the challenge is no longer staying afloat, but keeping pace—in particular, with a likely resurgence of the labor shortages experienced before the pandemic.”

Current Conditions

CEOs’ assessment of general economic conditions rose sharply in Q2:

  • 94% of CEOs reported economic conditions were better compared to six months ago, up from 67% in Q1.
  • Only 2% said conditions were worse, down from 10%.

CEOs were similarly optimistic about conditions in their own industries in Q2:

  • 89% of CEOs reported that conditions in their industries were better compared to six months ago, up from 68%.
  • Only 4% said conditions in their own industries were worse, down from 8%.

Future Conditions

Expectations about the short-term economic outlook improved further in Q2:

  • 88% percent of CEOs said they expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, up from 82% in Q1.
  • Only 1% expect conditions to worsen, down from 7%.

CEOs’ expectations regarding short-term prospects in their own industries also improved in Q2:

  • 81% of CEOs expect conditions in their own industry to improve over the next six months, up from 78%.
  • Only 4% expected conditions to worsen, down from 7%.

Capital Spending, Employment, Recruiting, and Wages

The survey also gauged CEOs’ expectations about four key actions their companies plan on taking over the next 12 months.

  • Capital Spending: 47% of CEOs expect to increase their capital budgets in the year ahead, up from 45% in Q1.
  • Employment: 54% of CEOs expect to expand their workforce, up from 47% in Q1.
  • Hiring Qualified People: 57% of CEOs report some problems attracting qualified workers, up from 50% in Q1. Notably, 28% report difficulties that cut across the organization, rather than concentrated in a few key areas—up from 18% in Q1.
  • Wages: 37% of CEOs expect to increase wages by 3% or more over the next year, virtually unchanged from 36% in Q1.

Techno environmental managerialism fails and undermines local social movements

William Shutkin is principal of Shutkin Sustainable Living, a sustainable real estate developer in Boulder, Colorado, focused on green, mixed-use, mixed-income projects. He is the author of The Land That Could Be, from which this article is adapted (from MIT Press Reader), 9-5, 21, How American Environmentalism Failed, https://science.thewire.in/environment/how-american-environmentalism-failed/

Traditional environmentalism has become largely marginal to the day-to-day lives of most Americans. Bureaucratic, centralised and technical, modern mainstream-professional environmentalism has largely ignored local communities. Because environmental laws don’t prevent pollution but merely control it, environmental hazards persist, often following the path of least resistance to lower-income and minority neighborhoods. Historically, US environmentalism has not been an inclusive or democratic social movement. Rather, it’s been shaped by the affluent and professional elites, often more concerned with promoting a romanticised vision of sublime nature than protecting the people and places most at risk from environmental degradation. Finally, after several decades of research, advocacy and organising, environmental and climate justice have become priorities among even the most mainstream conservation organisations. John Muir would hardly recognise them; Martin Luther King Jr. would be delighted. § As early as the mid-19th century, George Perkins Marsh and Henry David Thoreau, among others, called for the conservation of nature, despairing, as Marsh did, that “Man has too long forgotten that the earth was given to him for usufruct alone, not for consumption, still less for profligate waste.” Thoreau lamented the rapaciousness with which Americans had exploited the land. “For one that comes with a pencil to sketch or sing,” he decried, “a thousand come with an ax or rifle.” Reaction to the widespread settlement and exploitation of the land in the mid-to-late 1800s, exemplified by massive timber harvesting, overgrazing of livestock, land speculation and boom-and-bust mining, gave rise to the development of two distinct efforts aimed at protecting natural resources: preservation and conservation. Spearheading the push for preservation was John Muir, the Scottish-born mountaineer who in 1892 founded the Sierra Club. The most vocal advocates for the creation of national parks like Yellowstone in 1872, the nation’s first, and Yosemite in 1890, Muir and his fellow preservationists sought to protect wild nature from the harmful effects of human settlement and consumption. They viewed wilderness as the antidote to the materialism and arrogance of industrial society and supported aggressive government oversight of public lands. Whereas in the 18th century wilderness was seen as the devil’s playground, a frightful and forsaken place, by the end of the 1800s, environmental historian William Cronon writes in his seminal essay ‘The Trouble With Wilderness’, wilderness “became a place not just of religious redemption but of national renewal, the quintessential location for experiencing what it meant to be an American.” For preservationists, wilderness and especially the vanishing frontier, was the authentic American landscape, the source of America’s identity and salvation, and the perfect counterpoint to the perceived ugliness and artificiality of 19th-century urban, industrial society. Although preservationists like Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., Horace Albright, Stephen Mather, J. Horace McFarland and Robert Marshall were overwhelmingly urban bourgeois, they considered modern urban industrial society degenerate. Parks and other undeveloped areas thus became a kind of tonic for them — a refuge from the filth and bustle of urban life to be enjoyed through recreational activities like hiking, climbing, bird-watching, hunting and fishing. Its cast decidedly antiurban and middle-class, preservation was a thoroughly romantic movement, an aesthetic reaction to the dramatic social and economic changes of the 19th century brutally manifested in the American landscape. Simultaneous with the emergence of preservation, conservation arose in the 1890s, inspired by the progressive ideals, born of the Enlightenment, of rationality and science. Led by Gifford Pinchot, the country’s first professionally trained forester (who helped found the Yale School of Forestry) and chief of the Forest Service under President Theodore Roosevelt, conservation responded to the environmental problems brought about by economic growth — specifically, the destruction of forests encouraged by cheap land prices and the overdevelopment of fragile water supplies, especially in the West. Pinchot believed that “the first duty of the human race is to control the earth it lives upon.” As chief forester, he opposed the preservation of forest lands, explaining that “the object of our [conservationist] forest policy is not to preserve forests because they are beautiful … or because they are refuges for wild creatures … but … the making of prosperous homes.” “Every other consideration,” he argued, “is secondary.” Much to the chagrin of preservationists like Muir, Pinchot went so far as to try to bring the national parks, a branch of the Interior Department, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service in hopes that park resources might also be developed, but to no avail. Contrary to the goals of preservation, conservation aimed to use natural resources in the service of sustainable economic growth. It gave rise to a new cadre of environmental professionals, armed with specialised degrees in resource management and public policy, and, with the preservation movement, promoted government as the appropriate steward of America’s natural resources. As a decision-making model, conservation was decidedly top-down and professional. Conservation held that environmental problems should be reduced to business issues and resolved using corporate tactics, such as centralised administration and scientific management institutionalised in expert agencies. During the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman and naturalist who, as a student at Harvard had written passionately about the closing of the American frontier, Pinchot’s conservation reached its pinnacle. Pinchot profoundly influenced Roosevelt, who shared Pinchot’s belief that government agencies should oversee the management of natural resources and convened the first Governors’ Conference on Conservation at the White House and later established the National Conservation Commission. Along with Secretary of the Interior James R. Garfield, Roosevelt and Pinchot orchestrated the nation’s first conservation policy based on the principles of expertise and efficiency. But as author and environmental activist Robert Gottlieb explains in his book “Forcing the Spring,” conservation’s emphasis on expertise and rational management was eventually embraced “by the resource-based industries and other industrial interests attracted to the concepts of efficiency, management and the application of science to industrial organisation.” In other words, conservation opened the door to industry, the most powerful agent of environmental harm, establishing a comfortable alliance between environmental protection advocates and capitalists that would come partly to define the movement in later decades. Personified by such figures as Pinchot and Roosevelt, conservation also became associated with wealth and privilege, in line with preservation’s bourgeois heritage, a socioeconomic legacy the two bequeathed to modern environmentalism. The romantic-progressive thrust of preservation and conservation determined the basic contours of modern environmentalism and delimited its scope in terms of certain key social issues. Despite the efforts of Robert Marshall, a preservationist who cofounded the Wilderness Society and promoted the idea that social equality was central to wilderness protection, justice and democracy were left out of the romantic-progressive agenda. Many Sierra Club chapters, for example, deliberately excluded minorities from membership until the 1960s. In addition, the parks and nature preserves that environmentalists sought to protect were often off-limits to minorities and immigrants. Further, the romantic-progressive ideology shunned both urban areas and lower-income communities as appropriate priorities of environmental protection efforts. In fact, as Gottlieb suggests, the “anti-urban attitudes of the preservationists were … linked to their attitudes about class.” Cities were viewed by preservationists like Muir as places of squalor, pollution and degeneration brought about by industrialisation. They were also home to immigrants and minorities, who made up the workforce that fueled industrialisation and were excluded from the ranks of the preservation-conservation establishment. Although conservation was primarily concerned with economic growth, this concern was directed not toward working-class Americans but to managers and professionals, the captains of America’s thriving, resource-intensive industries. The focus on expertise, on the one hand, and aesthetic recreation, on the other, ensured that the romantic-progressive model would ignore minorities and lower-income Americans. Blended into the romantic-progressive model, therefore, was a nativistic and elitist disposition toward working-class Americans and minorities and the places where they lived. Additionally, in its reliance on government and experts to solve environmental problems, the romantic-progressive model largely excluded laypeople and civic institutions from the environmental establishment. Despite the involvement of groups like the American Civic Association in the preservation movement, preservationists and conservationists alike failed to organise sizable citizen constituencies. Although organisations like the Sierra Club and National Audubon Society relied on local chapters for membership and activism, grassroots citizen action would eventually be overshadowed by the centralised structure and professionalism of modern environmental organisations. Grassroots environmentalism developed on a separate track in the 19th century, in cities and rural areas, grounded in countless local struggles against industrial polluters and unwanted development. Although urban environment and grassroots activism were marginalised by the preservation and conservation movements, environmental issues related to cities and social justice did not go unaddressed. Founded in 1889, Jane Addams’ Hull House was the nation’s most influential settlement house. Its mission: to promote social democracy and community revitalization through a mixture of neighborhood organizing, professional advocacy, and technical assistance. Image: Wikimedia Commons PIN IT In the late 1800s, the social reformer and pioneering urban environmentalist Alice Hamilton, for example, took on the problems of industrial disease and occupational hazards, including phossy jaw (a disease affecting mine workers) and lead poisoning, during the early decades of the 20th century. Similarly, Jane Addams, founder of Chicago’s Hull-House Settlement in 1889, promoted sanitation and public health on behalf of the city’s immigrant and minority neighborhoods and helped organise local citizens in grassroots reform efforts. Hull-House’s mission was to promote social democracy and community revitalisation through a combination of neighborhood organising, professional advocacy and technical assistance. Still others, like the planner Benton MacKaye, sought to improve the living and working conditions of urban residents through regional planning aimed at better integrating the natural environment into cities. Emerging parallel to the preservation and conservation movements, grassroots efforts oriented toward cities and citizen activism comprised a legitimate environmental agenda in the early 20th century, enriched by an emphasis on social democracy. Yet they remained outside the focus of the romantic-progressive model and would remain marginal to the mainstream-professional environmentalism that arose later in the century and determined the course of environmental policy for decades to follow. Mainstream Professional Environmentalism With the expansion of the federal government under President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, the Departments of Interior and Agriculture developed a host of policies related to resource management and protection of parks and wilderness areas focused on providing for the growing material needs of the country while protecting pristine nature reserves for recreation. Interrupted by World War II, federal environmental policy continued to evolve in the 1950s, still aimed at resource use and wilderness protection, but with a particular emphasis on the emerging issues of population growth, economic expansion and technological innovation, including nuclear energy. With the development of major public works projects in the West, widespread suburbanisation and a handful of well-publicised controversies concerning industrial pollution in the 1950s and 1960s, the modern environmental movement began to crystallise. Government-sponsored energy and water projects during this period, including a proposed nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon in California, and proposed dams and hydroelectric facilities at Echo Park in Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument, and the Glen and Grand Canyons in Arizona, riled the preservationist forces of groups like the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, which waged heroic battles of unprecedented scale in opposition to what they saw as catastrophic environmental assaults. In 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed, a milestone in the struggle for legal protection of the nation’s backcountry. During this period, notes historian Kenneth Jackson, Americans began migrating to the suburbs as never before, leaving behind the deteriorating cities with help from new federal mortgage subsidies, highway infrastructure and housing subdivisions. As the suburbs grew, smog, traffic and sprawl soon followed, provoking a new environmental consciousness among suburbanites. Concurrently, public understanding of the physical and biological issues underlying environmental harms grew as scientific information became more widely disseminated, and media outlets began covering environmental stories. This, too, helped generate a new awareness of the natural world among a well-educated and affluent suburban constituency. Its political consciousness forged by the New Deal and World War II, this new constituency looked to government for answers to public problems and therefore saw public policy as a legitimate vehicle with which to address environmental issues. Meanwhile, with the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, warning of the severe hazards to wildlife and human health resulting from the use of industrial chemicals like DDT, Americans in general, and especially suburban environmentalists, took up arms in defense of endangered species and wilderness, environmentalism’s age-old foils to industrialisation. Picking up on the romantic-progressive tradition born nearly a century earlier, the modern environmental movement was quickly transformed into what some observers have called, to quote the journalist and historian Mark Dowie, “the secular religion of the white middle-class.” With the first Earth Day in 1970 and graphic media coverage of environmental calamities like oil spills and belching smokestacks, the educated upper-middle-class environmental constituency persuaded the Nixon administration in the early 1970s to erect the building blocks of the nation’s modern environmental law and policy system, thus marking the arrival of mainstream-professional environmentalism. Oriented toward professionalism, law and science, environmental law and policy became the stomping grounds of a legal-technical elite drawn not only from newly formed government agencies such as the EPA and Council for Environmental Quality, both created in 1970, but from established environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society,and National Audubon Society, and start-up nonprofit environmental law organisations like the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. The new environmental organisations were created explicitly to take advantage of the evolving regime of environmental laws enacted during the Nixon administration that gave citisens a solid foothold in the enforcement of environmental regulations. Yet despite the seemingly democratic purpose of such legal tools as public participation and citizen suits, the public interest organisations failed to promote widespread, bottom-up citizen involvement. Their strategy focused instead on the federal courts and Congress, pursuing litigation and legislative action that sought to broaden the scope of environmental regulations while aggressively attacking polluters with an assortment of legal weapons afforded by the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental statutes. As Mark Dowie puts it, mainstream environmentalism became a profession dedicated to constant “wrestling with government and corporations over laws and standards.” Moreover, building their membership through direct mail solicitations instead of political organising and direct action, the public interest organisations appealed to the white, middle-class, suburban constituency that blossomed during the 1960s but was not inclined to engage in hands-on activism. Yet just as mainstream-professional environmentalists were cutting off their connections to grassroots constituencies, community activists across the country began rallying around the cause of environmental protection in their neighborhoods, towns and counties Love Canal activist Lois Gibbs talks to environmental groups at Northern Michigan University, Michigan, October 2010. Photo: Yoopernewsman/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 PIN IT In Love Canal, New York, Lois Gibbs organised her neighbors in the late 1970s to confront the industrial polluters who had turned her quiet, working-class upstate neighborhood into a toxic nightmare, poisoned by over 200 chemicals. In Los Angeles, school teacher Penny Newman founded Concerned Citizens in Action in 1979 to demand the cleanup of the Stringfellow Acid Company pits in Glen Avon. Like Gibbs, Newman organised her neighbors in a comprehensive environmental campaign and got results. Through their efforts, Gibbs and Newman helped put the issue of toxic waste on the map and caused Americans to take a hard look at environmental conditions in working-class communities. In eastern cities, urban residents organised throughout the 1970s to oppose major highway construction projects such as the inner beltway project in Boston in 1972. Fighting to save their neighborhoods in the face of demolition, Boston residents and other urban denizens established city-wide coalitions to promote urban environmental quality and their pride of place. The inner beltway, and several other transportation projects like it, never got off the ground thanks to the power of grassroots environmentalists and their message of community preservation. In 1982, black residents of rural Warren County, North Carolina, successfully organised public demonstrations in opposition to a proposed landfill for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), leading to 500 arrests and attracting national media attention. The event is credited with kicking off the national environmental justice movement. Borrowing from the success of efforts like the Warren County protest, the Los Angeles–based Labor/Community Strategy Center initiated a massive campaign in the early 1990s involving thousands of “straphangers” to improve air quality and mass transit service in the city for lower-income residents, resulting in an overhaul of the city’s transit system. These and numerous other grassroots environmental efforts over the past several decades represent the lasting legacy of the Hull-House movement. Yet despite their local successes, such campaigns have not significantly influenced national policy debates or the agenda of mainstream-professional environmental organisations. Often ad hoc and singular and always community-driven, grassroots issues and strategies have largely failed to percolate up to the higher echelons of the environmental establishment. The result has been a wide gulf between local environmentalists and their professional counterparts. In effect, the proud tradition of American environmentalism has mirrored the same democratic deficits that have afflicted society as a whole. Bureaucratic, centralised and technical, modern mainstream-professional environmentalism has largely ignored local communities and the civic networks necessary to sustain them. Notwithstanding the rich tradition of grassroots environmentalism dating back to the neighborhood organising of Jane Addams’s Hull-House and still extant today in many communities across the country, mainstream-professional environmentalists have not used their considerable power to foster community-based environmental efforts and have even sometimes helped to undermine them, as evidenced by the disproportionate impact of polluting facilities in minority communities for too long sanctioned by environmental regulators and public interest environmentalists alike. By focusing their problem-solving strategies on the courts and Congress, and on issues like protection of wilderness areas, parks and endangered species, mainstream-professional environmentalists have generally avoided local environmental issues and discounted the value of local civic networks in addressing environmental harms. Consequently, they have indirectly countenanced the continued environmental degradation of local communities. The elitism and homogeneity of traditional environmentalism are further evidence of the movement’s democratic deficits. Only recently bothering to reach out across racial or economic lines, mainstream-professional environmentalism has alienated racial minorities and the working class, who traditionally have not identified with environmentalists. Moreover, notwithstanding the progress of the past several decades, environmental harms have not let up in lower-income and minority communities, revealing a gap in mainstream-professional environmentalism’s advocacy agenda or, worse, confirming the success of the environmental law and policy system. Because environmental laws do not prevent pollution but merely control it, and decisions about the distribution of environmental benefits and burdens such as parks and polluting facilities are naturally a function of the relative political power of communities, it is no accident that environmental hazards persist, often following the path of least resistance to lower-income and minority neighborhoods. Lacking the political, medical, economic and legal resources more affluent communities possess, and facing environmental hazards of all kinds, lower-income and minority neighborhoods are at the greatest risk of harm. The physical conditions in these neighborhoods thus represent some of the most serious environmental problems of our time. Yet the mainstream-professional movement has just begun to take notice. All environmental harms are local in origin, though their effects may spread great distances. In thinking about environmental degradation, we tend to get lost in abstractions like global climate disruption, or even in the minutiae, such as pollution measured in parts per billion. Competing statistics can confuse us. One day we read that the air is getting cleaner or that a certain endangered species is making a strong comeback; the next day we hear reports that water pollution continues to be a major public health threat or that remote rural areas are being developed at unprecedented rates. How do we reconcile this information? How do we make sense of the endless litany of statistics and figures that often seem at odds? The answer is as simple as looking out the window. The true test of environmental quality is the environmental conditions on the ground, in the trenches of local communities across the nation. What do you see when you peer out the window — from your bedroom, office, or automobile? For many, the sight is as unpleasant as it is unsettling, at best offering a meager experience of nature and place and at worst presenting real and immediate health threats. Ironically, it is these same conditions that we have tended most to neglect in our environmental protection efforts. Notwithstanding the local nature of environmental harms, in terms of both their genesis and consequences, traditional environmentalism has focused on places where very few of us actually live and work, such as wilderness and national parks, while overlooking densely populated areas like cities and suburbs. It is for this reason that William Cronon warns, “Wilderness poses a serious threat to responsible environmentalism at the end of the twentieth century.” We must move beyond fetishising the sublime and wild, he urges, and instead embrace the humble places most of us call home, bringing the powerful lessons wilderness teaches into the more quotidian reality of our day-to-day lives.

