YES! Magazine Nominated for General Excellence. Read All About It.
Sections
Home » Issues » Purple America » Signs of Life :: Small Stories About Big Change

Nonprofit. Independent. Subscriber-supported. DONATE. How you can support our work.

Get a FREE Issue. Yes! I want to try YES! Magazine

YES! by Email
Join over 78,000 others already signed up for FREE YES! news.
[SAMPLE]
link

HomeBannerAd_Bookshelf

The YES! ChicoBag(R). Full-size tote that fits in your pocket!

 

Signs of Life :: Small Stories About Big Change

ENERGY
:: Climate Activists Set 350 ppm Target
Also ...
:: Ireland and BC Ban Uranium Mining
:: NH Joins Regional Cap and Trade Program


FOREIGN POLICY
:: Thousands Oppose War with Iran
Also ...
Army Privat Robin Long Deported


spacer

WATER
:: Mayors Lead on Bottled Water
:: Get Ready For the Next Big Floods

FOOD
:: Home Grown Food on the Rise
Also ...
:: Farm Bill Funds Organic Research

HUMAN RIGHTS
:: First Nations Halt Clear Cutting
:: Labor Supporting Same-Sex Marriage

Wind Turbine Transport, photo by Melissa Gasser Myers
Photo by Melissa Gasser Myers.

The U.S. has surpassed Germany as the world’s largest wind-energy producer. In Texas, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens has turned to wind as the answer to the nation’s energy problems. Pickens has leased hundreds of thousands of acres for a wind farm in West Texas, where he plans to build the world’s largest wind farm to power the state’s cities. The wind energy can displace natural gas generation, Pickens believes, freeing it up to fuel cars and trucks. Pictured above, a single turbine blade is transported through Fredericksburg, Texas.


ENERGY

Climate Activists Set 350 ppm Target

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

What will it take to avert dangerous levels of climate disruption? Scientists say atmospheric CO2 needs to be reduced from the current level of 385 parts per million (ppm) to no more than 350 ppm. Activists are taking up the call, pressing world leaders to set goals at the upcoming Copenhagen, Denmark, climate negotiations that can achieve the 350 ppm goal.

The effort is led by Bill McKibben and other climate activists who in 2007 coordinated Step It Up—a network of hundreds of nationwide citizen events. The group has adopted the name and website 350.org and is inviting people around the world, especially youth, to plant trees, organize bike rides, write letters, host pot lucks, all with the aim of raising awareness of the 350 ppm goal.

The number 350 is “the most important number in the world,” says a statement on the group’s website. “It contains, rightly understood, the recipe for a very different world, one that moves past cheap fossil fuel to more sensible technologies, more closely-knit communities, and a more equitable global society.”

—Noah Grant

 

ALSO …

Ireland and BC Ban Uranium Mining

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

The governments of Ireland and British Columbia, Canada, have banned uranium mining, which contaminates water, soil, and air, and causes elevated cancer rates among miners and nearby residents.

Ireland prohibits nuclear power generation, so it “would be hypocritical to permit the extraction of uranium for use in nuclear reactors in other countries,” said natural resources minister Eamon Ryan.

British Columbia does not currently have uranium mines, although mining companies have their eye on the province. Earlier this year, the northern territory of Nunatsiavut placed a three-year uranium mining moratorium on Labrador Inuit land.

NH Joins Regional Cap and Trade Program

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

New Hampshire recently became the 10th state to join a regional cap and trade program that will require power plants to purchase allowances for greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2009. Money paid by utilities will be used to insulate homes, increase furnace efficiency, and for other conservation efforts.


A single turbine blade is transported through Fredericksburg, Texas. Photo by Melissa Gasser Myers
Photo by Melissa Gasser Myers
YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

The U.S. has surpassed Germany as the world’s largest wind-energy producer. In Texas, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens has turned to wind as the answer to the nation’s energy problems. Pickens has leased hundreds of thousands of acres for a wind farm in West Texas, where he plans to build the world’s largest wind farm to power the state’s cities. The wind energy can displace natural gas generation, Pickens believes, freeing it up to fuel cars and trucks. Pictured above, a single turbine blade is transported through Fredericksburg, Texas.


FOREIGN POLICY

Thousands Oppose War with Iran

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

Activists and political leaders across the country are saying “no” to U.S. military action against Iran and demanding that the U.S. government pursue real diplomacy with Iran.

Broad coalitions—including veterans groups, mainline faith groups like the Episcopal and United Methodist churches, and advocacy organizations—have organized call-in days and online letter-writing campaigns. The events are a response to aggressive posturing by some elements in the Bush Administration, and to a congressional resolution (H.Con.Res. 362) advanced by both political parties that urges the president to halt gas exports to Iran through what amounts to a blockade. A blockade would constitute an act of war.

