Saturday, February 25, 2012

Does the U.S. Have a Legal Responsibility to Stop Climate Change? Seven Teenagers Think So - And They’re Taking the Federal Government to Court

Supreme Court Building of the United States, W...       US Supreme Court - Image via Wikipediaby Lindsay Kucera, Yes! magazine:

Seven teenagers set a new precedent for environmental action in May 2011 by suing the federal government for not taking measures against climate change. They claim that the government’s policies regarding climate change are squandering natural resources.

The young plaintiffs, led by 17-year-old Alec Loorz, filed a total of 10 suits against the federal government and individual states under the public trust doctrine, a legal principle derived from English Common Law which holds that the government is responsible for protecting resources - like water and wilderness - in trust for the public and future generations.

The legal action is supported by a coalition of groups called the iMatter Youth Council, which is petitioning the government for a 6 percent reduction in global CO2 each year, an emissions cap at 2011 levels, and the reforestation of compromised ecosystems.

The preliminary injunction hearing was originally slated to be held in December 2011, but has been moved from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., at the request of the federal government. A new date for the hearing has yet to be announced.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

INTERVIEW: Bill McKibben: “The Biggest Fight of Our Time” In Which One of the World’s Best-Known Climate Activists Gets Personal About the Enormous Task of Saving Our Planet

Cover of "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Toug...                 Cover via Amazonby Madeline Ostrander, YES! magazine:

As one of the best-known writers on the world’s most dire environmental problem, climate change, Bill McKibben has long walked the razor’s edge between hope and fear.

In 2010, he published Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, a sobering account of what climate change has already unleashed - the ways in which the places we live, the water, weather, seasons, ecosystems, and oceans are changing irrevocably.

McKibben also founded, one of history’s largest and most ambitious political movements, uniting people around the world to fight climate change.

In this interview, YES! got personal with McKibben: Where does he find hope? What role does faith play for McKibben, a longtime Methodist Sunday school teacher? How does small-town Vermont, where the writer now lives, shape his ideas and activism? And what’s the best advice for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of what McKibben calls “the biggest fight of our time” - the fight to save the planet?

Editor's Note: This interview was filmed June 1, 2011 as part of YES! Magazine's 15th Anniversary Celebration. For the latest in the Keystone XL Pipeline fight, click here.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living

by Oliver Lazenby, Yes! magazine:

Want to grow food and live the sustainable lifestyle but lack the space? Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living, by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume, a glossy bible for self-sufficiency in the city, will have you tearing out your driveway to sow a garden, and diverting gray water to irrigate it.

The book’s beautifully presented and amply illustrated projects are all geared toward typical city-sized lots, and interspersed with case studies of actual homesteads and working urban farms, like the two-acre rooftop farm in Brooklyn, where greens grow amid rooftop vents.

Local food is central to this vision of urban sustainability, and the authors cover a lot of ground. They explain methods for growing, storing, preserving, and gleaning. Medicinal herbs, solar cooking, and even raising and butchering animals are described.

Projects for house-bound harvesters, including lesser-known foodie ventures like raising rabbits, cultivating mushrooms, and lacto-fermentation, make this not just a practical guide for homestead DIYers, but entertaining for armchair homesteaders too.

While producing food locally is arguably the best way to live lighter on the Earth and limit dependence on a flawed global economy, it’s not the limit of Kaplan and Blume’s appetites.

They also provide advice about storing rainwater and using gray water, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, designing for passive heating and cooling, building with cob, and reducing garbage production.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Beyond the Bubble Economy: We've Finally Learned That a Growing Financial Sector Isn't the Same Thing as Actual Economic Improvement. So How Can We Stimulate the Real Economy?

English: The corner of Wall Street and Broadwa...                                    Image via Wikipediaby David Korten, Yes! magazine:

Public anger at the 2008 Wall Street bailout, concerns about debt, and a deep and pervasive fear that another financial crash is just a matter of time create an important moment of opportunity for a long overdue public conversation about the purpose of financial services and the necessary steps to assure that the financial sector fulfills that purpose.

Much of the recent discussion of financial reform has centered on limiting Wall Street excesses to curb fraud and reduce the risk of another financial crash. This is vitally important, but it does not address the issue raised by Sheila Bair shortly before she stepped down last year as FDIC chair:

“In policy terms, the success of the financial sector is not an end in itself, but a means to an end - which is to support the vitality of the real economy and the livelihood of the American people. What really matters to the life of our nation is enabling entrepreneurs to build new businesses that create more well-paying jobs, and enabling families to put a roof over their heads and educate their children.”

It is very straightforward. The proper purpose of the financial services sector is to serve the real economy on which everyone depends for their daily needs, their quality of life, and their opportunity to be creative, contributing members of their communities.

The proper purpose of the financial services sector is to serve the real economy on which everyone depends for their daily needs. By this standard of performance, Wall Street does not serve us well.

By this standard of performance, Wall Street does not serve us well. Indeed, Wall Street’s most lavish rewards go not to those who enable others to create wealth, but rather to those most skilled and ruthless in expropriating the wealth of others - behavior condemned as immoral by every major religion.

To justify their actions, Wall Street players and their apologists turn reality and logic on their heads by treating growth in the size and profitability of the financial sector as an end in itself, and a measure of increasing sector efficiency.

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