Undrinkable water 40% more likely to exist in neighborhoods with residents of color

Li ZHouli, 9-4, 21, Millions of Americans don’t have drinkable water. Can the infrastructure bill fix that?. https://www.vox.com/22620076/jackson-mississippi-water-infrastructure-bill

Jackson, a majority-Black city, is among a number of places across the country struggling with aging infrastructure and water access, problems which have had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. As the Christian Science Monitor reported, a 2019 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that “drinking water systems that constantly violated federal safety standards were 40% more likely to occur in places with higher percentages of residents of color.”

Water infrastructure problems lead to local tax hikes

Li ZHouli, 9-4, 21, Millions of Americans don’t have drinkable water. Can the infrastructure bill fix that?. https://www.vox.com/22620076/jackson-mississippi-water-infrastructure-bill

Federal funding for water infrastructure has also sharply dipped since the 1970s, forcing states and localities to try to cover these gaps. (According to the US Water Alliance, federal funding accounted for 63 percent of capital spending on water infrastructure in 1977, a number that’s since dwindled to less than 10 percent.) To raise more infrastructure funds, Jackson previously instituted a 1 percent hike to its sales tax in 2014, which brings in roughly $14 million a year. It also received $47 million as part of the American Rescue Plan earlier in 2021, some of which is being allocated to water-related repairs. And state lawmakers granted Jackson $3 million in funding for water plant fixes.

States won’t allocate funding to poor and minority neighborhoods

Li ZHouli, 9-4, 21, Millions of Americans don’t have drinkable water. Can the infrastructure bill fix that?. https://www.vox.com/22620076/jackson-mississippi-water-infrastructure-bill

A report from the Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) co-authored by Hansen, a senior water adviser at EPIC, previously looked at 10 states’ allocation of DWSRF money and found that several states struggled to deliver this aid equitably: Smaller localities and places with a higher proportion of people of color have historically received less money from the program both because they had less resources to pursue this funding and because much of it was dispensed as loans instead of grants. The study did not include Mississippi, though Sri Vedachalam, EPIC’s director of water, noted that the dynamics of the report were likely to be relatively consistent across states. “We see this pattern where money is given to certain types of communities while others struggle to secure that type of money,” says Vedachalam. Because states have significant control over where these funds go, the boost the bill provides doesn’t necessarily guarantee that Jackson would receive sufficient extra money.

Replacing lead pipes will cost $45 billion

Li ZHouli, 9-4, 21, Millions of Americans don’t have drinkable water. Can the infrastructure bill fix that?. https://www.vox.com/22620076/jackson-mississippi-water-infrastructure-bill

The amount of money in the bill — which includes more than $2 billion in spending on both the Clean Water and Drinking Water Funds each year, with an additional $3 billion focused on lead service lines annually — is huge, but far from enough to meet the enormity of the problem. For replacement of lead service lines alone, for example, the NRDC estimates that costs could be as much as $45 billion, so the $15 billion in the bill only begins to address that problem. For water infrastructure more broadly, the costs are also expected to be quite a bit higher than the roughly $48 billion in new funds included in the bill, notes Scott Berry, director of policy and government affairs at the US Water Alliance.

Lead in water causes health problems

Li ZHouli, 9-4, 21, Millions of Americans don’t have drinkable water. Can the infrastructure bill fix that?. https://www.vox.com/22620076/jackson-mississippi-water-infrastructure-bill

And even when access to water is secure, there’s a different set of worries that people encounter when drinking contaminated water. Lead in drinking water can lead to high blood pressure, brain damage, and kidney problems, for example. Multiple studies have found that the health care risks posed by lead contaminants may have serious effects for children’s growth and reproductive health as well.

20 million get water from lead pipes


Li ZHouli, 9-4, 21, Millions of Americans don’t have drinkable water. Can the infrastructure bill fix that?. https://www.vox.com/22620076/jackson-mississippi-water-infrastructure-bill

A water and food distribution site set up at the planetarium in Jackson, Mississippi, seen in March. There are still 2 million people in the US who don’t have access to clean running water.

According to the NRDC, as many as 20 million people are likely getting some of their water from lead pipes, along with others who are sourcing their water via very old equipment. In 2016, Pittsburgh detected high levels of lead in its water, spurring the city to begin replacing the thousands of lead service lines it still has. In 2021, New Orleans is still grappling with aging infrastructure and repairs to a water treatment facility that opened more than 100 years ago. In 2019, Newark also found elevated lead levels in its drinking water, pushing the city to replace its pipes with new copper ones.

2 million people, mostly poor, do not have access to clean water

Li ZHouli, 9-4, 21, Millions of Americans don’t have drinkable water. Can the infrastructure bill fix that?. https://www.vox.com/22620076/jackson-mississippi-water-infrastructure-bill

Across the country, the scale of the issue is alarming: Per a report from the US Water Alliance, there are still 2 million people in the United States who don’t have access to clean running water at all, a problem that disproportionately affects “low-income people in rural areas, people of color, tribal communities, [and] immigrants.” A 2018 study led by UC Irvine water economist Maura Allaire also found that “in any given year from 1982 to 2015, somewhere between 9 million and 45 million Americans got their drinking water from a source that was in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Science reported.

COVID-19 slowing global growth

Enda Curran, 9-4, 21, Delta Surge Means This Is as Good as it Gets for Global Growth, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-04/delta-surge-means-this-is-as-good-as-it-gets-for-global-growth

The pandemic’s summer resurgence is slowing the global economic recovery as the delta variant dogs efforts to rev up factories, offices and schools. Instead of entering the final months of 2021 confident that the acute phase of the pandemic is over, it’s becoming clear that booster shots may be needed for fading vaccines, workplace re-openings will be delayed and border closures remain.  Data over the past week captured a worldwide weakening as infections hit travel and spending and worsen supply bottlenecks that are dampening manufacturing and trade. Surging gas prices are also emerging as a threat.  In the U.S., hiring sharply slowed to its smallest increase in seven months in August and airport check ins, hotel bookings and dining reservations all show softer demand. Germany’s key business sentiment gauge deteriorated and China’s services sector crumbled in August. A global measure of manufacturing slumped. Activity gauges have missed expectations in major economies, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., while Citigroup Inc. warned the recovery could moderate with a deepening divergence between sectors and regions.

Growth still high in spite of COVID

Enda Curran, 9-4, 21, Delta Surge Means This Is as Good as it Gets for Global Growth, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-04/delta-surge-means-this-is-as-good-as-it-gets-for-global-growth

“The spread of the delta variant is slowing the reopening process and has caused us to mark down growth globally,” said Robin Brooks, chief economist of the Institute of International Finance in Washington, referring to its revised 5.7% forecast for this year, from 6.2%.

One heat-related death per 4,000 tons of carbon

Sigal Samuel, 9-4, 21, https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/22643358/social-cost-of-carbon-mortality-biden-discounting We’ve been radically underestimating the true cost of our carbon footprint The cost of our carbon footprint — in human lives

Summer 2021’s record-shattering temperatures, which led to hundreds of deaths in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, made it painfully obvious that climate change isn’t a far-off threat — it’s already killing people. So you might think that the SCC would also include a decent estimate as to the number of climate-related deaths per ton. But due to a lack of reliable data, it didn’t. There was no centralized data source enabling scientists to access daily temperature-related mortality figures for each country, so deaths barely factored into the calculation. Danny Bressler, a PhD candidate in sustainable development at Columbia University, recently published a study in the journal Nature Communications that attempts to rectify that shortcoming. His paper updates the SCC based on findings that have emerged in the last few years about heat-related deaths. When Bressler factored in the projected deaths — what he calls “the mortality cost of carbon” — the SCC jumped to a whopping $258 per ton. To break that down a bit: Bressler found that adding 4,434 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would result in one heat-related death this century. That’s equivalent to the lifetime emissions of 3.5 Americans. People in other nations emit much less. For example, it would take the combined lifetime emissions of 146.2 Nigerians to kill one person. This highlights one of the injustices of climate change. On a per-capita basis, people in richer, cooler countries produce far more emissions than people in poorer, hotter countries who suffer most of the damage. It’s important to emphasize that Bressler’s estimate is only taking into account temperature-related mortality. (That means the net effect of having more hot days and fewer cold days.) But we know there are a lot of other climate-related events that can lead to death, including flooding, crop failures, disease transmission, and wars. Bressler told me he couldn’t factor them in due to a lack of rigorous data. “But if you add in those other pathways,” Bressler said, “yeah, that would probably make the number go up.” At this point, you might be wondering where, exactly, these sorts of numbers come from. In the early ’90s, American economist William Nordhaus first figured out how to attach a price tag to the damage caused by 1 ton of carbon dioxide, a contribution deemed so valuable that he won a Nobel Prize for it. His model was dubbed the “Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy,” or DICE (to emphasize that we’re playing dice with the planet’s future). Bressler used Nordhaus’s original DICE model to calculate the SCC. He left all the parameters the same but added in the mortality costs of carbon, which the original model didn’t properly incorporate. That’s what made the SCC jump to $258. Some experts say that number might be too high. But even if it’s somewhere in the right ballpark, that means it’s extremely worthwhile — not only morally but also in purely economic terms — to reduce emissions fast. More specifically, the main policy implication of the revamped model is that we should commit to full decarbonization by 2050. Note that while your choices as an individual factor into this, we can make a much greater impact by focusing on what governments and businesses do. “If you want to make as large-scale change as possible, do things at the level of policy or the level of business,” Bressler said. If we fully decarbonize by 2050 rather than letting emissions grow in line with Nordhaus’s baseline scenario (which sees our emissions plateau close to the end of the century), we could bring down the expected number of heat-related deaths this century from 83 million to 9 million, according to Bressler. In other words, we could save 74 million lives. That’s roughly the number of people who died in World War II, the deadliest conflict in history…Laurie Johnson, former chief economist of the Natural Resources Defense Council and now executive director at the Climate Cost Project, didn’t bat an eye at the idea of a social cost of carbon in the thousands. She told me that’s a reasonable number per ton. “People are suffering and dying, and more people will be suffering and dying,” she said, emphasizing that Bressler’s mortality estimates account for only a small fraction of the deaths we’ll see.

Neoliberalism is dying

James Meadway, 9-3, 21, Neoliberalism is dying – now we must replace it, https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/neoliberalism-is-dying-now-we-must-replace-it/

The broader point here is that the material base of the global economy has, in the past decade, been decisively reshaped around data technologies and a major new competitor economy outside of the West, and that this in turn has promoted a direct challenge to neoliberal norms of government across the globe. To the extent that the pandemic has accelerated the shift into the digital economy, and has expanded the range of government intervention, it has brought neoliberalism’s death rather closer. A post-neoliberal strategy for the Lef From the above analysis, a number of conclusions follow. Firstly, there are real changes happening in terms of how the global system operates, and these changes are having an impact on the behaviour of governments. It is too early to say that neoliberalism is dead, and a revival in some form – at least at the national level – cannot be completely ruled out. More likely we will be entering a period where some decidedly neoliberal institutions and practices survive amongst different forms, and potentially outlive any transitional period. Much as Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has survived decades of neoliberal governments, even as the rest of society is privatised, it’s certainly possible to see (for example) its finance sector continuing to exist in a recognisably neoliberal fashion for an extended period of time. But the general tendency of capitalism, beginning with the 2008 crash and accelerating dramatically in the ongoing pandemic, is clear: neoliberalism is dying, if not yet dead. What does this mean for a post-neoliberal strategy for the Left? Firstly, an excessive focus on neoliberalism as a system of ideas, and, related to this, a fixation on its early combative years in the West, means the material conditions that sustained it as a form of government, which are now coming to an end, are often overlooked.

Federalism non-unique: New expansive definition of water

National Hog Farmer, 9-2, 21, https://www.nationalhogfarmer.com/farm-policy/court-halts-trumps-water-rule, Court halts Trump’s water rule

The U.S. District Court in Arizona struck down the Trump administration’s 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule, again casting uncertainty on farmers as it relates to jurisdiction of water features on their farms. The ruling issued Aug. 30 vacated the NWPR, signaling an end to the definitions put in place by the Trump administration as the Biden administration also begins to rewrite its own version of how to define federal water. Under the Trump-era rules, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers had jurisdiction to regulate clearly defined categories of waters, with any water not regulated by the federal government being under the oversight of state and local municipalities. This rule had replaced a 2015 rule proposed by the Obama administration which many saw as a vast overreach of federal water jurisdiction. While speaking on the sidelines of the Farm Progress Show, Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, says the pendulum swing between administrations on what water features are federally regulated prevents farmers from having the clarity and certainty they need on their farming operations. “We’re trying to put together five or six-year plans for the farm, and not knowing who’s going to have jurisdiction over the waters on our place is just a nightmare for us to do long-term planning on our farms,” Duvall says. Duvall shares three courts have previously refused to dismantle the NWPR, including last month when a federal court in South Carolina refused a similar request from plaintiff groups, which allowed the NWPR to remain in effect until a repeal rule was finalized by the Biden administration. That decision ensured regulatory certainty for producers while the Biden administration moved through the rulemaking process. The most court decision is the first time a federal court has vacated the NWPR.