The opposition campaigns have garnered tens of thousands of public responses and drawn support from across the political spectrum.

“Our message is simple,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) at a June 11 press conference organized by the Campaign for a New American Policy in Iran, “It’s time to talk to Iran.”

Outside Washington, D.C., city councils in Cambridge, MA, Santa Cruz, CA, and Evanston, IL; voters in Urbana, IL; and dozens of mayors have supported resolutions against U.S. military action in Iran. Demonstrations and vigils against war with Iran are being held in at least 40 cities.

Public outcry has reached the ears of some lawmakers. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) initially supported H.Con.Res. 362, but later recanted. In a response to a letter from a Peace Action activist, Frank explained his new position on the resolution. “[W]e should have a very clear distinction between sanctions and military action,” he wrote, “and [a] blockade clearly falls on the wrong side of that line, so I will be making clear my opposition to that.” Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Thomas Allen (D-ME) have withdrawn their support, and Robert Wexler (D-FL) says he will seek rewording of the resolution.

Prominent foreign policy experts have also joined the call for diplomacy. Former U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering has proposed that the United States and Iran negotiate a plan for multinational oversight of enrichment of uranium in Iran, an arrangement that would allow Iran to participate in uranium enrichment but ensure that uranium is not used in weapons production. In a May 13 letter to the United Nations, Iran indicated its willingness to negotiate on this proposal.

The Bush Administration has insisted that Iran cease all uranium enrichment, but has also shown signs of a shift on Iran. The White House recently sent a top official to six-party nuclear talks in Geneva.

Activist groups like United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) say this shift is a response to public pressure. But they are wary in light of the Bush Administration’s track record. As recently as July, President Bush told Israel he was prepared to take military action if negotiations with Tehran failed, according to information from a senior Pentagon official reported in the London Times.

“This is no time for complacency,” said Leslie Cagan, UFPJ’s national coordinator.

—Robert Naiman is senior policy analyst at Just Foreign Policy, www.justforeignpolicy.org

Interested? See our online special issue at www.yesmagazine.org/iran


Enough Fear, an international peace group, organized direct phone calls from New York to Iran on January 19, as part of a people-to-people diplomacy effort. Photo by James Felder/SnapshotArtifact.org
Photo by James Felder/SnapshotArtifact.org

Enough Fear, an international peace group, organized direct phone calls from New York to Iran on January 19, as part of a people-to-people diplomacy effort.

The group invited New Yorkers passing by to pick up a telephone and talk with volunteers in Iran. Questions ranged from weather to differences in the two countries’ health care systems.

 


ALSO …

Army Privat Robin Long Deported

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Down

Army Private Robin Long was deported on July 15 to the U.S. from Canada, where he had sought refugee status. Long had deserted his unit rather than deploy to Iraq. Two other U.S. resisters received permission to stay in Canada, at least for now.

On June 3, the Canadian Parliament passed a non-binding motion urging an end to the deportation of U.S. Iraq War deserters. The legal situation of the roughly 200 deserters remaining in Canada is unclear.


“Just as thousands were drawn to … the Klondike in the late 1800s, the green energy gold rush is attracting legions of modern-day prospectors in all parts of the globe.”

Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, commenting on the release of a new U.N. report documenting a 60 percent rise in global renewable energy investment, to $148 billion at the end of 2007.


HUMAN RIGHTS

First Nations Halt Clear Cutting

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

Indigenous communities in Canada scored a major victory on June 3, when AbitibiBowater, one of North America’s largest newsprint and forest products companies, halted logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario.

The company yielded to a decade-long campaign led by Grassy Narrows, a community of 1,000 people, and backed by a coalition of human rights and environmental groups, including Amnesty International, Christian Peacemaker Teams, and the Rainforest Action Network.

The campaign began in December 2002, when two young mothers from Grassy Narrows felled two trees across the area’s major logging road. Their action sparked the longest running blockade in Canadian history.

The Grassy Narrows victory is part of a thriving movement for indigenous self-determination in Canada. Dozens of First Nations from the Haida in British Columbia to the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) in northern Ontario are asserting control over their land.

The issue drew national attention from the press and support from prominent leaders after six activists from the KI nation were arrested for protesting mining on native land in northern Ontario. In response to the protests and public outcry, provincial politicians protected 56 million acres in northern Ontario from mining and logging, and promised to change the province’s outdated mining act to give First Nations more decision-making power over resource extraction on their land.

Grassy Narrows activists, who see protection of their land and their culture as intertwined, are working to empower their youth and revive their culture and language.

—Jessica Bell is a former organizer for Rainforest Action Network, where she worked to support Grassy Narrows. Today, she works for the California Food and Justice Coalition.


