Read today’s news from around the state and country. Each day in the Roundup we cover politics, always with a side of bold humor. We think politics should be fun, informative and encourage us all to take action.
Friday, December 28th:
Hoping for Action on Climate Change in 2013: Climate change was the big issue closing out 2012, after a year in which it was markedly amiss from the national agenda. And there are definite signs that addressing climate change will be a main priority for policymakers in 2013. President Obama said it would be one of his three big issues to tackle in his second term in his “Person of the Year” interview with TIME magazine, and several climate change deniers were voted out of office in 2012. Both new Senators for Hawaii are expected to “champion climate change,” as rising sea levels pose significant risks to the islands. Superstorm Sandy and the 2012 wildfires and drought have helped to bring climate change to the public’s attention too, which will hopefully translate into action from our leaders. Read here
Assessment of Starbucks’ “Come Together”: You may have seen Starbuck’s plan to get Congress to act on the fiscal cliff—have employees write “come together” on the coffee cups sold to customers. This is the message that we keep seeing in the media—that our leaders in Washington need to be more compromising. But Ezra Klein notes that when it comes to negotiations on the fiscal cliff, Dems and the White House have put forth many more concessions than Boehner and the rest of the GOP leadership. Given this, Klein gives the rundown on why the “come together” narrative that apportions blame equally among all parties isn’t actually going to help the situation; in fact, it will help ensure that we will see Congress re-enacting this scenario over and over again. Read here
Not to be Overlooked: One major concern (especially for us Nebraskans) that has been largely overshadowed by the “fiscal cliff” ordeal is the passage of a farm bill. There has been a lack of urgency on working on a farm bill, and of course disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over crop subsidies and the food stamp program haven’t helped that any. But while our farmers and ranchers have been calling on Congress to pass a farm bill for months and months, it seems like Congress only started paying attention when it was realized that the price of milk would at least double if Congress does nothing. Not passing a five year farm bill will be damaging to the economy, and especially damaging to rural states and areas that depend upon Ag. Read here and here
Check out these photos taken by youth around the world for the “Children’s Eyes on Earth” photo contest. Contestants were encouraged to theme their photographs around “I love the Earth” or “I hate pollution,” as the objective of the contest is to raise awareness for environmental issues.
Thursday, December 27th:
Impact of Deforestation: A new study on deforestation’s impact on biodiversity shows that serious harm can be done to even the lowest rung of the ecological ladder. The study was done on a large swath of land that was part of the Amazon rainforest before it was deforested to make room for agricultural production, and goes further than previous studies because it has been conducted over a longer time-span. This significant loss of microbial diversity is important because everything in an ecosystem is built upon the smallest members of that ecosystem, and homogenization of species means that the ecosystem is “less capable of dealing with outside stress,” which could have major ramifications if climate change comes under full swing. Our world’s forests are our “carbon sinks” and oxygen producers—without them we are in serious trouble. It may be lesser known to the general public that some of the worst deforestation is happening in Canada as a result of tar sands excavation, and if significant loss of species diversity is happening in an area that is being used for ag production, it is undoubtedly happening (and probably on a larger scale) in an area that is being transformed into a mining site. Read here
2012 Explained In Graphs: As promised, another “best of 2012” is included in today’s Roundup. The Washington Post’s Wonkblog team has compiled a list of graphs that they think “best explains the past year.” Some of my favorites on this list are Bill McKibben’s graph showing that the world’s fossil fuel companies harbor five times more carbon in their reserves than “even the most conservative government thinks is safe to burn,” Michael Greenstone’s graph showing that the cost of new wind power is now the same price as existing coal and cheaper than new coal would be, and his graph showing that income inequality will likely rise in the future. These graphs highlight the big issues of 2012 and also what will likely be the big issues of 2013 and on, as climate change has more of an impact on everyone’s daily lives, investment in renewables becomes more attractive, and our nation deals with the ramifications of a very unequal society. Check out the rest of the graphs here