New abortion decision means court infighting is non-unique

Sara Bobitz, 9-2, 21, Huffington Post, ‘This Is Untenable’: Supreme Court Liberals Slam Decision On Texas Abortion Ban, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sotomayor-kagan-supreme-court-dissent-texas-abortion-ban_n_6130d37be4b0f1b9705da5e3

The Supreme Court’s inaction on Texas’ new abortion ban effectively ended abortion in the state ― at least for now ― and inspired blistering dissents from liberal justices, who called the decision “stunning.”  The court’s conservative majority led a 5-4 vote Wednesday night to deny an emergency appeal to abortion providers in Texas that are fighting a law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature and signed by its GOP governor “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.  Calling the Texas law “patently” and “obviously” unconstitutional, Kagan went further, skewering the Supreme Court’s “shadow-docket” decisions ― a term that refers to decisions the court makes by simple orders based on relatively limited information, instead of after hearing full briefings and oral arguments.  The Supreme Court “has reviewed only the most cursory party submissions, and then only hastily. And it barely bothers to explain its conclusion,” Kagan wrote in a dissent joined by Breyer and Sotomayor. “The majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this Court’s shadowdocket decisionmaking — which every day becomes more un-reasoned, inconsistent, and impossible to defend.”   The Texas law, which went into effect Wednesday morning, prohibits abortion after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Abortion rights advocates say it amounts to a near-total ban, because most women are not able to confirm their pregnancy before the six-week mark ― long before any pregnancy is considered viable. The law also wrenches enforcement duties away from government officials and hands them to ordinary Texans. Usually, abortion restrictions are enforced by officials like a state’s attorney general, who then become the target of legal challenges. Under the Texas law, however, any private citizen is to be rewarded with a bounty of at least $10,000 for winning a lawsuit against someone who helps a person get an abortion after six weeks.  Chief Justice John Roberts joined in the dissenting opinions to say the Texas law should at least be put on hold while the court took the time to evaluate the claims on both sides, citing the high stakes involved for individual women. A one-paragraph summary of the conservative justices’ reasoning centered around the novel structure of the Texas legislation, agreeing with the defendants’ argument that such a structure tosses a wrench into preexisting case law.   Breyer, joined by Sotomayor and Kagan, noted the unusual structure of the law.  “But I do not see why that fact should make a critical legal difference,” Breyer wrote. “That delegation still threatens to invade a constitutional right, and the coming into effect of that delegation still threatens imminent harm.”  Sotomayor argued that Texas legislators were “well aware” of “binding precedent” that prohibits laws like the one it passed, restricting a person’s ability to obtain an abortion of a nonviable fetus. “To circumvent it, the Legislature took the extraordinary step of enlisting private citizens to do what the State could not,” she wrote, adding: “in short, the State’s gambit worked.” The law “is a breathtaking act of defiance ― of the Constitution, of this Court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas,” Sotomayor said. “This is untenable,” she went on. “It cannot be the case that a State can evade federal judicial scrutiny by outsourcing the enforcement of unconstitutional laws to its citizenry.”  Sotomayor reserved her final paragraph to reprimand the court itself, telling her colleagues the court they embody “should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”

Abortion ruling injected the court into the most controversial issue and undermined its legitimacy

Joan Biskupic, 9-2, 21, CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/02/politics/john-roberts-abortion-texas/index.html, John Roberts has lost control of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court’s dramatic 5-4 action leaving a Texas abortion ban in place at midnight Wednesday establishes that the Roberts Court no longer is Roberts’ Court. Chief Justice John Roberts dissented with three liberal justices in what could be regarded as the least considered but most consequential case in years Since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court last October and he lost his position at the ideological center of the bench, Roberts has been on the dissenting side in a handful of close cases. But the Texas abortion controversy arguably marked his most significant loss to dateThe court’s order, made public to news organizations at 11:58 p.m. ET, leaves in place a law that Roberts, himself a conservative who has consistently opposed abortion rights, described as “unprecedented.” Texas prohibits abortions after six weeks and, equally significant for judicial review, appears to insulate state officials from lawsuits over its unconstitutionality. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, states have been prevented from banning abortion before a fetus becomes viable — that is, can live outside the woman — at roughly 22-24 weeks. Nominated in 2005 by former President George W. Bush, Roberts has warned over the years about the importance of public confidence in the court and has tried to kee pthe bench from moving too quickly against abortion Roberts has continued to express a version of the mantra he offered during his confirmation hearings 16 years ago: that the justices should avoid a “jolt” to American’s legal system Wednesday night’s order, issued with barely three days of consideration, represented nothing short of a jolt and an assault on a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy in its early months The order leaves in place an abortion ban that is patently unconstitutional under past rulings and that was written to elude judicial review. Texas “essentially delegated enforcement … to the populace at large,” Roberts wrote in his dissent, because it lets private citizens bring cases against anyone who assists a pregnant woman seeking an abortion Until recently, the chief justice has generally kept a tight rein on the court’s direction. The Texas controversy might portend a new dominance by the justices on the far right Anticipation for the direction of the reconstituted Roberts Court, including on reproductive rights, was already building before the Texas conflict emerged on the national scene. Justices on the far right had been pushing for a reconsideration of abortion-rights rulings, and earlier this year the court announced it would soon review a Mississippi abortion ban tied to 15 weeks of pregnancy. That case is likely to be heard in oral arguments late this year and resolved by June 2022 Roberts’ views and his ability to produce any kind of consensus ruling will be tested in that case, as well as in other 2021-22 session cases on subject that traditionally split the court, such as gun control and public funding of religious schools No longer the 5th vote on abortionIn the Texas dispute, the court’s three liberals — Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — also dissented. Those three justices have consistently affirmed abortion rights, as first declared in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and reinforced through years of precedent. Roberts, on the other hand, was long positioned on the opposite side of reproductive-rights battles. He began his Washington legal career in the Reagan administration and helped promote the anti-abortion, right-wing social agenda Last year, when the justices heard a Louisiana abortion dispute, Roberts for the first time voted to strike down an abortion regulation. He provided the crucial fifth vote, then with four liberals (including Ruth Bader Ginsburg), to invalidate a tough Louisiana credentialing law for physicians who perform abortions. The Louisiana law was similar to a measure the Supreme Court struck down in Texas four years earlier. Roberts dissented in that 2016 case but felt bound by the court’s precedent in the 2020 controversy. This week, Roberts no longer held the pivotal fifth vote. The new conservative majority consists of Barrett and Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh (Trump’s first two appointees) and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. And Roberts failed to prevail on one of the nation’s most wrenching controversies. Abortion rights provoke a mix of religious, cultural and economic interests, the fervor of those who believe life begins at conception and the passion of advocates for women’s personal autonomy and choice. Abortion is perennially Topic A in presidential campaigns and congressional races, and it has long been a flashpoint of confirmation battles for judicial nominees.

Even with Afghanistan loss, terrorism risks are substantially lower

Leiter, 8-30, 1, Michael Leiter was director of the National Counterterrorism Center from 2007 to 2011, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/08/30/michael-leiter-afghanistan-safety-terrorism-9-11/

When al-Qaeda launched its horrific attacks in September 2001, it operated with near complete impunity in Afghanistan. Although the Taliban and al-Qaeda were not operationally linked, the protection and haven that al-Qaeda enjoyed allowed it to recruit and train operatives and deploy them around the globe. At the same time, the United States and its allies were poorly positioned to address such threats. Both individually and as a coordinated team, the U.S. counterterrorism community was unable to muster the resources, capabilities and focus to stop a relatively small group of committed plotters Two decades later, this picture is dramatically improved. The individual elements of the U.S. counterterrorism community are likely the most integrated part of the entire U.S. government. Add to this the global nature of allied counterterrorism efforts, and the result is a significant, worldwide network of allies that share information and coordinate operations in a manner wholly different than in 2001. The return of a potential al-Qaeda or Islamic State haven in Afghanistan poses a clear challenge to Western counterterrorism capabilities, but it presents a significantly less threatening problem than was once the case. The lack of a robust physical presence for U.S. intelligence and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan — as well as the absence of a moderately able and trustworthy local partner — removes key capabilities and, in turn, protections Still, the U.S. ability to monitor and disrupt plotting in distant lands has never relied solely on such conditions, as has been readily apparent in Yemen and Somalia. Counterterrorism work will be more difficult, but it will be far more effective than it was the last time the Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Technical intelligence, innovative local partnerships and continued engagement with key local counterterrorism allies — as imperfect as these are in the region — provide a package of capabilities that can fill many gaps. Meantime, the threat of Sunni violent extremism has diminished since 9/11. Thanks to U.S., Afghan and others’ efforts, al-Qaeda is a shell of its former self — one of the true successes of our years in Afghanistan. Of course, the Islamic State has partially filled the void, but even here the dynamic has changed significantly. Unlike pre-9/11, it is abundantly clear that the Taliban — for all of its evil — is at least for now aggressively anti-Islamic State in ways that it was never anti-al-Qaeda. These counterterrorism gains are not isolated to Afghanistan. In fact, global terrorism related to Sunni violent extremism has been steadily declining across the globe, most notably in the United States and Western Europe, since 2014. This is attributable in part to the dismantling of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, but arguably it is also driven by the movement’s refocusing on the “near” versus the “far” enemy. Although the Islamic State and its adherents still aspire to strike in Western capitals, that is not nearly the priority it was in 2001 Terrorism of many sorts continues domestically and internationally, but the data is unmistakable that in most cases — and especially in the United States — it is both manageable and not nearly of the scale feared in 2001. Appreciating what has changed for the better since 9/11 is essential to avoid repeating some of the mistakes of the past two decades. We know that if U.S. national security priorities are overly dominated by terrorism fears, we will make poor and unachievable choices — such as trying to nation-build in ways that fail to appreciate local conditions and traditions, or adopting practices that endanger our moral standing and alienate key populations. In addition, we will squander scarce resources that are more necessary than ever to address pressing strategic challenges such as the rising global influence of China and enhancing cybersecurity.

NATO and US-EU Relations are resilient

Spero, 8-28, 1, Dr. Joshua B. Spero is professor of international relations at Fitchburg State University. He served as senior civilian strategic and scenario planner in the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s J-5 Directorate for Strategic Plans and Policy/Europe-NATO Division from 1994 to 2000 and was lead joint staffer on the Partnership for Peace (PfP) policy/funding/programs, The Hill,

Transatlantic ties that bind Europe, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/569845-transatlantic-ties-that-bind-europe

During the past three post-Cold War decades, cooperative security became one of NATO’s “core tasks.” Its development between NATO and the EU created the potential for both alliances to consider fundamental challenges together. By building on NATO’s collective defense mantle for defending its members from adversaries, NATO and EU leaders might bind NATO better to the EU’s collective security foundation — one preventing members from fighting uncontrollably against one another. Certainly, U.S.-Canadian Transatlantic relations face more difficult political problems to press NATO and EU leaders and policymakers to consider finding more effective ways and means to re-solidify enduring transatlantic bonds. Yet, these alliances endured great threats to their existence and now provide the juncture to begin combining nation-based collective and cooperative advantages across both institutions. International turbulence and chaos only look to worsen, especially when overlapping alliance responsibilities continue to have NATO and the EU separately project their different alliance operations beyond their territorial borders; witness this century’s missions and operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere across North Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia. NATO and the EU might better consider how together they might improve their crisis management planning and swifter, mutually reinforcing policies and joint missions. Signaling the reinvigorated North Atlantic role from Washington and Ottawa, President Biden met with counterparts on his only trip abroad, discussing and coordinating next steps at book-ended G-7 and US-Russia summits, and revitalizing allies at the NATO and EU summits — the latter renewing U.S. participation since 2017. From these summits NATO-EU ties might expand more quickly, seriously accelerated by Afghanistan’s disarray, and potentially leading more quickly to better coordinating resources and considering how to synchronize fewer missions and operations — doing so by potentially conducting them together. Such operations planning might lead to greater, more practical considerations to coordinate continental, European challenges within their borders to accelerate greater NATO-EU operational and strategic ties. NATO and EU have already learned lessons for exploring better coordination on operations planning and potential implementation from the thousands of post-Cold War experiences in educating, training, exercising, planning, resourcing, and operating. From these, allied leaders and planning staffs might enhance and adapt NATO-EU cooperative security and defense challenges via joint operations planning on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Key alliance crisis management strategies already illustrate cooperative baselines for brisker NATO-EU planning, better to protect NATO-EU territories. Such NATO collective defense visions for its Concept for Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area, Readiness Action Plan, and Warfighting Capstone Concept might now progress better alongside EU collective security commitments under the Permanent Structured Co-operation for its Military Mobility and European Defence Agency NATO’s Partnership For Peace (PFP) cooperative security process epitomizes essential, operational bridge-building to accelerate NATO-EU planning. Bringing member and partner nations together, even if partners never join either or both alliances, captures PFP’s 30-year operational planning successes, particularly NATO and EU missions and operations across the Balkans. For NATO-EU nations to utilize such means to strengthen ties speeds cooperative security expedients, fostering better allied resilience, power projection, and command, control, communication, and computers with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. Resilience and adaptation underscore how the 70-year plus NATO and EU longevity points toward closer coordination, better facing sober realities — including chaotic withdrawals from foreign entanglements, continuing financial burdens, duplicative institutional responsibilities, and divisive national policies. Above all, both institutions remain resilient, even with Afghanistan’s aftermath, the United Kingdom’s EU withdrawal, Eurasian and Transcaucasian nations continually wanting to join these institutions over Russia’s objections, and various member nations differing over energy policies.

Too late to cooperate with China


Mitchell, 8-22-21, A. Wess Mitchell is a former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and is now a principal and co-founder at The Marathon Initiative, a think-tank dedicated to the study of great power competition, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/strategy-avoiding-two-front-war-192137, A Strategy for Avoiding Two-Front War

The obvious problem with this option is that the window of opportunity it requires vis-à-vis China has probably already closed. The ideal time for such an approach would have been earlier in the previous decade, after Russia had already embarked upon its aggressive course but when China remained a nominally constructive player and the balance of power remained favorable to the United States. Since then, the U.S.-China dynamic has deteriorated in ways that make a prolonged period of tranquility in that relationship hard to imagine. Crucially, this is more and more because of the decision on Beijing’s part to relinquish a hide-and-bide posture and align closely with Moscow, and by its increasing material strength vis-à-vis the West. Against this backdrop, taking a softer U.S. line on, say, Taiwan, might encourage rather than deflect Chinese ambition while impairing Washington’s ability to recruit the regional coalitions upon which its long-term prospects in Asia ultimately rest. As the 1930s British example shows, the results of such a miscalculation could be catastrophic, potentially even hastening the advent of the two-front war that the strategy was intended to avoid. .. Option 3: Co-opt both rivals. The third and most difficult, but perhaps most elegant, solution for the simultaneity problem has been to transcend it entirely—to negate its pressures by co-opting both rivals into cooperative structures that prevent or mitigate conflict. This was the method that the nineteenth-century Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich used to enmesh Austria’s flanking rivals, France and Russia, in a system of concert diplomacy that kept the peace in Europe for almost a century.  The modern equivalent of Metternich’s strategy would be for America to use international institutions to engage China and Russia in the pursuit of win-win outcomes on shared global problems. That is what the Biden administration appears to have had in mind in its efforts to find common ground with Beijing and Moscow on “transnational” problems like climate change.  Cooperation with geopolitical rivals can be beneficial when the resulting structures are built on stable power relationships and shared interests. But neither of these conditions are present in U.S. relations with China and Russia. Both powers maintain active revisionist claims, the fulfillment of which are, from their perspectives, a prerequisite to achieving their full potential as great powers. Both correctly see the underlying power relationships upon which current institutions rest as being in flux and, in China’s case, changing in their favor. For both, international institutions are a means by which to pursue power politics and constrain U.S. power. As such, U.S. efforts to jointly tackle, say, climate change, are attractive insofar as they entail self-damaging U.S. concessions with which China can feign compliance while waiting on the correlation of power to shift more decisively to Beijing’s advantage.

Infrastructure bill strengthens water infrastructure, including cyber security

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, 8-21, 21, https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/the-rehabilitation-of-water-4525030/. The Rehabilitation of Water Infrastructure

A major focus of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is rehabilitation of water infrastructure, including ports, recreation and irrigation, but with a particular focus on drinking water. As with other parts of the IIJA, the clean water provisions emphasize sustainability and resiliency of infrastructure across the nation. Many of the provisions simply reauthorize successful prior water programs, surveys and pilot project investments, while others focus on civil cybersecurity and other emergent issues. We highlight major areas of new and renewed investment and other relevant provisions contained in the package on clean water and water management.

Public Water Systems

The IIJA extends grants through the Safe Drinking Water Act into 2024 or beyond for public water systems work to: groundwater storage and conveyance projects ($1.15 billion), aging infrastructure ($3.2 billion), rural water projects ($1 billion) and water recycling projects ($1 billion), among others smaller programs of removing lead from drinking water, including reauthorization for a program targeting lead in public school water. Many of these programs hope to develop pilots to test their effectiveness in the new decade, with reports back to Congress after ½ to 2 years for possible expansion.

Reauthorization of these programs will include both small (below 10,000 individuals) and large scale systems (over 100,000 individuals). Smaller systems in general are to receive proportionally more federal funding, upwards of 90 percent of the budget of their operational sustainability projects. Of particular note is the amendment of this and older legislation to explicitly include tribal groups and consortia alongside other, more often recognized, civil authorities, like states, cities and even private groups. Overall, public water systems are the biggest beneficiaries; while the grants are open to private groups, most water systems are publically built and will receive the bulk of the grants to expand their services.

The IIJA establishes a system of grants to connect individual households to these public water and sewage systems. Many of these are directed towards small water systems or those identified as disproportionality serving those unable to pay or maintain household water systems. Also of note for public water systems are the IIJA provisions to improve resiliency and recharge through underground storage and aquifer recharge systems. Money is not provided for aboveground storage.

Emergent Technology

The IIJA contains multiple programs for examining emerging technologies in water management. These include the above-referenced groundwater storage and conveyance systems, but also supports stormwater management and reuse, and even electrification of ferries. Many of the groundwater programs are focused on the Mountain West, with the Colorado River Basin unsurprisingly receiving significant focus and dedicated funding of $350 million. Grant programs are established for new technology and resiliency programs, again with obligations to report back to Congress on their effectiveness and limits on how much of a project’s funds can come from the federal government.

Cybersecurity is another area of focus, influenced by the recent public ransomware attacks on public utilities and civic offices in the United States and elsewhere during the past year. The IIJA provides $500 million in funding for dam and hydroelectric generation safety. Note that desalination, for the most part, remains sidelined, at $250 million in specific funding and desalination projects are barred specifically from funding from other water source resiliency grants. Private groups are likely to see more benefit here, either in hiring on for public water services in providing and implementing emergent technology or as direct recipients to do so. Many such provisions instruct the various departments to prioritize water systems designated in need or broad, regional consortia for resiliency projects using emergent technology.

Lake Mead water levels have collapsed

Henry Fountain, 8-18, 21, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/18/climate/nyt-climate-newsletter-colorado-river.html, New Water Cuts Are Coming in the West

In this summer of wildfires, heat waves and drought, there was another bit of bad environmental news out of the West this week. Federal officials declared a water shortage at Lake Mead, the huge reservoir on the Colorado River near Las Vegas, setting off sharp cuts in water to Arizona farmers next year. As I reported this week, the shortage declaration was made because the lake is at its lowest level since it first began to fill in the 1930s, a result of overuse and of two decades of drought in the Southwest that have reduced runoff into the river The declaration, and the mandatory supply cuts, had long been expected. What is less certain is how much the reductions will help. Will more cuts be necessary, and, if so, when? Officials had an answer for that on Monday. “Additional actions will likely be necessary in the very near future,” said Camille Touton, a deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.  The bureau’s hydrologists forecast that the lake level will continue to drop for the next two years as climate change continues to take a toll on the river. That most likely means Arizona will face even more reductions in 2023, including to some cities, and California will see its first cuts in 2024.

Our climate change DA impacts turn the case – -global water shortages

Fiona Harvey, 8-17, 21, Global water crisis will intensify with climate breakdown, says report, , https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/17/global-water-crisis-will-intensify-with-climate-breakdown-says-report

Water problems – drought, with its accompanying wildfires, and flooding – are likely to become much worse around the world as climate breakdown takes hold, according to the biggest assessment of climate science to date.

