Published every Friday, Know Your Planet breaks down the week’s environmental news.
One Trump May Not Be Like the Others
Politico is piquing the interest of environmentalists all over the world-wide web by suggesting that President-elect Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, will become a champion of climate-change action once her father takes office. The article — which cites a single anonymous source close to the soon-to-be first daughter — has drawn mixed reactions.
The Huffington Post responded with a fierce rebuke, pointing out that aside from the anonymous quote, there’s not a scrap of evidence to suggest Ivanka is ready to join the likes of Bernie Sanders. “Reporting otherwise is irresponsible,” they said.
But it’s not out of the question. The Politico piece describes the wildly successful businesswoman as shrewd, ambitious and well-connected to the liberal elite despite their distaste for her father. She has already taken steps to separate her business from her public persona, indicating that she will embrace her new political status. She is wholly capable of carving out a powerful role for herself as the Trump administration’s unofficial liaison to wealthy Democrats. Seeing eye-to-eye on climate change would be one way to do that.
Still, even if it’s true, one has to wonder if Ivanka would be able to make much of a difference. Just a few days ago, Reince Priebus, who will become Trump’s Chief of Staff, clarified that the President-elect’s official position on climate change is that “most of it is a bunch of bunk.” Meanwhile, Trump himself continues to hand the reigns of his administration to climate skeptics and outright climate deniers. Conservative radio host Joe Scarborough even claimed that Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is on the short list for Secretary of State.
Would Ivanka have enough of her father’s ear to overwhelm all those oily voices? Who knows. But if there’s one thing Donald Trump has proven over and over again, it’s that anything is possible.
Standoff at Standing Rock
Water protectors protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline endured a menacing week of threats. On Monday, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple (R) issued an emergency evacuation order, citing harsh weather and the safety of demonstrators, who have until this Monday to leave. It’s unclear what measures authorities will take to disperse protesters, though forced evacuations seem unlikely. Then on Tuesday, state officials declared that anyone attempting to smuggle supplies (including food and medicine) into the Oceti Sakowin camp would be fined $1,000.
“It’s bogus and I don’t know about the legality of it,” Kandi Mossett, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, told the Huffington Post. “We’re not afraid. We’re moving in and out of the camp at will. So people shouldn’t be afraid of coming and supporting the water protectors. They’ve been bullying us since day one.”
Indeed, protesters seem emboldened by the threats and prepared to wait out the winter.
Meanwhile, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) joined the chorus of voices urging President Obama to condemn what many are calling the militarization of police forces after authorities injured demonstrators with concussion grenades, rubber bullets, tasers and water cannons.
Obama’s Shocking Dirty Fuel Investment
By way of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the Obama Administration spent nearly $34 billion on 70 fossil-fuel projects around the world. Even worse, disadvantaged communities in close proximity to many of these mines and power plants — which were funded by U.S. tax payers — suffered as a result. In India, for example, people complained of coal ash polluting air and water, leading to stomach and respiratory illnesses. The revelations are the result of a joint investigation by the Columbia Journalism School’s Energy and Environment Reporting Project and the Guardian.
Take a Look at the World’s Largest Solar Plant
This is what the world’s largest solar plant (at least in one location) looks like. The $679 million project covers 4 square miles of land and can power up to 150,000 homes. The plant is even cleaned by a robotic system that is charged by its own solar panels. Under the Paris Agreement, India has pledged to produce 40% of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030.
According to a New Study…
Coconut crabs have a pinching strength comparable to a lion’s bite. The kitten-eating arthropods look like gnarled aliens straight off a spaceship and are named for their ability to crack open coconuts with their bone-crushing claws. A scientist who was pinched on the hand by one described the experience as “eternal hell.” Only alligators chomp down with more force.
85% of food samples tested by the USDA had traces of pesticide on them. The USDA — which tested more than 10,000 items — insists the findings are harmless: “Residues found in agricultural products sampled are at levels that do not pose risk to consumers’ health and are safe …” the agency said. Scientists aren’t so sure, arguing that there isn’t enough data on the effects of ingesting small doses of pesticide over long periods to make the claim that doing so is safe.
The growth of Arctic sea-ice has slowed to crawl. To be precise, it’s been 10% below normal levels, leading to record-low volumes of sea ice for the month of November. Same old story, isn’t it?
Walking sharks have a much better chance of strolling toward extinction than previously thought. New information reveals that the ranges of nine species of sharks –which “walk” in shallows and sometimes on land — don’t overlap and aren’t as widespread as they were once believed to be. Scientists hope the new data will lead to increased protections for the fascinating creatures.
Beef production is the primary driver of tropical deforestation, and 13 companies are leading the way. Offenders include fast-food giants like McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut as well as retail behemoths like Kroger, Safeway, Walmart and ConAgra Foods. None of the 13 companies had strong policies in place to prevent deforestation, which is skyrocketing in the Amazon.
Lakes in Wisconsin are becoming murkier. Not all of them — but a quarter of the 5,000 surveyed lost clarity over the past two decades. Researchers blame increased precipitation from climate change and runoff from nearby farmlands.
The Earth’s technosphere now weights 30 trillion tons. What’s a technosphere, you wonder? Simply put, it comprises anything humans have made for the purpose of bettering our species. This includes houses, skyscrapers, iPhones, clothes, tools and trash (which many of those things become). Pretty much everything.
From Planet Experts Editorial
Our eco-friendly gift guide is live. We picked all these sustainable, recyclable, biodegradable, repurposed, organic, vegan and/or all-natural gifts with one idea in mind: Knocking the socks off whoever is lucky enough to receive them. We followed that up with some suggestions for supporting our partner organizations on Giving Tuesday.
An Indonesian court leveled a devastating ruling against activists hoping to protect the majestic Lesuer Ecosystem. This could open the precious rainforest — the last place in the world where rhinos, elephants, orangutans and tigers share a home — to development and deforestation. The activists hope an appeal will overturn the verdict.
President Obama — who has protected more land and water than any other U.S. president — set new oil sanctions on Arctic drilling, halting further exploration of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the Alaskan coast.