Wind Producers Need Incentives: The Lincoln Journal Star reports on the need for Nebraska to offer greater incentives to wind energy producers. Noted in the article is Nebraska’s vast, unmet potential for wind energy, and the fact that because we lack incentivizing policies for wind, we are getting beat out by other states who have those policies and are in turn benefitting from them. While Nebraska only gets 2.9% of our electricity generation from wind farms, those wind farms are bringing in over $2 million annually in property taxes and lease payments to landowners. Imagine the revenue an expansion of this resource could bring our state. Some policies that could spur development of wind in Nebraska are a mandated Renewable Energy Standard, and tax incentives. Read here
Also: Check out this great blog by Tar Sands Blockader Ramsey Sprague. It gives an inspiring analysis of what it means to be fighting the KXL, and tar sands in general. Excerpt: “The unity that exists between climate justice organizers and frontline communities worldwide has profound ramifications: Our commons — the clean air, land, and water we rely upon for life itself — are not for sale. We answer to powers higher than corporate law: our children, our ancestors, our lands, and our loved ones. Our homes are not to be sacrifice zones, and because our lives are priceless, we disobey law that instructs us to remain silent, motionless, and ultimately lacking power. After generations of lethal neglect, we are demanding our lives not be soiled with impunity by industry.” Read more here
Wednesday, December 26th:
This time of year means various media outlets have tallied up their “top stories” of the year. In the coming days up until the New Year, we will be featuring several of these yearly roundups in our own Roundup:
Climate Change Leads to Headlines: The Lincoln Journal Star has come out with its list of top Nebraska stories, voted on by the state’s AP and broadcast members. A common thread among the top five stories is climate change. In first place came the drought. For months, varying effects of the drought dominated the news—cattle starving, crops withering, and water restrictions affected either directly or indirectly every Nebraskan. In second place were the wildfires of north-central and northwest Nebraska that burned hundreds of square miles of Nebraska farm and ranchland. Climatologists have warned that wildfires will burn more intensely and cover wider swaths of area, while droughts also become more frequent and damaging as the full thrust of climate change comes into effect. At #4 in the Journal Star’s list is the Keystone XL pipeline, which as we have noted before will have a direct impact on the release of climate change-causing greenhouse gases. While fighting the effects of climate change (like drought, floods, and wildfires) is a challenge in which one can never seem to get ahead, it is quite a different matter to fight the contributing factors to it—like the KXL. Help continue the fight against the KXL by donating today—there is a lot on the 2013 agenda that we will need your support for, including a major Presidents Day action, and anticipated decisions by Gov. Heineman and President Obama. Donate here
Fighting for What’s Right: Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation is in her 15th day of hunger strike. For the last two weeks, she has been calling for a conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper “to fix the broken relationship” between the Canadian government and indigenous peoples. Her resolution has been built by years and years of neglect and oppression of the First Nations people, and the practices of the Harper government have been the straws that broke and buried the camel’s back. Similar to the circumstances of Native Americans in the United States, Canadian aboriginals suffer from pre-mature deaths, abnormally high suicide rates, and “underfunding of essential human services.” The Harper government has also been working to further the degradation of the environment the First Nations people still depend upon and care for—something that has pushed them to be a force against tar sands pipelines and extraction. Chief Spence’s resolve is a motivating force, and our prayers join the thousands of others that are with her on this pivotal action. Read here and here
An Unwelcome Call for Partisanship: The Omaha World Herald has weighed in on Nebraska GOP Chair Mark Fahelson’s call for Republicans in the Unicam not to vote for Dems for any committee chair positions—calling it out as a bad idea. The OWH noted that Fahelson’s call for Republicans to only vote for Republicans for committee chairs would certainly hurt the capabilities of the Unicameral, and in turn harm the state. It would also insert hyperpartisanship into a legislature that is officially nonpartisan. We agree with the OWH that “merit, not party, should be key in the legislature,” and would like to add that this call for loyalty to party over the state is an endorsement of the ultrapartisanship that has come to define our U.S. Congress, which as we know is the worst performing congress since 1947. This call should serve as a red flag to all Nebraskans–while we do not agree with every vote the Unicam makes, it is clear that our legislature has a flair for independence and working together (ie bipartisanship) that is not seen in every legislature in this country. Read here