Global heating of at least 1.5C is likely to happen within the next two decades, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Temperature rises will be accompanied by big changes in the planet’s water cycle, with areas that are already wet becoming much wetter, and already arid areas becoming prone to greater drought. Extreme rainfall intensifies by 7% for each additional 1C of global heating, the report found.

Prof Mike Meredith, science leader at the British Antarctic Survey and a lead author for the IPCC, said: “As the atmosphere continues to heat up because of global heating, it can hold and transport more moisture – so at the largest scale we expect to see an acceleration of the hydrological cycle: stronger evaporation in the tropics, and more intense rainfall in the high latitudes and some equatorial regions. This will lead to more frequent extreme rainfall events in already wet areas, and a greater incidence and severity of flooding. “There is already strong evidence that we are seeing such changes. In some dry regions, droughts will become worse and longer lasting. Such risks are compounded by knock-on consequences, such as greater risk of wildfires, such as we are already seeing.” Prof Ralf Toumi, co-director of the Grantham Institute on Climate Change at Imperial College London, said: “The principle of a warmer world is that more water will be evaporated, which will exacerbate droughts, and this enhanced water in the atmosphere will increase the amount of rain when it does rain.”

The effects will be felt across the globe, from the US, where drought is an increasing problem in the west and south, to India, where the monsoon may become more variable. Sub-Saharan Africa is also likely to experience increased drought in many areas, while flooding and drought will hit China and Europe. Ilan Kelman, professor of disasters and health at University College London, said: “Climate change will make wet and dry regimes more extreme. Soil moisture will go down and dry spells will go up in already arid regions such as the Mediterranean and southern Africa. Seasonal rainfall variability is expected to increase, with fewer days of rainfall alongside increased intensity of downpours.” Changes to the planet’s natural rainfall patterns are one of the biggest impacts of the climate crisis, and the landmark IPCC report, which was published last week, contains more than 200 pages on this issue alone. A fuller discussion of the expected impacts of the climate crisis on water will come next February, in the second part of thereport – the sixth from the world authority on climate science since 1988 – but the findings so far contain the starkest warnings yet of the problems the world faces. The monsoon in south Asia – which is key to the lives and agriculture of more than one billion people – is a particular source of concern, as are glacier-fed areas, where first flooding and then water scarcity are likely to become increasingly common as glaciers shrink and some smaller glaciers disappear.

The IPCC was cautious on the potential impacts on monsoons, with some studies pointing to a potential weakening and some to a strengthening. Monsoons are likely to become more variable in future. “On the one hand we know that for a given monsoon wind pattern there will be more rain, but the monsoon wind pattern may weaken, so that net effect is uncertain,” said Toumi. Dr Andy Turner, associate professor in monsoon systems at Reading University, and a lead author for the IPCC, said: “Particularly for the monsoons in south and south-east Asia, east Asia and the central Sahel [in Africa], monsoon precipitation is projected to increase by the end of the century. However, near-term monsoon changes will be dominated by the effects of internal variability. Each additional degree of warming will exacerbate the frequency and severity of extreme events in monsoon regions, such as periods of heavy rainfall, flooding and drought.”

Hundreds of millions of people also depend directly on glaciers for their water and agriculture, and these are also likely to be among the water systems worst affected. Roger Braithwaite, honorary senior research fellow at the University of Manchester, said: “Measurements show glaciers in many parts of the world currently have negative mass balances even with present global mean temperatures. Glaciers are therefore not ‘safe’ under the Paris agreement [which limits warming to 1.5C as an ambition, and 2C as an outer limit].” Meredith added: “Glaciers worldwide have retreated since the 1990s; this is unprecedented in at least two millennia, and is a clear signal of the impacts of global heating. For many communities downstream, high-mountain glaciers are fundamental to their way of life, providing a reliable source of freshwater for drinking and irrigating crops. As these glaciers continue to retreat, initially the stronger melt will cause greater risk of floods, avalanches and landslides – direct hazards for those living downstream. In due course, the decrease in freshwater available will shift the risk to being that of drought. There are millions of people who live downstream of major mountain glacier systems such as the Himalayas; this is of extreme concern to their lives and livelihoods.” These impacts on water systems are already bringing devastation to millions of people around the world, worsening poverty, disrupting societies and turning life into a daily struggle for some of the most vulnerable, said Jonathan Farr, senior policy analyst for climate change at the charity WaterAid. He pointed to Malawi, where the second biggest lake, Lake Chilwa, is central to the lives of 1.5 million people. “While its levels have always fluctuated, it’s now happening more frequently and to greater extremes, affecting the local communities. Women, most often responsible for securing water for their families, can often queue at the borehole for many hours, sometimes through the night, waiting for the levels to refill to the point where they can draw water.”

Lake Mead shortages mean cuts

Susan Naishadam 8-16, 21, EXPLAINER: Western states face first federal water cuts, https://mohavedailynews.com/news/133738/explainer-western-states-face-first-federal-water-cuts/

Lake Mead was formed by building Hoover Dam in the 1930s. It is one of several man-made reservoirs that store water from the Colorado River, which supplies household water, irrigation for farms and hydropower to Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and parts of Mexico. But water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the river’s two largest reservoirs, have been falling for years and faster than experts predicted. Scorching temperatures and less melting snow in the spring have reduced the amount of water flowing from the Rocky Mountains, where the river originates before it snakes 1,450 miles southwest and into the Gulf of California. “We’re at a moment where we’re reckoning with how we continue to flourish with less water, and it’s very painful,” said Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University. Water stored in Lake Mead and Lake Powell is divvied up through legal agreements among the seven Colorado River basin states, the federal government, Mexico and others. The agreements determine how much water each gets, when cuts are triggered and the order in which the parties have to sacrifice some of their supply. Under a 2019 drought contingency plan, Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico agreed to give up shares of their water to maintain water levels at Lake Mead. The voluntary measures weren’t enough to prevent the shortage declaration. WHO DOES LAKE MEAD SERVE? Lake Mead supplies water to millions of people in Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico. Cuts for 2022 are triggered when predicted water levels fall below a certain threshold — 1,075 feet above sea level, or 40% capacity. Hydrologists predict that by January, the reservoir will drop to 1,066 feet. Further rounds of cuts are triggered when projected levels sink to 1,050, 1,045 and 1,025 feet. Eventually, some city and industrial water users could be affected. Lake Powell’s levels also are falling, threatening the roughly 5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity generated each year at the Glen Canyon Dam. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming get water from tributaries and other reservoirs that feed into Lake Powell. Water from three reservoirs in those states has been drained to maintain water levels at Lake Powell and protect the electric grid powered by the Glen Canyon Dam.


In the U.S., Arizona will be hardest hit and lose 18% of its share from the river next year, or 512,000 acre-feet of water. That’s around 8% of the state’s total water use. An acre-foot is enough water to supply one to two households a year. Nevada will lose about 7% of its allocation, or 21,000 acre-feet of water. But it will not feel the shortage mainly because of conservation efforts. California is spared from immediate cuts because it has more senior water rights than Arizona and Nevada. Mexico will see a reduction of roughly 5%, or 80,000 acre-feet.


Farmers in central Arizona, who are among the state’s largest producers of livestock, dairy, alfalfa, wheat and barley, will bear the brunt of the cuts. Their allocation comes from water deemed “extra” by the agency that supplies water to much of the region, making them the first to lose it during a shortage. As a result, the farmers will likely need to fallow land — as many already have in recent years because of persisting drought — and rely even more on groundwater, switch to water-efficient crops and find other ways to use less water.

Water key to indigenous rights

Laura Gersony, Circle of Blue — August 9, 2021, https://www.circleofblue.org/2021/world/we-cant-have-land-back-without-water-back

The director of Pueblo Action Alliance, an activist group, Bernal is acutely aware that in arid areas like her home in the American Southwest, the fight for Indigenous rights starts with one crucial resource: water. Bernal was raised to view water as more than just a resource to be extracted. “In my community, we view the river as a mother, having personhood, a living entity. Therefore, there’s a lot of respect and care that we, as stewards of this land and our waterways, have towards ensuring that our river is healthy,” she told Circle of Blue. For many Indigenous groups, the well-being of the land is inseparable from that of its inhabitants. One of the 10 guiding principles of Pueblo Action Alliance is to “heal from cycles of trauma and oppression; and to heal the waters and lands”—two sides of the same coin. “We are connected to this land. We are connected to these waters,” she said. “Violence against us is violence on the land, and violence on the land is violence on us. Bernal was politically-minded from a young age. She was always aware of native-led resistance movements, and had an intuitive sense that the status quo had to change. But what galvanized her political consciousness were the Standing Rock protests, a sustained resistance movement of Native American communities against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, beginning in 2016. “It was an intersectional movement: respecting Indigenous sovereignty, respecting treaties, protecting water, protecting cultural integrity, all of these things,” she said. “It wasn’t just about protecting the water: it’s the people, it’s the land, and their cultures.” This nexus motivates Bernal to emphasize water rights in her activism. She is an advocate of the Land Back movement, which calls on the U.S. government to allow Indigenous people to continue stewarding the lands as they did before colonization. And in the American Southwest, she has taken up a new refrain: that “we can’t have land back without water back.” “In order for the land to be fruitful, there needs to be water,” she said. “That needs to be included in what ‘land back’ means.”

 In 2016, resisting the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock, protestors took direct action by locking themselves to pipeline construction equipment. Photo © Desiree Kane / Wikimedia Commons Bernal diagnoses the climate crisis as a direct result of colonialism, whose goal, she said, is to accumulate as many resources as possible. This view of the natural world lacks the ethic of reciprocity that she was taught. “All of the carbon emissions that are contributing to climate change and the climate crisis, you have to root it back to what colonialism’s goal is in the first place,” she said. Bernal, who is working on her masters degree in hydrology and water resources, cautioned against viewing water as merely a commodity, or a force to be controlled. “That’s why we have mismanaged water so much: we have tried to control the system, rather than living with the system,” she said. “We have to really start thinking about changing the paradigm of how we view water into something more indigenized, so that way it can benefit everyone.” To ensure that Indigenous knowledge is incorporated into water management solutions, she stressed that Indigenous people, particularly women, must have a seat at the table when policies are being discussed. “Water spaces are predominantly white older men. There needs to be more Indigenous women in water spaces, point blank,” she said. “Something has to change.” Bernal views herself as continuing a long tradition of activism. Members of the Pueblo Action Alliance trace their roots back to the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, an indigenous uprising against the Spanish colonial regime in Santa Fe. “Historically, our existence has been viewed as a threat. We have resisted colonization, assimilation, up until this point. We come from a long lineage and history of ancestors who also fought for our existence,” she said. And just as she remains grounded in the wisdom and experience of her ancestors, what keeps her going is the knowledge that her efforts to protect waterways will benefit future generations—Indigenous peoples and settlers alike.

Water shortages trigger water theft



As an unrelenting drought torments California’s farmers, many of them are now dealing with an additional concern: water theft. With water increasingly scarce in California in recent months, thieves have stolen several millions of gallons from rivers, fire hydrants, farms, and even family homes. According to multiple reports, thieves are often using stolen water to cultivate illegal marijuana crops. “The desert is an ideal area for privacy for these [illegal marijuana] growers, but it lacks water,” Jan Gould, the CEO of Responsive Drip Irrigation, told The Food Institute. “ … Whenever a commodity becomes scarcer, then it becomes worth stealing. “Law enforcement has increased sheriff patrols, engaged the use of drones and satellite imagery, and increased security measures and lockets for water stations. However, farmers are ideal targets, since they’re remote and may not have these security capabilities in place.”

Forever chemicals aff

Ken Silverstein, 8-8, 21, If Congress Can’t Clean Public Water Systems, The Trial Lawyers Will, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2021/08/08/if-congress-cant-clean-public-water-systems-the-trial-lawyers-will/?sh=1e068d0276aa

In the movie “Dark Waters,” the protagonist Rob Bilott sues DuPont and reveals that its chemical — a subset of ‘PFAs’ — is contaminating drinking water supplies for residents of the Ohio Valley. While the stress of the lawsuit nearly kills him, the side effects that his clients displayed are just as serious: thyroid disease, testicular cancer, and kidney cancer. The ultimate liability: $671 million, split between DuPont and Chemours that broke from DuPont in 2015. Not the end of the story by a long shot. PFAs is a broad umbrella group that hosts about 5,000 chemicals. The DuPont case principally involved C-8, which was used to make such products as Teflon and carpet fibers. Those PFAs are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they do not easily break down and because they remain in the body. Hence, a fierce effort is underway for more oversight — to keep those chemicals out of potable water supplies. And if that doesn’t work, lawyers like Bilott are hot on the trail of companies that produce them. The goal in both cases is to safeguard human health and the environment.

“Addressing these ‘forever chemicals’ remains one of the most complex environmental challenges of our day due to the number of chemicals, the impacts on human health, and the widespread use of PFAS and their ubiquity in the environment,” President Biden said in a release. He is in support of pending legislation to reduce exposure to those substances.  DuPont has been phasing out C-8 from the market since 2014 after an independent scientific panel had determined that it caused a number of cancers. But questions had long-persisted that the chemical was dangerous to human health, which begs the question as to why it had continued to dump it in the Ohio River.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PFAs can be found in cookware, pizza boxes, and stain repellants. Exposure to PFAs could lead to low birth weights, weakened immune systems, and reduced fertility — on top of causing cancer. “Forever chemicals” have now been detected in nearly 2,800 communities, including 2,411 drinking water systems and 328 military installations, according to the Environmental Working Group. It says that more than 200 million Americans have been exposed to PFAs and that roughly 30,000 companies could be discharging those chemicals into the air and water.  To that end, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation in July to require the EPA to limit PFAS levels in drinking water supplies. It would also require the agency to declare those chemicals as hazardous substances — intended to force cleanups of contaminated sites around the country. Right now, the agency sets such limits at 70 parts per trillion. But a move is afoot to reduce that to 1 part per trillion, or certainly no more than 5 parts per trillion — in line with the bottled water industry.

The Guardian and Consumer Reports did their own analysis and examined 140,000 public water systems across the country for “forever chemicals.” They found that access to clean drinking water supplies disproportionately affects low-income areas and rural regions. Violations are highest in Oklahoma, West Virginia, and New Mexico, the study shows. “The dangerous pollutants that water systems have difficulty filtering out vary across the country, from the nitrate from farm runoff in states where agriculture is prominent, including California, to radioactive mining substances in states such as West Virginia,” writes Consumer Reports.

The potential mass tort class is thus the entire population of the United States. With that, Rob Bilott, the protagonist in “Dark Waters,” is leading a class-action lawsuit. He was asked to comment on his legal strategy during a recent virtual event — one recorded by PublicSource.org. Specifically, someone inquired how he will identify which companies are responsible and how the damages would be calculated. It is a good question given that there are about 5,000 PFAs that are used in such things as food packaging and firefighting foam.

Bilott answered that the case he is bringing is focused on “raw PFAS chemicals in people’s blood” and not on any specific product those chemicals were used in. He goes on to say that once the compounds are identified, it would then be relatively painless to determine which companies had produced them. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also filed a lawsuit against 17 defendants that include 3M MMM -0.3% and DuPont as well as The Chemours Co. CC -1%, Dyneon LLC, and Asahi Kasei Plastics North America. “We bring this action today on behalf of the people of Michigan,” said Nessel. “It is our responsibility to protect our residents and our state’s natural resources and property by preventing and abating hazards to public health, safety, welfare and the environment – and by placing the responsibility for this massive undertaking with those responsible for creating the problem.” The legislation in the House to address PFAs has been introduced by two Michigan lawmakers: Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, and Fred Upton, a Republican. To provide context, let’s review the origins of the DuPont case:

DuPont was first sued for tainted drinking water in 2001. As part of a settlement that occurred in 2005, both sides agreed that the C-8 chemical would be studied by three scientists. Beginning in 2011 and throughout 2012, those experts concluded that C-8 was “more likely than not” to cause such conditions as ulcerative colitis, kidney cancer, thyroid disease, and testicular cancer. Altogether, about 3,500 cases tied to the C-8 chemical were considered by the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio — cases that touched citizens in Ohio and in West Virginia: In October 2015, a jury awarded $1.6 million in compensatory damages to a woman who contracted kidney cancer but then said that it would award no punitive penalties. Then in July 2016, a different jury awarded $5.1 million in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages to another man who said that he contracted testicular cancer. And in December 2016, a third jury awarded $2 million to an Ohio man who got testicular cancer.

Human survival depends on water

MetroCreative Connection Aug 4, 2021, https://www.washtimesherald.com/news/lifestyles/hazards-that-could-be-lurking-in-drinking-water/article_88a8f838-f510-11eb-8b07-cf6ff0d3d474.html, Hazards that could be lurking in drinking water

Life on Earth would not exist without water. Plants and animals rely on fresh water daily, even more than some people may recognize. In fact, survival experts note that a human can survive without food for anywhere from eight to 21 days, but only three days to a week without adequate water.

Chemicals that contaminate water

MetroCreative Connection Aug 4, 2021, https://www.washtimesherald.com/news/lifestyles/hazards-that-could-be-lurking-in-drinking-water/article_88a8f838-f510-11eb-8b07-cf6ff0d3d474.html, Hazards that could be lurking in drinking water

Even though water is such a crucial commodity, many waterways and drinking water sources are under attack. Substances people use everyday are turning up in rivers, oceans and lakes, affecting not only marine life, but people as well.

It’s important to note that the United States has one of the safest public drinking supplies in the world, as does Canada. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates drinking water quality in public water systems, and strict concentration levels for pollutants and chemicals have long since been established. The daily responsibility of providing safe drinking water to the public in Canada rests with the provinces and territories, while municipalities oversee the operations of treatment facilities. However, contamination can occur in source water as well as in distribution systems even after water has been treated. Contaminants can include naturally occurring chemicals and minerals, as well as materials that are used in manufacturing, local land use and through sewer or wastewater releases.