Grassy Narrows residents and activists block the Trans-Canada Highway. Photo courtesy of the Rainforest Action Network
Photo courtesy of the Rainforest Action Network

Grassy Narrows residents and activists have worked for years to stop the clear cutting of First Nations lands.

Shown here is a blockade of the Trans-Canada Highway.

 

 

 


Labor Supporting Same-Sex Marriage

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

Labor unions in California are backing the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The California Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) locals are preparing to fight Proposition 8, an initiative that seeks to overturn a May decision by the California Supreme Court that effectively legalizes same-sex marriage. Gay and lesbian union members succeeded in getting a resolution against the initiative passed at the California Labor Federation’s biennial conference in July.

The nation’s labor unions have long been ahead of the curve on supporting gay rights. In Wisconsin, for example, unions representing public employees, teachers, communications workers, and others fought an unsuccessful campaign to defeat a 2006 measure banning gay marriage and civil unions.

But analysts say labor is now in a stronger position to defend the rights of gays and lesbians across the country.

In New York and Pennsylvania, unions have lobbied for passage of statewide non-discrimination legislation.

In addition, eight international unions have come out in full support of same-sex marriage, and many have lobbied for a federal law protecting gays, lesbians, and transgender people from employment discrimination.

–Noah Grant


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

“The Government of Canada now recognizes it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes … to separate children from rich and vibrant traditions … We apologize for having done this.”

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for policies that forcibly separated aboriginal children from their families, from the 1870s to the late 20th century, and placed them in boarding schools where they were subjected to abuse.


WATER

Mayors Lead on Bottled Water

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has voted to eliminate the use of bottled water by governments and to encourage the use of municipal water. The non-binding resolution was adopted at the mayors’ annual gathering, held in Miami in June.

The mayors cited the environmental impacts of bottled water. Production of plastic bottles uses the energy equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil and generates more than 2.5 million tons of CO2 per year, the resolution notes.

The mayors also noted the higher cost of bottled water: 40 percent of bottled water comes from municipal water systems, yet bottled water typically costs 1,000 to 10,000 times more.

—Layla Aslani

 

Get Ready For the Next Big Floods

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Down

The torrential rainfalls and floods that have devastated the Midwest are occurring with increased frequency as a result of climate change, say environmental groups. Federal planning should adjust forecasting, mapping, and levee construction, they say, to take into account the new reality.

The Midwest experienced two 100-year floods in the last 35 years, and two 500-year floods—one in 1993 and one this year.

But it’s not only climate change that is to blame. River management, wetland destruction, and real estate development in flood-prone areas have all worsened the flooding, according to environmentalists.

The National Wildlife Federation and American Rivers are pushing for changes to make federal flood insurance legislation now in negotiation between the House and Senate reflect the new conditions. In particular, the two groups want to see updated flood forecasting and more realistic mapping of flood-prone areas.

Protection of wetlands and a fresh look at levees and other river modifications used by the Army Corps of Engineers are also needed, environmentalists say.

—Madeline Ostrander


Vegetable patch in front yard in Knoxville, Tennessee. Photo by Shane Ryne
Photo by Shane Ryne

Shane Rhyne and Ruth Sapp of Knoxville, Tennessee, brought their interest in local food systems into their front yard. This summer, they dug up their lawn and replaced it with vegetable gardens.

 

 


FOOD

Home Grown Food on the Rise

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

In response to soaring food prices, the number of gardeners in the U.S. is on the rise. George Ball, the owner of the W. Atlee Burpee Company, says sales of vegetable and herb plants and seeds are up 40 percent compared to last year. A $100 investment in a garden can produce $1000 to $1700 worth of vegetables, he says.

Community gardens across the nation report long waiting lists, while Yahoo says searches for “vegetable,” “organic,” and “container gardening” have more than doubled since last year.

Food prices rose 4 percent in 2007. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts they will rise another 4.5 to 5.5 percent in 2008.

—Layla Aslani

ALSO…

YES! Magazine graphic: Thumb Up

The Farm Bill, which passed Congress in May, contains a record $78 million for organic agriculture research, five times the current funding level, and $22 million to help farmers and handlers get certified as organic. The bill also includes a $10.3 billion increase in funding for nutrition programs, including food stamps, and $35 billion in subsidies for agricultural commodity programs.

Email Signup
Purple America
Comment on this article

How to add a commentCommenting Policy

comments powered by Disqus


You won’t see any commercial ads in YES!, in print or on this website.
That means, we rely on support from our readers.

||   SUBSCRIBE    ||   GIVE A GIFT   ||   DONATE   ||
Independent. Nonprofit. Subscriber-supported.




Subscribe Generic Utne Award

Personal tools