ENVIRONMENT POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES
Latest Environment Posts
By Todd J Broadman
The world is in need of a climate action plan; the U.S. under President Biden is proposing one. At its core, the proposed plan is a set of policies that shift or transition energy from fossil fuels to renewable sources. The glaring challenge to this shift though, is current and future projections for energy demand. Americans are accustomed to the luxury of 24-7 access to energy at the touch of a button. As the Biden plan points to, solar and wind power are the go-to sustainable energy sources. Electricity though, accounts for only a quarter of CO2 emissions – carbon-intensive manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation demands comprise the vast majority. Biden’s plan subscribes to Bill Gates’s “Show me a problem, and I’ll look for technology to fix it,” approach. Others, particularly in Europe, place more emphasis on ‘degrowth’ as the direction the developed world ought to be heading.
Brief #5—Fishing Boat Dispatch
By Katherine Cart
Prince William Sound is a quiet place. Storms in the Gulf of Alaska die on the western edges of islands; Montague, Hitchinbrook and Hawkins Islands rise like barbicans about the calm inlets. When one flies low over the Sound, little islands appear as shadows stretched westward: storm waves crush beaches from craggy outcrop. On the leeward side rise unblunted cliffs. At the scooped back of the Sound, one can, in most seasons, drive aluminum skiffs for miles on flat water, jigging for halibut and pulling from 30 fathoms by hand shrimp pots in which an octopus is more likely to be found than shrimp. Treed mountains rise up from the water, are striated by waterfall from glacial seeps, summits. In winter, the bays beneath slush are aquamarine, incredibly clear – the season of rot not yet begun – and the hills are stilled beneath a fathom of snow. The winter nights are long: sun up and down occur near the middle of the working day. In clear dawns and twilights, if one stands in view of the sweep of the Sound, all the snowed islands blaze in alpenglow. On Esther Island, where storms rarely come, the winter sun flits around the periphery of the bay, slinking behind mountain ridge. There is a small cluster of buildings on Esther Island, in which a dozen or so people live and work, hatching and releasing Chum salmon by the millions each year. In the darkest months, daylight is the blued shadow of the mountain across the bay, and night is, with clear skies and luck, the greenish aurora borealis beyond the humped blocks of snowed peaks. Strong moons reflect silver on frozen waterfalls.
By Shannon Q. Elliot
Biden and Harris walked into a cyclone of environmental ludicrousness as they entered The White House. The previous four years disavowed regulatory science, and neglected to create policies which would support public health and the environment. The policies enacted during the Trump era are now being reevaluated via Executive Order (EO) “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” Under the EO, federal agencies will vet existing environmental policies, vowing to hold polluters accountable, and discuss innovative ways in which to restore and confront environmental crisis.
By Jacob Morton
From the beginning of his presidency, Donald Trump made every effort to weaken the country’s environmental protections and accelerate profits for the fossil fuel industry. Trump’s single term was riddled with attempts to roll back, what he considered, cumbersome environmental regulations, some that had existed for decades. He appointed oil and coal lobbyists to the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior, who would champion the expansion of oil pipelines throughout our federal lands. The work to clean up his mess is far from over. Here is an update on three highly controversial oil pipeline projects made possible by the Trump administration.
Brief #4—Fishing Boat Dispatch
By Katherine Cart
On trawl vessels targeting demersal fish in the North Pacific there is always a government contracted worker – usually a recent college graduate – whose job it is to monitor fishing practices. The Observer’s duties include sampling netted fish for biodiversity, collecting otoliths, sex, length and maturity data, and among many other oddities, standing on deck while a writhing codend the size of a school bus is hauled up the stern ramp. The codend is dumped into the trawl alley; fish flood, flapping dimly, shocked to be, so suddenly, in alien air.
Brief #2—Marine Environment
By Katherine Cart
I came to Amaknak Island by plane. The mountains the plane passes between were, in June, very green. The visual sense that the Aleutian Chain gives is of a treeless Hawaii – its geology is similar; the landscape is very young, and active volcanoes grow the islands sporadically. Extending like a hooked arm, the Aleutians delineate the southern edge of the Bering Sea. Amaknak rises from the North Pacific, 800 miles south of Anchorage. Around the smidge of land that is the Aleutian Chain, there is very little but sea.
Brief #3—Marine Environment
By Katherine Cart
Walk to Maine’s midcoast and look southwest. Unless you’ve gotten yourself in a spruce thicket, you will see Atlantic water filling the hole that is the Gulf of Maine. Likely, you will hear the sea, smell it, be standing in its sandy refuse. It will very possibly feel colder – or at least damper – here than a mile inland. Chilled oceanic air is sucked landwards, dumping sludgy precipitation, heaping fog, painting rime on roof, pine, window pane, dune hollow. A weathered-in gulf can be, to the casual observer, somewhat benign, rather like watching on a TV screen an avalanche shift some unpopulated mountain. Storms are spectacular to witness from the beaches, nasty to endure offshore. Inland Maine is a stronghold well protected from tidal degradation by granitic coastline, carved out over several millennia by the heaving of the Laurentide ice sheet over Appalachian stone. If you are standing at the coast and look down, between your feet you will see the long lateral scratches the Laurentide left, sloughing southwest into the sea. One cannot help but to think of fingernails, and a general determination to cling on.
By Katherine Cart
Before the industrial revolution reworked the entirety of agricultural processes in America, poultry, eggs and meat were not cheap. The average dozen, in 1913, cost today’s equivalent of $9.25. Chicken meat was served on Sundays, or for holidays, and could not be bought boneless, ground, breaded, molded into consumer-pleasing shapes. Small farms produced small quantities of meat and poultry product and lack of mass shipping transit kept businesses local. Now, however, only three mega-corporations control roughly 90% of the poultry market and four control 85% of the beef market. Legal red tape impedes the fair competition of smaller farms. Conversations concerning antitrust reforms are, once again, gaining momentum and new voices. The DIRECT (Direct Interstate Exemption for Certain Transactions) Act, seeks to amend selling restrictions and could be a boon for small meat and poultry producers. Currently, meat and poultry grown by many small processors are inspected and approved for sale within only the state of inspection. The act would lift bans on interstate sales by processors, butchers and other retailers of locally-produced meat and poultry, allowing for the direct-to-consumer sale of normal retail quantities across state lines. Congressman Cuellar says, “the bipartisan legislation will allow meat inspected by the State to be sold online and across state lines, opening up new markets for meat producers and processors.”
By Katherine Cart
I came to Amaknak Island by plane. The mountains the plane passes between were, in June, very green. The visual sense that the Aleutian Chain gives is of a treeless Hawaii – its geology is similar; the landscape is very young, and active volcanoes grow the islands sporadically. Extending like a hooked arm, the Aleutians delineate the southern edge of the Bering Sea. Amaknak rises from the North Pacific, 800 miles south of Anchorage. Around the smidge of land that is the Aleutian Chain, there is very little but sea. Amaknak’s Iliuliuk Bay, where 300 foot vessels dock, offload fish, and fuel, drops dramatically to twenty fathoms. The basalt and andesite flows and pyroclastic rocks that form the cliffs of Mounts Ballyhoo and Split Top, and through which obdurate roads have been blasted, rise nearly two thousand feet from the bay edge. Thin soil, reddish, capped by tall grasses and shrub like a fur, holds tremulous purchase on the volcanic substrate. There is a wildness and fragility to Amaknak. With nearly three thousand residents, Amaknak is the most populous of Aleutian islands, and where Dutch Harbor provides anchorage to the North Pacific fishing and shipping fleets. Billions of dollars pass through each year.