The following are just a few of the contaminants that can cause adverse conditions if present in water.

Arsenic: Arsenic can enter the water from natural deposits in the earth or from industrial agricultural pollution, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This may be a concern for those who rely on well water.

Benzene: Federal drinking water surveys in the United States estimated that roughly 1.3 percent of groundwater systems contained benzene. Large concentrations of benzene can be troublesome because it is known to cause cancer. Benzene is found in crude oil and gasoline, but also can occur naturally in volcanic gases and smoke from forest fires.

Chlorine: Chlorine in small amounts has been standard in U.S. drinking water treatment since 1904 and is in most Canadian drinking water. While chlorine can eradicate many pathogens, there is a downside. In the 1970s, scientists discovered that chlorine added to water can mix with organic matter and form trihalomethanes, one of which is chloroform, according to the water safety resource Water Benefits Health. THMs increase the production of free radicals that can be cancer-causing.

Giardia: This tiny parasite is found in soil or water that has been contaminated with feces from infected animals or people, advises the World Health Organization. Swallowing contaminated drinking water or recreational water at lakes or pools can cause gastrointestinal illness.

Improper pH: There are some proponents of consuming alkaline water to increase fat burning and neutralize acidic blood, as well as to act as an antioxidant. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, elevating the pH too much toward the alkaline side can affect kidney function and also cause the skin to become dry, itchy and irritated.

Water is needed to maintain health, but various contaminants may be lurking in water supplies. Testing water regularly can provide insight as to what might be hiding among those oxygen and hydrogen molecules.

Regulating SMART POU systems is key to ensure safe drinking water for our entire population

Wu et. al 2021 [Jishan, Miao Cao, Draco Tong, Zach Finkelstein & Eric M. V. Hoek, Clean Water, “A Critical Review of point-of-use drinking water treatment in the United State” July 22, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41545-021-00128-z

Current household tap water quality in the United States is as good as anywhere else where drinking water is treated to regulated quality. That said, violations for a wide array of regulated contaminants by public water systems, unregulated non-grid-tied groundwater wells, and unregulated emerging contaminants still pose serious acute and chronic health risks. For example, some very-high-profile cases of impaired municipal drinking water have occurred in recent years (e.g., lead in Flint, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey). Moreover, long timelines for implementing new regulations in the U.S. cause some concern over the purity and healthfulness of municipal drinking water, especially with so many toxic, carcinogenic, endocrine disrupting, and pharmaceutically active chemicals known to be in drinking water’s source waters. Treatment plants that use surface water as a source tend to have a higher frequency of violations compared to those using groundwater. For smaller systems, many of the violations are for lack of reporting versus reports of known violations, so the potential risk to the populations served is difficult to assess. As the size of treatment plants increase, the percent of violations and, in particular, those that use surface water both tend to decrease; however, the number of people potentially at risk is quite high due to the large populations served.

These well-documented drinking water violations, unregulated off-grid groundwater wells, and emerging contaminants all give rise to consumers’ lack of confidence in drinking water quality and justify the use of POU drinking water treatment systems. Although there has been much research on the mechanisms and removal efficacies of the types of water treatment technologies employed in POU applications, most peer-reviewed studies are framed in the context of large-scale municipal or industrial treatment applications and few independent studies have evaluated their efficacy in POU water treatment applications. Components in commercially available POU water filter systems are highly commoditized and standardized across the industry. Sediment, KDF, AC (either GAC or ACB), RO, remineralization, and UVS are the most commonly employed technologies. This level of homogeneity in the production of filter systems is good in that it drives down costs to the consumer making POU water treatment widely accessible; however, the lack of regulations, monitoring and control of POU systems make it difficult to know if and when a POU system stops working as it was designed.

The smartness of POU water filters may be defined as their ability to perform tasks such as monitoring and reporting water quality, monitoring filter performance and expected lifetime, controlling filtration remotely, and connecting with consumers through personal smart devices. By this definition, currently there are no commercially available SMART POU water filtration products. Sensors providing water quality information is an essential feature for a water filter to become SMART. However, a SMART water filter is also expected to be connected to WiFi or Bluetooth and deliver the information to a mobile app. Interaction and control through the use of Internet is a key characteristic of any smart home technology. Future design and production of SMART POU water treatment systems should consider moving beyond timers and counters to flow meters and (at least) basic water quality sensors (e.g., EC/pH/ORP) along with Internet connectivity and interactive consumer apps. Finally, these technological innovations must be accomplished at very low cost to assure widespread accessibility for the most vulnerable and underprivileged populations.

We are on the brink of a Water disaster. State leadership is key to solve

Senter 2021 [Keegan, Climate Conscious, “Lake Mead, Water Rights, and the Aridification of the West” July 18, https://medium.com/climate-conscious/lake-mead-water-rights-and-the-aridification-of-the-west-f635cc4db1e4

The issue with Lake Mead boils down to this. The future of water in the Western United States is beginning to become an issue that will require intense debate and adjustment. There is also an issue with the compact itself. In recent years, Arizona and other members of the arrangement have been advocating for greater oversight of water use and an adjustment of state allocation totals. There is also the need to address water rights for indigenous communities, such as the Navajo Nation in Arizona, which have historically been left out of the conversation.

This issue, although small at the moment, is a red flag that cannot be ignored. If Lake Mead continues to drop in water level, we will likely see more significant cuts to appropriated water for each compact state. However small at first, these cuts will eventually give way to rising tensions over the rights to a necessary resource. If we do not plan accordingly or take notice of the climate crisis, we will soon see water become one of the most conflicted resources in the American Southwest.

Final Thoughts

Let us be clear. This isn’t a drought. Droughts are classified as “periods of prolonged dryness” that last only a couple of years. The “drought” in the American Southwest has been on a downward trend, classified by extremely high temperatures for the past twenty years. What we are looking at is called aridification — a period of transition to a drier climate. Aridification brought upon by degradation of the environmental system.

The Western United States has become the stage for a Mad Max film, and questions over the fairness of water allocation are only going to become more hotly debated. Unfortunately, we are no longer in a state where we can “talk” about the state of the climate. No, we are well beyond that now. With the onset of climate change, desertification of land due to agriculture, and increasing temperature levels, the water wars of the west are only just beginning.

We need to double our efforts to combat the crisis in front of us. For example, California has made formal proposals to Congress for grant funding to support wastewater recycling programs in the Los Angeles area. Las Vegas has cut its water usage well below the levels needed to cooperate with the new allocation programs. In addition, there is increasing pressure being placed upon officials to uphold water restrictions and place a moratorium on future water diversion projects.

Desalination plants will kill critical species

US News & World Report 2021 [“Desalination advances in California despite opponents pushing for alternatives” July 28, https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2021-07-28/desalination-advances-in-california-despite-opponents-pushing-for-alternatives

At the Carlsbad plant, ocean water is run through pipes to remove the largest solids, then pumped to reverse osmosis filters to remove salt.

The intake kills tiny organisms such as larvae and plankton. Some fish and other creatures die upon being sucked in or from the force of the water flow. Both Poseidon plants are now required to add finer intake screens to protect more fish.

Poseidon’s Maloni said that no more than .02% of the plankton at risk of being sucked in would be affected at Huntington Beach and that no threatened or endangered species are at risk.

Experts say more research is needed to determine how much sea life is destroyed by the Carlsbad plant, which, as Huntington Beach would do, uses intake pipes built for a retired power plant’s cooling system.

A 2015 state environmental report by staff of the State Water Resources Control Board examined studies on 18 power plants taking in water for cooling.

The report found that on average from 2000 to 2005, 19.4 billion larvae were caught up at intakes and about 2.7 million fish, along with marine mammals and sea turtles, were killed by intake equipment.

“The reality is, we are impacting that environment for this generation and the generations to come,” said Newsha Ajami, a hydrologist and director of Urban Water Policy with Stanford University’s Water in the West research institute.

For every gallon of drinking water, desalination leaves behind another gallon of salty brine. Carlsbad mixes that with two parts of ocean water before discharge. Huntington Beach would pump brine out to sea with a diffuser, which reduces the harmful impact of the dense discharge that falls to the ocean floor.

The combined effects of intake and discharge in Huntington Beach will kill off the equivalent of all the marine life produced in 421 acres of ocean habitat, according to a Santa Ana Regional Water Control Board staff report.

Human caused climate change is responsible for the megadrought

Williams, Cook and Smerdon 2021 [Park, Ben and Jason, The Hill, “How severe is the megadrought in the West? July 23, https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/564591-how-severe-is-the-megadrought-in-the-west

A difference between the current megadrought and those of the past is that it has not exclusively been a matter of chance — this drought has been strengthened by human-caused climate change. Warming from greenhouse-gas emissions enhances the atmosphere’s thirst for moisture from soils, plants and lakes. Warming also reduces mountain snowpack and may even push storm tracks north — away from the dry southwestern United States. Based on climate model simulations, our best estimate is that human-caused warming trends account for 30 to 45 percent of the severity of the 2000s drought so far. In other words, if the last two decades of fickle storms in the West had occurred without human-caused warming, the resulting drought would have been serious, but not in the same ballpark as the megadroughts of the past.

This assessment that warming worsens droughts in the West is not based solely on climate modeling. The Earth has been faithfully storing clues about its environmental history in more than just tree rings. Shorelines and mud sediments from ancient lakes, vegetation preserved in pack-rat nests, and other natural archives point to profound drying across the West as the globe warmed coming out of the last glacial period approximately 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, and again roughly 6,000 years ago when the Northern Hemisphere received its most sunlight in 100,000 years. The message from these past periods is clear: when the globe warms, the West dries.

 Multiple lines of evidence indicate that human-caused warming will continue to load the dice toward increasingly severe and longer-lasting droughts in the western US. A western water crisis may very well be underway and the ever-increasing risks require that drought resilience locally must be immediately pursued, while greenhouse-gas reductions must be an urgent priority globally.


The water crisis is our greatest existential threat

Andres and Stern 2021 [Jose, Caryl, Time Magazine, We’re in a water crisis. We need to act now” July 27 https://time.com/6083972/water-crisis-climate-future/

Water is already shaping our politics, our economy and our national security too. Whether it’s floods or droughts, storms or wildfires—too much water, or too little—water shapes lives in the United States and around the world. We are currently seeing this play out in real time in the West, which in many ways is ground zero for climate change, as we see the intersection between mega-drought and fire season colliding with one another.

Back in 2012, the intelligence community prepared a report on global water security, forecasting that within a decade water shortages and floods in many countries would “risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States.” The same report predicted that before 2040, the world’s demand for fresh water would not keep up with the supply, unless we managed our water far better than we do today.

Just this year, World Central Kitchen worked closely with the World Food Programme to deliver 27,000 food kits to Guatemalan families in the months after intense hurricanes ripped the country apart. The crops that sustained them were destroyed, and in some places it’s taken months for the waters to subside.

It’s clear from this example and too many others that water shortages and mega storms fueled by climate change are already endangering peace and prosperity in different parts of the world. If we’re being honest, we can see that potential here at home too. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Water can and should be a source of cooperation, innovation, and generosity.

Cloud seeding alone cannot solve

Kissel 2021 [Thomas, Greek Reporter, “Drones that make rain: new technology to combat drought in UAE” July 22, https://greekreporter.com/2021/07/22/rain-drones-new-technology-uae-dubai/

Research is also underway to determine whether cloud seeding is a viable option for climate change in the United States. The U.S. version would require a slightly different method than the one currently in use in the UAE. The drones would need to produce droplets of silver iodine rather than electric charges in order to induce rainfall.

Although cloud seeding is certainly a highly innovative and effective technology, it does not eradicate the deeper source of the type of weather it combats and may not be a permanent response either.

University of Colorado researcher Katja Friedrich raised this issue: “It needs to be part of a broader water plan that involves conserving water efficiently, we can’t just focus on one thing. Also, there is a question whether you will be able to do it in a changing climate—you need cold temperatures and once it gets too warm you aren’t able to do the cloud seeding.”

SICI legislation is essential to address cyber attacks on water infrastructure

Kin and Fanning 2021 [Angus and Tom, US Senators, CNN Business, To combat cyberattacks, the US government and businesses must work more closely July 19, https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/19/perspectives/cyberattacks-security-us-government-businesses/index.html

This year, Congress has the ability to enact further proposals to close the gap between critical infrastructure providers and the federal government in addressing cyberattacks. Of these proposals, the concept of “systemically important critical infrastructure,” (SICI) is the most important.

Under this law, the Department of Homeland Security would designate a system or asset as “systemically important critical infrastructure” if its disruption is likely to cause widespread damage to the national security, economic security, or public health and safety of the United States. This could include the interruption of critical services, such as water or power, or the disruption of hospitals or financial systems. It would also include systems and assets whose disruption would undermine key national security or defense capabilities or lead to the widespread compromise of critical technologies or devices across the cyber landscape. Companies that own or operate these systems would gain additional “benefits” from the government, such as intelligence and liability protections, and assume additional “burdens,” such as incident reporting and security certification requirements.

SICI legislation would offer three main benefits prior to, and in the event of, a cyberattack. First, to prevent attacks and incidents, SICI entities would receive relevant threat intelligence collected on foreign actors and tailored to the risk profile of the company. Second, in the event of an attack, on one entity, the Secretary of Homeland Security would share relevant information with other companies operating critical infrastructure while protecting the victim company’s information. Finally, in the event that a company has made a good faith effort to comply with SICI performance standards, they would be provided safe harbor and be insulated from liability for damage caused by an attack on their systems.

But with those protections will come mutually agreed upon expectations. Under the legislation, private companies that are listed as managing SICI-designated entities would be required to meet a set of “performance standards” designed by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).These standards — which would include third-party assessments — are designed to ensure that the owners and operators of these entities are doing at least the minimum required to ensure the security of their assets.

This is not a one-size-fits-all solution, nor is it an additional layer of bureaucracy — it recognizes that not all companies are the same size, criticality, or maturity and many face existing regulations. The law takes into account these realities, ensuring that there is no undue burden in the pursuit of accountability.

Today, no such set of standards or benefits exist. Instead, there is a patchwork of sector-specific federal and state regulations, some of which — like those pertaining to the financial services and electricity sectors — largely meet muster, while others — like those in the water sector — do not. As a result, some companies would exceed any potential standard while a number of others would have work to do.

For companies whose current practices exceed SICI standards, the government would reward their cybersecurity investments with concrete legal liability protections. For the critical infrastructure providers that do not meet these standards, it ensures they would integrate cybersecurity into their decision making. Consequently, SICI legislation would work hand-in-hand with America’s critical infrastructure providers to establish mutual accountability and collaboration in a way not previously possible.

Americans depend on uninterrupted access to basic amenities like water, energy, and fuel to do the work necessary to keep this country running. The private sector and the federal government must collaborate under a truly joined effort to protect valuable assets. Codifying cybersecurity standards for the most critical infrastructure and improving public-private relations in cybersecurity are an essential step toward ensuring that work can be done. In an era where malicious actors and adversarial states are attacking our infrastructure with record intensity, Congress must not fail to deliver on common sense reforms which would secure the systems on which we all rely.

New federal water regulations cases confusion and a loss of confidence among farmers

Williams 2021 [, Keegan, Gaylord News, “WOTUS concerns Farmers, The Claremore Daily Progress, July 22, https://www.claremoreprogress.com/news/wotus-concerns-farmers/article_9d853bfe-eb33-11eb-8588-43596df932a0.html

“The Biden administration wanting to rewrite the rule alarms us because we just got one written that we think satisfies the law and keeps water clean and it’s barely had time to go into effect,” Oklahoma farmer Matt Muller said. “We have barely been able to start operating under that, but we had been comfortable with what we were going to have to deal with.”

In Oklahoma, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Water Resources Board are already heavily involved in the water regulation of the state, making Trump’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, more reasonable as farmers had more control over their land without need for such federal oversight.

“It causes us a lot of concern and worry that we don’t know what the new rule is and it’s hard to know when making business decisions about what kind of crop to grow or what changes to make on your land,” Moesel said. “I really don’t think federal action is needed in this area much at all because the states have had very aggressive and very active regulation of water for decades.”

Lack of federal and state protections is allowing fracking to pollute the U.S. with radioactive elements

NRDC 2021 [National Resource Defense Council, “Fracking’s radioactive problem” July 21 https://www.nrdc.org/media/2021/210720-2

WASHINGTON – Weak federal and state oversight of radioactive waste from oil and gas production has left workers, the public and drinking water supplies at risk, a new NRDC report shows.

While the risks have been clear for decades, the boom in fracking in recent years has increased the threats to public health and the environment. Every year billions of gallons of produced water and tons of underground rock and sand can bring long-buried radioactive elements to the surface.

The report, A Hot Fracking Mess: How the Lack of Regulation of Oil and Gas Production Leads to Radioactive Waste in our Water, Air and Communities, from NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) details how the lack of clear federal protections can leave workers and residents exposed to radiation from fracking brine spread on roadways, wastewater sent to municipal water plants, or contaminated solid waste shipped to landfills.

The report details the science behind radioactive elements related to oil and gas production and notes the need for government involvement to determine the full extent of the problem.

“For decades the oil and gas industry has gotten away with producing dangerous radioactive waste, posing an unacceptable risk to workers and nearby residents,” said Bemnet Alemayehu, a staff scientist at NRDC and co-author of the report. “Given the risk of cancer from radioactive waste, we need strong standards today.”

U.S. is developing a strategy to solve water safety

Water World 2021 [“Biden-Harris Administration invests $307M in rural water, wastewater infrastructure” July 14, https://www.waterworld.com/drinking-water/infrastructure-funding/press-release/14206819/bidenharris-administration-invests-307m-in-rural-water-wastewater-infrastructure

OHKAY OWINGEH, NM — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $307 million to modernize rural drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in 34 states and Puerto Rico (PDF, 224 KB).

The investments being announced today follow President Biden’s announcement last week of a Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework that will make the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history. The Framework will replace all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines, helping address barriers faced by communities of color, Tribal communities, and people who live in rural America.

“Every community needs safe, reliable and modern water and wastewater systems,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The consequences of decades of disinvestment in physical infrastructure have fallen most heavily on communities of color. This is why USDA is investing in water infrastructure in rural and Tribal communities that need it most – to help them build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before.”

USDA is financing the projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. The investments will help eliminate outdated pipes and service lines to safeguard public health and safety in rural communities. They will improve rural infrastructure for 250,000 residents and businesses.

U.S. water system is vulnerable to a catastrophic cyber attack

Miller 2021 [Maggie, The Hill, “Officials warn of cybersecurity vulnerabilities in water  systems” July 21, https://thehill.com/policy/equilibrium-sustainability/564189-officials-warn-of-cybersecurity-vulnerabilities-in-water-systems

Lawmakers and experts on Wednesday warned of gaping cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the nation’s critical water sector amid escalating attacks against a number of U.S. organizations.

“I believe that the next Pearl Harbor, the next 9/11, will be cyber, and we are facing a vulnerability in all of our systems, but water is one of the most critical and I think one of the most vulnerable,” Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), the co-chairman of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), testified to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“There is an incipient nightmare here, and it involves all sectors of our critical infrastructure, but water I think is probably the most vulnerable because of the dispersed nature of water systems in the country,” he warned.

King’s concerns came during a committee hearing on cybersecurity vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure that zeroed in on concerns around water and wastewater treatment facilities.

Cyber threats have soared in recent years, including recent ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure such as Colonial Pipeline, and the water sector has not been immune.

A hacker unsuccessfully attempted to poison the water supply of Oldsmar, Fla., earlier this year by breaching city systems that control chemical balances, while NBC News reported that a hacker separately breached a water treatment plant in San Francisco in January. The Justice Department in March indicted an individual on a charge of hacking into and tampering with water systems in a rural Kansas county.

“It was through sheer luck that none of these incidents affected customers,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), the other co-chairman of the CSC, testified to the same Senate panel on Wednesday. “A more sophisticated adversary could impact the safety of thousands of Americans through a cyberattack on our water supply.”

John Sullivan, the chief engineer of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, testified Wednesday that his organization was hit by a ransomware attack last year. While it was able to recover without any operations being compromised, Sullivan stressed that many of the nation’s 50,000 drinking water systems and 16,000 wastewater systems lack the resources and knowledge to respond to a cyberattack.

Higher food prices inevitable with current drought

Willis 2021 [Brianna, 23ABC, “Drought causing concern for local growers, higher prices for consumers” July 15, https://www.turnto23.com/news/california-drought/drought-causing-concern-for-local-growers-higher-prices-for-consumers

“It is a historic drought. It is one of the worse ones we’ve seen for a few different reasons. Number one, it’s very dry,” said Kern County Farm Bureau President John Chessher Moore.

Moore says as this drought continues, prices for agriculture will change.

“Another difference between this one and previous droughts is commodity prices are a little bit lower right now as well, so we have market pressures on top of environmental pressures.”

But Moore also says farmers are not going to be able to produce as many crops. And with the Central Valley being one of the leaders in crops Moore says everyone should be concerned with the repercussions we may face.

“Really, what we do in the United States specifically? We depend on the Central Valley for a stable and affordable food supply. Droughts like this one and the inability to move water efficiently through our current infrastructure is cause for concern.”

Moore adds with a decrease in supply — and likely not a decrease in demand — price inflations will likely be on the rise.

The drought is causing wildfires throughout the west

Pigeon 2021 [Sean-Michael, National Review “Droughts are Devastating the West” July 13, https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/droughts-are-devastating-the-west/

As of today, there is virtually no county in the western United States that is not under drought conditions. Wildfires are increasing, water resources are drying up, and conservation efforts are not keeping pace. As Democrats offer unrealistic energy deals, conservatives should use this moment to take the lead on dearly needed conservation efforts.

Environmentalists often portray the problem of climate change as being off in the distant future. They tell the public that a two-degree increase in temperature over the next 50 years will negatively impact the entire planet. Or, at other times, the concern is that rising water levels will eventually threaten the coastlines. While those activists will implore the public that we need to act now, their message nonetheless implies the threat is years away. But the real problem is right on our doorstep.

Last year, around 37 percent of the west had sufficient rainfall, but today that number has tumbled to 0.76 percent. However, the precipitation numbers don’t show the human impact of the current problem. When water is scarce, nearly every part of the food chain is affected. The New York Times reports that,

in New Mexico, farmers along the Rio Grande were urged not to plant this year. Crop failures have been reported in Colorado and other farming areas. The level of Lake Mead, the huge reservoir on the Colorado River, is so low that Arizona, Nevada and other states will likely face cutbacks in supplies. In North Dakota, ranchers are trucking water and supplemental feed for their livestock because the rangelands are so dry and the vegetation is stunted.

Droughts also create conditions for wildfires, which have been spreading across the country at a record-breaking rate. So, what can we do about water shortages? For one, better education about how much water is wasted could help families conserve resources. To do that, though, we need to change the rhetoric around environmental policy to prioritize problems that voters can actually feel — such droughts, wildfires, and floods. People are more willing to adjust their behavior when the problem is more salient to them.

Lead exposure is widespread in the United States, primarily due to a failure in government action

Mulvihill 2021 [Keith, Communication Director NRDC, National Resource Defense Council, “Causes and Effects of Lead in Water” July 9 https://www.nrdc.org/stories/causes-and-effects-lead-water

Tough yet malleable and easy to bend and work with, lead became the chosen metal for water pipes long, long ago—a use, in fact, that dates back to the ancient Romans. Today we know that this material doesn’t belong in our homes, and certainly not in our drinking water systems. Lead is notoriously dangerous, with medical and public health experts agreeing that there is no safe level of lead in the human body. Additionally, this potent, irreversible neurotoxin is especially harmful to babies and young children.

In 2016, Flint, Michigan, made headlines around the world as it was revealed that blood-lead levels in children (in areas where lead in water had increased) had nearly doubled since the city started pumping in drinking water from a new source without properly treating it—a hasty, cost-saving move. The inadequate treatment and testing of the water resulted in a series of major water quality and health issues for Flint residents. These issues were chronically ignored, overlooked, and discounted by government officials even as complaints of foul-smelling, discolored, and off-tasting water mounted for 18 months.

The Flint water crisis represented government failure at the city, state, and federal levels. And it forced a national reckoning with the vulnerability of the nation’s aging water infrastructure.

Between 1900 and 1950, a majority of America’s largest cities installed lead water pipes—with some cities even mandating them for their durability. And because lead pipes can last 75 to 100 years, the legacy of lead pipes lives on today. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that there are currently 6 to 10 million lead service lines across the United States—and a 2021 NRDC survey found that there may be 12 million or more of these lead pipes.

Since the revelations in Flint, dozens of cities have been found to have dangerously elevated levels of lead in homes, schools, and daycare centers. High lead levels have been found in tap water in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Newark, New York, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C. One NRDC analysis found that between 2018 and 2020, 56 percent of the U.S. population drank from water systems with detectable levels of lead.

The issue isn’t limited to cities. A survey by NRDC shows that lead service lines (water pipes in the ground) are likely in use in every U.S. state, and that many states and utilities do not know where their lead service lines are. This means their inventories may grossly underestimate the number of lead lines, sometimes by millions.

Federal action is essential to ensure safe drinking water

National Law Review 2021 [“Safe drinking water act regulation proposed for 29 PFAS. Will Superfund Coverage be far behind? July 13, https://www.natlawreview.com/article/safe-drinking-water-act-regulation-proposed-29-pfas-will-superfund-coverage-be-far

Inside EPA reports this morning that EPA is ready to propose the regulation of a group of 29 PFAS under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  It remains to be seen how long it will take EPA to implement such regulations. 

We continue to better understand the ubiquitousness of these “forever chemicals” in our environment so we can only hope that EPA will have science, not hysteria, illuminate its path forward.  I wonder whether identification of some number of PFAS as hazardous substances covered by the Federal Superfund law will be far behind.

In the meantime, many states have their own PFAS standards, many other states have no standards at all, and the general public is left to wonder about the real risks relating to PFAS and what might be reasonably done to mitigate those risks.

“EPA’s proposed listing of a group of PFAS, based on the substances’ structural similarities, appears to respond to calls from states and others who have long urged the agency to consider regulating either blocks of the chemicals or the entire category at once, saying that approach is a more efficient means of addressing a class whose constituent substances number in the thousands.”

States are essential to resolve water rights issues

Frank 2021 [Richard, CNN, “America’s West is drying out. Here’s what we can do about  it” July 16, https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/16/opinions/droughts-western-us-update-policies-frank/index.html

Finally, in the United States, water rights are allocated and administered at the state level. In many western states (California being a prominent example), these hidebound and antiquated systems that were created in the 19th century still allocate water rights based simply on who obtained them first, rather than assessing how much water is actually needed and ensuring the distribution is equitable. Additionally, most of these rights were granted by states decades or even centuries before environmental values and needs could be part of the equation. As a result, these water rights systems are simply not flexible or nimble enough to deal effectively with the protracted droughts and water shortages of the 21st century. State legislatures can and should act to reform those outdated policies without delay.

Water Recycling is Essential to solve the Water Crisis

Simon, 2021 [Matt, Science Journalist, Wired, “A Massive Water Recycling Proposal Could Help Ease Drought” July, 7, https://www.wired.com/story/a-massive-water-recycling-proposal-could-help-ease-drought/

As the West withers under extreme drought, legislators in the US House of Representatives have introduced HR 4099, a bill that would direct the Secretary of the Interior to create a program to fund $750 million worth of water recycling projects in the 17 western states through the year 2027. (The bill, which was introduced at the end of June, is currently before the House Committee on Natural Resources.)

“This is beginning to be our new normal—88 percent of the West is under some degree of drought,” says Representative Susie Lee (D-Nevada), who introduced the bill. “Lake Mead is at the lowest level it has been at since the Hoover Dam was constructed. And the Colorado River has been in a drought for more than two decades.”

All the while, the population and economy in the western US have been booming, putting tremendous pressure on a dwindling water supply. “We have, I guess, more people—one. And there’s an increase in the agricultural area—two,” says Representative Grace Napolitano (D-California), who introduced the bill. “And then climate change is exacerbating the problem.”

Part of the solution, the legislators say, is to fund the construction of more facilities that can recycle the wastewater that flows out of our sinks, toilets, and showers. You may think that’s gross and preposterous, but the technology already exists—in fact, it’s been around for half a century. The process is actually rather simple. A treatment facility takes in wastewater and adds microbes that consume the organic matter. The water is then pumped through special membranes that filter out nasties like bacteria and viruses. To be extra sure, the water is then blasted with UV light to kill off microbes. The resulting water may actually be too pure for human consumption: If you drank it, the stuff might leach minerals out of your body, so the facility has to add minerals back. (I once drank the final product. It tastes like … water.)

The recycled H2O can be pumped underground into aquifers, then pumped out again when needed, purified once more, and sent to customers. Or it may instead be used for non-potable purposes, like for agriculture or industrial processes.

Basically, you’re taking wastewater that’d normally be treated and pumped out to sea—wasting it, really—and putting it back into the terrestrial water cycle, making it readily available again to people. “Part of what makes it so important as an element of water supply portfolios is its reliability,” says Michael Kiparsky, director of the Wheeler Water Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. “To the extent that urban centers exist and produce wastewater, it can be treated. It gives a reliable source of additional water supply—even in dry years when supply is limited and developing alternative sources would be difficult or impossible.”

Recycled water is also bankable, in a sense: Injecting it underground to recharge aquifers stores it up for use during droughts. This is likely to be particularly important in the American West, because climate change is both making droughts more punishing and futzing with the dynamics of rain. Modeling from climate scientists shows that future storms will be more intense, yet arrive less often. And by the end of the century, the mountain snowpack—which normally banks much of the West’s water until it melts into the spring runoff—is predicted to shrink by about half.

“Our hydrologic cycle is going to get more unpredictable,” says Rafael Villegas, program manager of Operation NEXT at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which has been recycling water since the 1970s for non-potable reuse. “Coupled with population growth, not only here in California, but where the water comes from—Nevada, Arizona, and Northern California—you can expect that there’s going to be additional demand on those systems. So we’re at the end of the straw, right? We have to then start thinking, how do we become more efficient with the water that we do have?”

Currently in California, about 10 percent of wastewater in municipal and industrial usage is recycled. The goal of Operation NEXT is to upgrade the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant so that it recycles 100 percent of its wastewater by 2035, producing enough purified water to sustain nearly a million households in LA.

The technology is there—it’s just a matter of deploying it all over the West. “This isn’t a moonshot, if you will,” says Brad Coffey, water resource manager at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has partnered with the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts on a water recycling demonstration facility. “This is really putting the building blocks together that have been tested and proven in many other facilities, and applying it to a regional scale.”

While water recycling is not a newfangled technology, it’s not a simple or cheap process, either. It takes time to retrofit a wastewater facility for efficient recycling, and the tab for building one from scratch can run into the billions. And once a facility is up and running, it takes a good amount of energy to push all that water through the filtering membranes and other equipment, which is also expensive.

Still, says Villegas, the bigger cost would be running out of time. “If we wait to act, we’re going to be too late,” says Villegas. While the bill would fund $750 million for projects over the next six years, it will take longer to actually build those facilities and bring them online. “A program like this is going to take multiple decades,” he continues. “So if you react a couple of decades later, then you’re already behind the eight ball.”

States are best equipped to solve the water crisis

Jacobo 2021 [Julia, ABC News, “How will the West solve a water crisis if climate change continues to get worse?” July 12, https://abcnews.go.com/US/west-solve-water-crisis-climate-change-continues-worse/story?id=78566068

Water management and conservation have already proven to be the most effective tactics in maintaining water supplies in the West, experts said.

Arizona water management is well-equipped to ensure supplies to the desert community, Saffell said. The state has been at a Tier Zero level of shortage, the highest classification for a lake shortage, for the past couple of years. It decreases water allotment slightly, but Saffell expects the state to move to an unprecedented Tier One conservation level in 2022, when they will then decrease their draw from the Colorado River by 8%.

It will be the first Tier One shortage ordered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Reclamation in lower Colorado River basin states such as Arizona, California, Nevada and some states in northern Mexico. Once Lake Mead, which supplies water to about 25 million people in the region, reaches a certain level, each state will have to extract less water, Berggren said.

Officials especially have to ensure that reservoirs don’t get too low, or else they will enter a “dead zone,” in which the water levels will have sunk below the pumps, Kammeyer said.

“So even if there’s still water left in the reservoir, we physically cannot get any more water out of the reservoir,” she said.

“So before it basically crashes, let’s proactively take less water out of that system to hopefully help stave off those really low elevation levels — with the hopes that maybe next winter we’ll get a decent snowpack and those can refill a little bit,” Berggren said.

The West has one of the fastest-growing populations, seeing an increase in large cities of 9.1% since 2010, according to the 2020 census. But that does not need to automatically equate to a higher water demand if conservation is implemented effectively, Berggren said.

To give an example of the potential for conservation in households alone, Lund estimated that urban water use in California at 130 gallons per capita per day, while urban areas of Spain or Israel use closer to 25 gallons per capita per day.

With every drought in the West, officials have made improvements in water management, Lund said.

And the efforts to conserve have already made great strides in recent decades. In California, cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco are using the same amount of water, or less, as they did 30 years ago, despite substantial increases in population, Heather Cooley, director of research at the Pacific Institute, wrote in 2019.

North America facing a disastrous water crisis

Aljazerra 2021 [“Mexico water supply buckles on worsening drought, crops at risk July 2, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/2/mexico-water-supply-buckles-on-worsening-drought-crops-at-risk

Mexico’s drought parallels that of the western United States and Canada, where crop yields are threatened and water rationing has been imposed amid extreme heat, a consequence of worldwide climate change.

Nearly 500 people died in western Canada in the past week as record-breaking temperatures produced life-threatening conditions for the elderly and vulnerable groups. In the US, the heat buckled highways, hobbled public transit and triggered rolling electricity outages.

While rains were 3 percent below average across Mexico as a whole last year, the strain on water reserves was exacerbated by increased domestic demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, a US government report showed last month.

Water wars coming in the American Southwest

Little 2021 [Amanda, prof. of Journalism at Vanderbilt, The Columbian, “Little: New water wars are  coming to the American West” July 1 https://www.columbian.com/news/2021/jul/01/little-new-water-wars-are-coming-to-the-american-west/

The local clashes could become much larger regional battles. The Colorado River Basin, for example, is divided between the Lower Basin, which spans wealthy, politically powerful and largely urban portions of California, Nevada and Arizona, and the agricultural Upper Basin, reaching across Utah, Wyoming, western Colorado and northern New Mexico. The law technically allocates the same amount of water to both basins, but also grants the Lower Basin priority access. As the Colorado River dwindles (streamflow is 20 percent less than a century ago) mandatory restrictions could come into play, leading to protracted litigation among seven powerful states and economic devastation on both sides.

The good news is that scarcity can also lead to innovative partnerships and compromises. Recent agreements between Colorado farms and cities, for example, have creative alternative approaches to “buy and dry” transactions. Water managers are applying new technologies and legal strategies that allow a portion of the water supply to be diverted so both farm and city can thrive. Across the nation, better forest and farm management can improve soil health, lock in moisture, and go a long way to protecting our future water supply. Emerging technologies can also play a role in drought resilience: recycled wastewater and desalination facilities can transform ocean water and sewage into hyper-pure drinking water; lining for canals and ducts and faster detection of pipeline leaks and bursts can avoid massive waste. Investors should fund these innovations, as well as efficient agriculture technologies from dripline irrigation to the development of drought-tolerant crops.

Some of the world’s most intractable conflicts, spanning millennia — between India and Pakistan, for example, and Israel and Palestine — have been fueled by disputes over increasingly limited water resources. Water is the lifeblood of any economy — without it, there can be no agriculture (which accounts for more than 70 percent of global freshwater demand), no food sovereignty, no renewable hydropower and no economic growth. If we don’t plan ahead, many American states in and beyond the West will be embroiled in resource wars.

Water crisis will have extreme detrimental impact on the economy

Clouse 2021 [CJ, contributor, Green Biz, “Water scarcity: A growing risk for companies and investors” July 8, https://www.greenbiz.com/article/water-scarcity-growing-risk-companies-and-investors

Concerns about water are not limited to the American West, of course. Water scarcity has become a global crisis, one that will only worsen as the planet continues to heat up. Despite how crucial water is to business, and to life itself, the risks that come with not having enough of it have often been overlooked by investors, who’ve tended to focus more on carbon.

That is changing, though, as severe, long-term droughts in important agricultural hubs such as California give investors mounting reasons to worry. Just a couple of weeks ago, analysts at Barclays identified water scarcity as “the most important environmental concern” for the global consumer staples sector, which includes foods and beverages, household goods and hygiene products. In fact, the analysts estimate that average EBITDA impact from water is three times higher than that of carbon for the sector.

This is largely because of its dependence on agriculture, which consumes the most water by far, slurping up roughly 70 percent globally and wasting about 60 percent of that, largely through inefficient applications. Industries including energy and manufacturing use up 20 percent more, give or take. And demand from agriculture, industry and municipalities will only grow — the United Nations projects a 20 to 30 percent increase by 2050 — as the world’s population rises to somewhere around 9.7 billion.

Lagging disclosure

This increasing demand in the midst of plummeting supply spells trouble for businesses. In 2018, CDP analyzed a group of 296 companies that had consistently responded to its requests for water data. Of this group, 75 percent reported exposure to water risks — which include operational, regulatory, reputational and financial — compared to 70 percent in 2015. Data from a broader group of respondents that year, 783, showed that even though companies have wizened up to the risk, only 29 percent had set water-reduction targets.

A loss in global water supply risks human survival

Butt 2021 [AI, Hours TV, “Why it is important for world to save water on priority basis” July 10, https://hourstv.com/need-to-save-water/

Current trends in global water supply and demand suggest that humans have failed to value water as a scarce resource till now. According to reports by World Data Lab, more than 2.3 billion of the global population is facing water scarcity as availability per person has fallen below 500 cubic liters. By 2050, this decline in the water supply is expected to double and in the next 10 years, the global water demand is expected to increase by 50%. When waters run dry, the populations won’t be able to drink, produce food, or maintain hygiene resulting in the loss of life and economic activity. Understandably, natural water reserves in their diverse form are more than enough to last generations upon generations but the distribution tactics, ruthless use by industry, and poor management by the states have jeopardized the availability too. Due to this reason, need to save water has increased more than ever.

The attempt by human beings to manage the water resources for their sustenance has proven unsustainable so far. The process has disrupted the natural river flow system; dried up streams; polluted water bodies; and damaged ecosystems. In an urge to meet short-term economic goals the human beings have often ignored the long-term impacts of uncontrolled water usage on the environment, economy, water sustainability in particular regions, and ultimately global health. According to countless warnings and reports by United Nations, global freshwater has decreased 55% since 1960 while the demand continues to grow. The concerns about whether the countries will be able to meet their future demand for water consumption or not are growing over the last several decades.

The Need to Save Water for Human Survival

According to studies by the University of United Nations (UNU), 40% of the world population will face extreme water scarcity by 2035, putting increased pressure on ecosystems to provide freshwater. Scientists e

Policy discourse is essential to understand community based engagement

Bereket @ de Loe 2021 [Isaac, professors at university of waterloo, Environmental Politics, “Exploring the influence of agricultural actors on water quality policy: the role of discourse and framing” July 6, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09644016.2021.1947634?journalCode=fenp20

Policy processes traditionally dominated by government increasingly are open to participation by diverse non-governmental actors. This can result in more inclusive policy making, but undue influence that undermines democratic processes is also possible. We use insights from critical discourse analysis and framing theory to assess the discursive influence of non-state actors in the context of a government-led policy process to address eutrophication problems in the Lake Erie basin, shared by Canada and the United States. We analyze the actions of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation within the policy process to develop Domestic Action Plans to deal with nutrient runoffs. This research provides novel insights into how policy influence may occur in a process with multiplicity of stakeholders. In the context of efforts towards inclusive resource governance, this approach helps us reveal hurdles to the achievement of goals for sustainable resource use.

Lead pipes are the leading cause of contaminated drinking water in the U.S.  We need to remove lead pipes for safe drinking water

NRDC 2021 [National Resource Defense Council, “NRDC Estimates 12 Million Lead Pipes May Connect Water Mains to Homes: Most States Fail to Track Location of Lead Pipes” July 8, https://www.nrdc.org/media/2021/210707

WASHINGTON – The number of lead pipes carrying water to homes in all 50 states ranges from 9.7 million to 12.8 million, yet most states do not track this public health threat, according to a new analysis from NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). In a national survey of lead service lines – the lead pipes that carry water from water mains under the street to homes – NRDC found 40 states could not say where their lead pipes are located. Relying on survey data, estimates from industry sources, and projections derived from the states that have done detailed assessments, NRDC warns the lack of data for the total number of lead pipes hinders efforts to secure safe drinking water. There is no safe level of lead, which causes irreversible harm, particularly to children.

“Drinking water won’t be safe until the country pulls the millions of lead pipes out of the ground found in every state,” said Erik D. Olson, senior strategic director for health at NRDC. “President Biden’s American Jobs Plan is a historic opportunity to fix the nation’s lead pipe crisis. Removing lead pipes will improve health and create jobs, starting in low-income communities and communities of color with the highest rates of lead exposure.”

Community action is necessary to solve water issues

Martin 2021 [Nick, staff writer, The New Republic, “When Seas Burn and Governments Do Nothing, Community Action Is the Only Way” July 7, https://newrepublic.com/article/162909/gulf-pemex-fire-pipeline-community-action

Those like myself who follow and report on national politics, however, can sometimes overstate federal authority as the be-all and end-all for emissions and climate change. While we do need national governments to act, individuals, when they band together as communities, have far more power than one might think.

On Monday, oil pipeline company Plains All American announced that it will be shelving its plan to construct the Byhalia Connection pipeline, a project also sponsored by Valero that was slated to cut through Memphis on its way to Byhalia, Mississippi, where its oil would then be exported. In a statement, a spokesperson for Plains All American wrote that the decision was the result of “lower US oil production resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.” But as Otis Sanford argued at Local 24 News, the pipeline also failed because the communities affected came together and said no.

Byhalia Connection’s developers believed, based on decades of industry practice, that they could get away with slating an oil pipeline to run through several Black neighborhoods in southwest Memphis. A land agent working for the company reportedly even went as far as to admit that Plains All American constructed the route because the company believed it offered, “the point of least resistance.” In other words: Rich white political donors do not live there, making it the ideal location for an underground pipeline. But a group of citizens—Sanford names “Justin Pearson, Kizzy Jones, Kathy Robinson, and others who launched Memphis Community Against Pollution”—took a stand.

In partnership with the Memphis-based environmental group Protect Our Aquifer, the communities filed lawsuits against Plains All American, pressured and petitioned Tennessee state agencies to rescind the pipeline’s permits, and advocated for their rights to live on unpolluted lands, until they organized their way into the national spotlight. “This community is standing up and saying no more, we’ve had enough,” Robinson told ABC News. “For the past 50 years, this specific community in Memphis has received whatever the rest of Memphis and Shelby County would dare not accept in other places.”

This story is not an exception. Local, community-driven resistance has been one of the most effective ways to highlight and counter the cold ruthlessness of extractive outfits. It is the same approach that was taken by Black and Native communities throughout Virginia and North Carolina as Duke and Dominion Energy pulled strings within the state governments to try and force through the Atlantic Coast pipeline. It’s the same one being employed by Line 3 water protectors and allies in Minnesota.

The Memphis victory, like the ACP victory, presents a possibility. Local and regional rejections of extractive energy production, particularly those of the fossil fuel variety, may currently be the best opportunity for communities within the U.S. to attain some semblance of environmental justice. That this is the case is an indictment of the current administration but also a testament to the power of communities, regardless of socioeconomic or political status.

At present, projects like the Line 3, Line 5, Dakota Access, and Jordan Cove pipelines are, theoretically, one stroke of the president’s pen away from cancellation. But depending on career politicians to make difficult decisions in the name of environmental justice does not feel nearly as sustainable as the model implemented in Memphis.

Certainly, community-driven responses sans federal assistance have their limits: Community action couldn’t have stopped the fire in the Gulf this past weekend. Our governments should already be working alongside our communities, not against them. But until that happens, neighborhoods banding together to stand up for themselves may be our best shot.

Federal action is essential to solve the water crisis

Wall 2021 [Caitlin, policy manager, Aububon.org, “Federal Action Needed to Address Disastrous Drought, Wildfires, and Ecosystems Degradation in the West” Jul6 6 https://www.audubon.org/news/federal-action-needed-address-disastrous-drought-wildfires-and-ecosystem

The western half of the United States is facing multiple, connected crises: long-term megadrought, dangerous heat waves, and the onset of a disastrous fire season. Water levels are at historic lows, threatening communities, farmers, birds and wildlife, and habitat. Unfortunately, with most of summer still ahead of us, these challenging conditions show no sign of dissipating and could threaten water supplies, communities, public health, and birds as well as critical ecosystems for months, if not longer.

News of the compounding drought, temperature, and fire threats is rightfully making national headlines—drawing much-needed federal attention to these climate impacts. In April, the Biden Administration created an Interagency Working Group to focus on drought relief, chaired by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. In addition, multiple Congressional hearings focused on the need for addressing western water challenges, ranging from federal appropriations to legislative solutions to proposals from agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. And Audubon is actively engaged in supporting drought response and water conservation to protect birds and people. In the short-term, we’re supporting immediate disaster relief for communities hit hardest by compounding issues of drought, fire, COVID-19, and historic inequalities. Over the long-term, we’re advocating for stronger science, more federal engagement and coordination, increased funding, and more protections for natural resources to promote solutions that benefit birds and build resilient communities and ecosystems.

Water diversification is essential to manage the water crisis

Hall 2021 [Maurice, The Hill, “A wake-up call for water resilience in the West” July 5, https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/561557-a-wake-up-call-for-water-resilience-in-the-west

We can draw valuable lessons from the cities and water agencies that are best prepared, perhaps most notably in Southern California. Those cities and agencies in the best position have taken a clear-eyed view of their drier futures, accepting long ago that climate change is real. They have invested billions to diversify their water portfolios, including reducing demand, desalination, recycling and storing water above and below round.

We have to apply this diversification strategy across the board, not just for well-resourced cities, but also for farms, disadvantaged communities and the environment. We can start by more strategically leveraging water storage capacity — and the most storage capacity can be provided by our groundwater basins. We need proactive groundwater management, as enabled by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in California and active management areas in Arizona.

We must now extend new authorities so that a wider diversity of communities, such as those across rural Arizona, can proactively manage their water futures. With solid management in place, we can then operate groundwater storage projects in concert with improved operation of reservoirs to compensate for reduced snowpack and mitigate for more extreme flooding caused by climate change.

Cyber attacks risk critical water infrastructure systems

MWUA 2021 [Marine Water utilities Association, “Cybersecurity in the Water World-Why is it important to us?” June 24, https://mwua.org/cybersecurity-in-the-water-world-why-is-it-important-to-us/

Water and wastewater systems are key in the nation’s infrastructure. Supplying potable drinking water, fire protection, and safe collection and treatment of waste are among some of the critical services provided to communities across the country. In order to achieve these goals, today’s systems often require extensive computer systems and remote access to keep them performing efficiently and effectively. Thus, it is essential for many to be able to connect through the internet and expand this technology. However, with the use of complex computer systems and related technologies, new cyber vulnerabilities and risks come into play.

According to the Director of National Intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security, cybersecurity is the greatest threat to critical infrastructure in the United States. Many facilities have already experienced cybersecurity events that have disrupted their business procedures and/or vital operations. Water and wastewater systems are no exception to this ever-looming threat and roughly 94% of cybersecurity professionals are more concerned after COVID-19. These cyber-attacks can and do cause significant harm. This includes, just to name a few, impacting water delivery by opening and closing valves, overriding alarms or disabling equipment, and compromising customers’ and/or employees’ personal information and data. Cyber-attacks are a very real risk to water and wastewater systems and one that should be evaluated with the critical role these systems play in mind.

Water privatization would be disastrous for local communities

Food and Water Watch 2021 [No Water Privatization in the Infrastructure Plan” July 1 https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/No-Water-Privatization-in-the-Infrastructure-Plan-2021-07-01-2.pdf

Water Crisis risk undermining U.S.-Mexico Relations

Varady, Gerlak and Pumme 2021 [Robert, prof of Env. Policy at University of Arizona, Andrea, Prof. of Geography atUniversity of Arizona, Stephen Paul, Prof. of Political Science at Colorado State University, Mexico Daily, “Megadrought at the border strains Mexico-US-Water relations” July 3, https://mexiconewsdaily.com/opinion/megadrought-at-the-border-strains-mexico-us-water-relations/

The United States and Mexico are tussling over their dwindling shared water supplies after years of unprecedented heat and insufficient rainfall.

Sustained drought on the middle-lower Rio Grande since the mid-1990s means less Mexican water flows to the U.S. The Colorado River Basin, which supplies seven U.S. states and two Mexican states, is also at record low levels.

A 1944 treaty between the U.S. and Mexico governs water relations between the two neighbors. The International Boundary and Water Commission it established to manage the 450,000-square-mile Colorado and Rio Grande basins has done so adroitly, according to our research.

That able management kept U.S.-Mexico water relations mostly conflict-free. But it masked some well-known underlying stresses: a population boom on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, climate change and aging waterworks.

The mostly semiarid U.S.-Mexico border region receives less than 18 inches of annual rainfall, with large areas getting under 12 inches. That’s less than half the average annual rainfall in the U.S., which is mainly temperate.

The 1940s, however, were a time of unusual water abundance on the treaty rivers. When American and Mexican engineers drafted the 1944 water treaty, they did not foresee today’s prolonged megadrought.

Nor did they anticipate the region’s rapid growth. Since 1940 the population of the 10 largest pairs of cities that straddle the U.S.-Mexico border has mushroomed nearly twentyfold, from 560,000 people to some 10 million today.

This growth is powered by a booming, water-dependent manufacturing industry in Mexico that exports products to U.S. markets. Irrigated agriculture, ranching and mining compete with growing cities and expanding industry for scarce water.

Today, there’s simply not enough of it to meet demand in the border areas governed by the 1944 treaty.

Three times since 1992 Mexico has fallen short of its five-year commitment to send 1.75 million acre-feet of water across the border to the U.S. Each acre-foot can supply a U.S. family of four for one year.

In the fall of 2020, crisis erupted in the Rio Grande Valley after years of rising tensions and sustained drought that endanger crops and livestock in both the U.S. and Mexico.

In September 2020, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared that “Mexico owes Texas a year’s worth of Rio Grande water.” The next month, workers in Mexico released water from a dammed portion of Mexico’s Río Conchos destined to flow across the border to partially repay Mexico’s 345,600-acre-foot water debt to the U.S.

Frustrated farmers and protesters in the Mexican state of Chihuahua clashed with Mexican soldiers sent to protect the workers. A 35-year-old farmer’s wife and mother of three was killed.

The U.S. is facing a fresh water emergency and U.S. failed Infrastructure is elaborating the problem

Jenkins 2021 [Susanne, senior policy analyst at Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, “Freshwater Scarcity Risk Rises in the U.S. and Eight District” July 2, https://www.stlouisfed.org/publications/regional-economist/third-quarter-2021/water-scarcity-risk-rises-us-eighth-district

In the 1746 edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack, Benjamin Franklin quipped, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”1 Two hundred seventy-five years later, the U.S. that Franklin helped found is now facing that proverbial dry well as regions of the country experience climate change-induced temperature extremes and changing precipitation patterns. A record-breaking heat wave in the early summer of 2021 has already seared the western and southwestern U.S., exacerbating a deep long-term drought. Drought is also affecting the High Plains and upper Midwest. Meanwhile, demand for fresh water has risen because of population growth and increased usage from agricultural and industrial sectors that rely on consistent access to plentiful supplies. Growing freshwater scarcity risk in the U.S. and the world is revealing the need for more optimal mechanisms for allocating water. Fresh surface water from rivers, lakes and reservoirs, as well as fresh groundwater in aquifers, has long been seen as limitless, and as a result, has been far undervalued. This undervaluation has led to misallocation and overuse. For example, the combination of diminishing precipitation and rising demand has caused U.S. aquifer levels to decline more quickly than can be naturally replenished. Misallocation of water also has led to inadequate investments in U.S. water infrastructure, which is crumbling. Leaks alone cause 2.1 trillion gallons of water to be lost each year, according to the U.S. Water Alliance. Misallocation has also hindered the development of new water technologies and led to an increasing number of water-rights lawsuits before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Water privatization is an incredibly expensive financing option.

Privatization through publicprivate partnerships, private investment schemes or asset recycling is not a source of new funding, but an expensive and high-risk way to finance water projects. The typical water publicprivate partnership carries a cost of capital that can be five times the cost of the low interest bonds available to municipal water systems. Water privatization will lead to rate hikes on households already struggling to afford their water bills. Because the private entity recovers its financing costs and profit through user bills, privatizing water and sewer systems lead to considerable rate hikes for households and local businesses. Already, nearly one in three U.S. households struggles to afford their water and sewer bills, and households nationally have accrued billions of dollars of water debt during the pandemic. They cannot afford the price of privatization. The problem at hand is that local government utilities rely almost exclusively on water bills to cover the cost of infrastructure projects because of the loss of federal support for water infrastructure. Federal funding has fallen by 77 percent in real terms since its peak in 1977. Local governments cannot continue to raise their water rates to levels that are increasingly unaffordable for households. Our public water utilities have a funding problem, not a financing problem. Privatization would only exacerbate the main problem facing our public water utilities. Water privatization is not a viable or just solution for rural, small or disadvantaged communities. Private companies focus on profit maximization and avoid areas where perhousehold costs are high, the customer base has less wealth and bill collection problems can abound. A private company will acquire such a system if the system is contiguous to its existing network and if it can redistribute the costs across its other service areas. Because water rates are regressive, this type of subsidization is inequitable and disproportionately burdens working- and middle-class families across communities. Water privatization can trap communities in expensive deals. Public-private partnerships that involve private financing are usually 30 to 40 years long, and they are extremely difficult to exit early. After taking office, the new municipal services director in Bayonne, NJ, posed as his first question: how do we get out of the city’s water concession contract? He was told the city would have to repay the $150 million concession fee that it no longer has. Since entering into a decades-long concession deal in 2012, Bayonne has experienced rate hikes of 50 percent despite promises of rate stabilization. According to the Hudson Reporter, a Board of Education Trustee recently told the new city council, “You didn’t sign the contract, and neither did the citizens of Bayonne, but everyone is suffering because of it.” Similarly, Middletown, PA, was unable to exit its water concession deal, and attempted to stop surcharges in court and lost. Water privatization is not a solution for our nation’s water needs. Water privatization can increase costs, worsen service quality and allow infrastructure assets to deteriorate. There is ample evidence that maintenance backlogs, wasted water, sewage spills and worse service often follow privatization. In fact, poor performance is the primary reason that local governments reverse the decision to privatize and resume public operation of previously contracted services.

Low risk of US-Russian war

Clint Reach, Edward Geist, Abby Doll, Joe Cheravitch, Rand Corporation, June 2021, https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE330.html

The following section examines implications of Russia’s military posture and force-projection capabilities, then details the most stressing case for a U.S.-Russia conventional confrontation: a major great-power war in the Baltic states. A central question as the United States reorients its defense priorities toward great power competition is where and how such a conflict might occur. Recent U.S. and Russian literature on the probability of conflict has assessed that the likelihood of the outbreak of large-scale war is low.

PFAS chemicals in water need regulated by the federal government.  These chemicals are deadly in the body and threaten the environmen

Annie Sneed, 1-22, 21, Scientific American, Forever Chemicals Are Widespread in U.S. Drinking Water, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/forever-chemicals-are-widespread-in-u-s-drinking-water/ [Full study referenced in the article — https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00713]

Many Americans fill up a glass of water from their faucet without worrying whether it might be dangerous. But the crisis of lead-tainted water in Flint, Mich., showed that safe, potable tap water is not a given in this country. Now a study from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit advocacy organization, reveals a widespread problem: the drinking water of a majority of Americans likely contains “forever chemicals.” These compounds may take hundreds, or even thousands, of years to break down in the environment. They can also persist in the human body, potentially causing health problems. A handful of states have set about trying to address these contaminants, which are scientifically known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). But no federal limits have been set on the concentration of the chemicals in water, as they have for other pollutants such as benzene, uranium and arsenic. With a new presidential administration coming into office this week, experts say the federal government finally needs to remedy that oversight. “The PFAS pollution crisis is a public health emergency,” wrote Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs, in a recent public statement.Of the more than 9,000 known PFAS compounds, 600 are currently used in the U.S. in countless products, including firefighting foam, cookware, cosmetics, carpet treatments and even dental floss. Scientists call PFASs “forever chemicals” because their chemistry keeps them from breaking down under typical environmental conditions. “One of the unique features of PFAS compounds is the carbon-fluorine bond,” explains David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG. “That bond is incredibly strong.” Ultimately this means that if PFASs enter the environment, they build up. These chemicals can linger on geologic time scales, explains Chris Higgins, a civil and environmental engineer at the Colorado School of Mines. Because of their widespread use, release and disposal over the decades, PFASs show up virtually everywhere: in soil, surface water, the atmosphere, the deep ocean—and even the human body. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site says that the agency has found PFASs in the blood of nearly everyone it has tested for them, “indicating widespread exposure to these PFAS in the U.S. population.” Scientists have found links between a number of the chemicals and many health concerns—including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, developmental toxicity, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced preeclampsia and hypertension, and immune dysfunction. Concerned about PFASs’ persistence and potential harm, Andrews and his EWG colleague Olga Naidenko set out to assess Americans’ exposure to the chemicals via their drinking water. PFASs can get into this water in a variety of ways. For example, industrial sites might release the compounds into the water or air. Or they can leach from disposal sites. They can also percolate into groundwater from the firefighting foams used at airports and military bases. Andrews and Naidenko say there is a need for research into drinking-water levels because the federal government does not require testing water for PFASs. This leaves a gap in scientists’ understanding of overall exposure. Andrews and Naidenko focused their analysis on two types of these chemicals—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)—because those compounds had the most available data. The two researchers pulled that information together from various sources, including state agencies, the federal government and the EWG’s own measurements. The scientists estimated that more than 200 million people—the majority of Americans—have tap water contaminated with a mixture of PFOA and PFOS at concentrations of one part per trillion (ppt) or higher. Andrews and Naidenko say previous research shows that levels higher than one ppt can increase the risk of conditions such as testicular cancer, delayed mammary gland development, liver tumors, high cholesterol and effects on children’s immune response to vaccinations. “It’s a calculation of what would be a safe exposure level,” Andrews says. Even when the researchers shifted their analysis to a higher level of 10 ppt, they still found some 18 million to 80 million Americans to be exposed. Representatives of the chemical industry have disagreed with such concerns. “We believe there is no scientific basis for maximum contaminant levels lower than 70 ppt,” the American Chemistry Council said in statement to Scientific American.Experts not involved in the new research, which was published recently in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, say these findings are exactly what they had expected—and that is troubling. “This is going to be kind of sad, but I wasn’t at all surprised that they exist in many different water systems and that many, many people are getting exposed through their drinking water,” says Jamie DeWitt, an associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine. Zhanyun Wang, an environmental scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, raises concerns about how widespread this class of chemicals is. “It’s a little bit scary that it is so prevalent in the U.S., which has quite a big population,” he says. “Now that we know that PFAS has a rather low safety level.” And Andrews and Naidenko’s study does not even fully capture Americans’ exposure to these chemicals because it only looks at two PFAS compounds and one source. “We’re also being exposed to many more PFASs via the drinking water,” Wang says. The paper omitted other compounds because of a lack of widespread data, “but it means [the study offers] a conservative estimate of how we are being exposed to PFASs,” he adds. Higgins notes that people are also exposed to the compounds in substances besides drinking water, such as household products and food. “It’s a much broader exposure question,” he says. “Those other sources of exposure should not be ignored.”Andrews and Naidenko agree that the lack of data on other PFAS contamination is a problem. Other tests of drinking water from five systems in Massachusetts showed that levels of specific PFASs researchers looked for have risen over the past few decades. When scientists tested for PFASs as a group (to include compounds for which there are not much individual data), the increase was even larger. It remains unclear whether this trend holds true across the rest of the country. “That is really [because of] an absence of data—where the regulatory bodies have not kept up with the chemical industry, which has really moved away from PFOA and PFOS into hundreds of replacement compounds that are equally persistent and likely do contaminate a significant number of water systems across the country,” Andrews says. The Environmental Protection Agency says it is working on the PFAS problem. “Aggressively addressing PFAS in drinking water continues to be an active and ongoing priority for the EPA,” an EPA spokesperson wrote to Scientific American. “The agency has taken significant steps to monitor for PFAS in drinking water and is following the process provided under the Safe Drinking Water Act to address these chemicals.”Technologies to remove PFASs from drinking water exist on both household and municipal levels. Granular activated carbon filters and reverse osmosis are two options, but they are costly and high-maintenance—and the burden falls on taxpayers. “PFASs are produced by companies, for which they receive a profit,” DeWitt says. “And then residents end up paying to clean up the pollution.” On top of that, PFAS that is removed from drinking water may simply end up elsewhere, such as in a landfill or river. Some states have instituted or proposed limits on PFASs in drinking water, but experts say federal action is needed to tackle such a widespread problem. President Joe Biden’s administration may finally address that need. His campaign’s environmental justice plan specifically called out forever chemicals. And the plan said that the president will “tackle PFAS pollution by designating PFAS as a hazardous substance, setting enforceable limits for PFAS in the Safe Drinking Water Act, prioritizing substitutes through procurement, and accelerating toxicity studies and research on PFAS.” The new administration could carry out all of these goals unilaterally through executive action, without Congress’s cooperation. Some experts appear optimistic about this prospect. “I’m hopeful that the incoming administration will reempower the EPA so that it can actually create regulations to protect public health,” DeWitt says. “That is the agency’s charge—that is its mission.”

Federal standards for produced water aff

Erin Douglas, 1-21, 21, My San Antonio, Toxic substance or water supply?, https://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/drink-oil-field-wastewater-Texas-15887919.php,

Deep underneath the ground, fluids travel down and shoot through ancient shale formations, fracturing rock and starting the flow of oil — the essential part of hydraulic fracturing technology that’s transformed America’s oil industry. But that’s not all that comes up out of the earth. Salty, contaminated water — held in porous rocks formed hundreds of millions of years ago — is also drawn to the surface during oil production. Before an oil price war and the coronavirus pandemic caused prices to crash in March, Texas wells were producing more than 26 million barrels of the ancient and contaminated water a day, according to an analysis by S&P Global Platts.In the oil patch, figuring out how to dispose of this water “is something that only gets worse,” said Rene Santos, an energy analyst for S&P Global Platts. “Every time (companies) produce, they have to do something with the water.”Usually, it’s later injected back underground, into separate wells — a practice that has been linked to increased seismic activity. Sometimes it’s reused in another fracking well. But a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision allowing Texas to regulate the discharge of the water after it’s treated could be a first step toward new uses of the water — at least that’s what some Texas lawmakers and oil and gas producers hope.  The EPA told the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality last week that the state could take charge of the federal government’s responsibilities to regulate discharging so-called “produced water,” if the water met certain toxicity standards. Previously, operators had to obtain permission from both the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, and the EPA before discharging the water. For now, oil and gas operators may apply for individual permits from the TCEQ on a case-by-case basis, an agency spokesperson said. State regulations for the discharges will remain the same as current federal standards, according to a TCEQ press release Wednesday. No applications have yet been received, a spokesperson said. For every barrel of oil produced in the Permian Basin of West Texas, an average of six barrels of water come up with it, according to an S&P analysis. State Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, argues that the water could eventually help the state replenish its diminishing water supplies. As chairman of the state Senate Committee on Water and Rural Affairs, he helped produce an interim report ahead of the 2021 legislative session that included such a vision — and now Perry says the recent EPA decision will help get federal regulation out of the way.“This is a water supply that hasn’t been cultivated or tapped,” Perry said. “It’s a sin to waste that resource.”The industry, too, has “a lot of excitement” about turning the water into something of value rather than an expense, said Jason Modglin, president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.But scientists and industry observers say the idea is a long shot. Produced water contains high amounts of salt, as well as other minerals and toxins in varying amounts depending on the shale formation it comes from, and technology to make the water potable is still expensive.Bridget Scanlon, a hydrogeologist and senior research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, said little is known about what risks produced water could pose after treatment, and significant scientific analysis needs to be conducted before it is discharged into the environment.“We don’t know as much about this” compared to other sources of water, she said. “At the end of the day, you need to have confidence in what you are doing.”A first step?Perry said he will soon introduce a bill that would direct research and analysis on the technology, costs and feasibility of using produced water for new purposes. His vision in the coming decades: big plants in West Texas and the Panhandle that transform the salty, contaminated water into something that can replenish aquifers on a mass scale.“This was the first step, really — one of the steps that had been a barrier,” Perry said of the change in regulations. Now, he said, “the regulatory environment is set up to have the produced water conversation.”But reusing produced water is far from financially viable today, industry analysts said. It’s much cheaper to dispose of the wastewater in a well than to treat it. And it’s usually cheaper for companies to buy fresh water for hydraulic fracturing than to treat produced water for that purpose.“The technology is there, but it’s the expense,” said Santos, the energy analyst. For small operators, especially, “it’s economically prohibitive to clean the water.” An entire industry has sprung up around supplying fracking operations with water and disposing of the produced water: The water management market for oil and gas production in the U.S. was worth $33.6 billion in 2018, according to IHS Markit, a London-based energy analysis firm.“It’s a big business,” said Parker Fawcett, another S&P Global energy analyst.What’s in the water Environmental groups and some scientists warn against releasing the produced water, even after treatment, into Texas streams and rivers. “We don’t have standards for produced water — we’ve never had to deal with it,” said Scanlon, the UT hydrogeologist. “I think we need to look at it in a different way than municipal wastewater.”She said the “lowest hanging fruit” is to use the water for other fracking wells. Less treatment is necessary to do so, and more reuse of the water by industry would ease the strain on limited freshwater resources in Texas. Environmental groups say current federal standards for treatment and discharge of produced water — which Texas says it will match as it takes over regulation — are too low to adequately protect the environment. “Federal regulations haven’t been updated at all,” to respond to the rising problem of disposing of produced water, said Alex Ortiz, a water resources specialist for the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter. “The EPA doesn’t have enough knowledge (about produced water).”He said the Sierra Club will challenge the decision to give Texas regulatory authority, with the hope that an EPA led by the Biden administration may find a way to reverse the move. The group also aims to push state lawmakers to create tougher water discharge standards.

 But Perry, who will soon push his bill in the Legislature, said environmental groups are creating an issue “when there’s not an issue.” As for the costs, he said the state government may have to find a way to help fund a pilot project for reusing produced water. “As a state, our water supply and ability to guarantee the water supply is a No. 1 priority,” Perry said. “People think we have plenty of water. Truthfully, we don’t.”

No reform without using the state

Miloš Šumonja, December 28, 2020, Neoliberalism is not dead – On political implications of Covid-19, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0309816820982381, Miloš Šumonja is an assistant professor of philosophy at the Faculty of Education in Sombor. His work concerns European politics, critical theory and philosophy of Wittgenstein.

Yet, as Philip Mirowski (2014) pointed out, this anti-statist misidentification of neoliberalism has also plagued horizontalist strategies of resistance – contrary to which, the national state is anything but obsolete, as the pandemic made it clear. It seems to me that the insight offered here would best serve the radical-Left forces if it were to be followed by the realisation that at least one of the reasons why the populist revolt against ‘progressive neoliberalism’ has been much more effective from the radical-Right is its clear-eyed, although reactionary, view of the power and vitality of the national state, as a set of institutions with a degree of political plasticity. Too often to ignore, the blanket anti-statism of the contemporary social movements has betrayed practical impotence and empty radicalism, concerned with self-expression and/or ‘changing the nature of political discourse and the various spheres in which it is carried on’ (Gamson 2012). Arguably, in retrospect, that self-professed cultural change has brought more excitement to academic than ordinary discussions about politics. To be clear, it is hard to imagine any progressive social transformation that does not reappropriate ‘the language of ‘freedom’, ‘rights’, ‘democracy’, and ‘justice’ from neoliberal . . . framings’ (Bruff 2014: 127).  Why should the meaning of ‘state’ be an exception in this respect, particularly in the circumstances when its ‘neoliberal framing’ is open to contestation? Its left hand is weak, but the state remains a primary political space for a collective resistance to the coming wave of anti-democratic policies. Therefore, it may be useful to consider the recently revived concept of the fight ‘in and against the state’, originally developed in the second half of the 1970s in an analysis of the contradictory relation of public employees to the British state (London-Edinburgh Weekend Return Group 1980). For, in consequence of the pandemic, the vast majority of people find themselves in a similar contradictory position of having to assert their existential interests and fundamental rights in the institutions that subvert them. This is why the state should not be ceded to the far-Right in the streets, in the ballot box, or on the level of everyday discourse.

Agriculture subsidies can fight climate change

Food Tank, September 2020https://foodtank.com/news/2020/09/agriculture-subsidies-can-fight-climate-change-and-protect-food-security-according-to-world-bank/

Agriculture Subsidies Can Fight Climate Change and Protect Food Security, According to World Ban Agriculture subsidies have the potential to fund conservation efforts that mitigate climate change and increase food security A recent World Bank report, Revising Public Agricultural Support to Mitigate Climate Change, finds that agriculture subsidies have the potential to address food security and mitigate the impacts of climate change.  Agriculture currently accounts for 25 percent of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the Word Research Institute (WRI). But by 2050, the WRI expects the global population to increase by 2.2 million people. Researchers believe this will increase food production by 50 percent and drive up GHG emissions. According to the World Bank report, a redirection of agriculture subsidies to support more research, innovation, and development, could curb global emissions while also feeding the world.  The report found that from 2014-2016, countries that produced two-thirds of the world’s food provided US$600 billion in agriculture financial support each year. Of this, only five percent went towards conservation efforts and only six percent supported research and technical assistance.  But the pressure to deal with climate change will catalyze the redirection of agriculture subsidies, according to Tim Searchinger, co-author of the World Bank report and a researcher at WRI. “When there are major developments that dramatically change the yields and costs, farmers will change overnight,” he tells Food Tank.