Proposed port splits Dems over labor, enviro concerns

By Olivia Henry and Rebecca Tachihara

Western Washington University

                 The debate over the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal has been framed as Community David vs. Corporate Goliath, rural livelihoods vs. city NIMBYism, high-wage jobs vs. clean environment. The final concept pits two political bases of the Whatcom County Democrats against one another:  unions hungry for jobs and environmentalists concerned about their community becoming the gateway through which coal travels to be burned in China.

 Local environmentalists argue that jobs versus environment is a false dichotomy. They describe the debate as “jobs versus jobs,” citing concerns for the vitality of Bellingham’s redeveloped waterfront, which is divided from the rest of the city by the rail line that would serve the proposed terminal with as many as 20 trains per day.

Nobody, however, is arguing that the local economic picture is rosy.

The debate comes at a time when the county’s unemployment rate has surged from 4.9 percent in 2000 to 8.4 percent this May. Residents living below the poverty level accounted for 15.5 percent of the county’s population in 2009 (the most recent U.S. Census figures available), which was higher than the state average of 12.3 percent, and nearly double the rate of 7.8 percent in 2000.

Obama administration to skeptical judge: Bush's salmon-rescue plan is A-OK

To highlight yet another example of how the Obama administration's environmental policies don't always look that different from the Bush administration's, note that today the National Marine Fisheries Service tried to assure a skeptical federal judge that a Bush-era salmon-rescue plan was just fine -- even though it ruled out disabling dams on the Snake River.

For years, U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland has been ruling that the Bush administration's blueprint to bring back struggling salmon runs on the Snake and Columbia rivers just didn't measure up. When environmentalists, tribes, sportfishing interests and the state of Oregon complained that the Obama-era Fisheries Service plan was no better than Bush's, Redden gave the agency three months to review the plan.

A pivotal question is whether four dams on the Snake River -- which produced about 5 percent of the Pacific Northwest's electricity, last I checked -- should be "breached," meaning partially removed to let the river flow more freely again. The dams and the changes they cause in the river kill some of the small salmon migrating to sea there.

After a three-month review, the Fisheries Service said the Bush-era plan needed only minor modifications. It refused to start the years-long planning process that would be required to breach the dams. It didn't even budge on a lesser step: letting more water flow through the dams without producing electricity -- "spill" -- to help the fish.

The best quote of the day -- and even this is a tired analogy, bearing witness to the tenure of this controversy -- came from Nicole Cordan, a campaigner with Save Our Wild Salmon:

Malaria, DDT, and "eco-imperialism" by greens -- Tyee debunks story of blood on enviros' hands

rm iwest mugI've been hearing for some years now about unreasonable environmental activists fighting against resurrecting the use of DDT in Africa to control the malaria scourge, and meaning to check out the story. Michael Crichton, for example, charged that the ban on DDT has killed more people than Hitler. Hard to ignore.

My interest was further piqued when I met malaria sufferers on my trip to Africa, and again when I donated money to a campaign to buy pesticide-treated mosquito netting for African children. Something like 1 million people die annually from malaria -- most of them African children under age 5.

So, what's the real deal? Are the greens so caught up in their rhetoric they would allow kids to die? I'm afraid getting to the bottom of that question slipped pretty far down my priority list.

Fortunately for me and the rest of the world, Simon Fraser University media prof Donald Gutstein did a pretty thorough job poking into the controversy.

Freedom of political speech assured for corporations, but what about for environmental activists?

rm iwest mugNow that the U.S. Supreme Court has made the world safe for corporate political speech, it's worth asking why plainclothes police officers are allowed to arrest an environmental activist for expressing his political views.

This outrageous tale comes to Dateline Earth from Jim Dwyer's About New York column in The New York Times, although it's apparently been raising hackles in the Big Apple for some time now.

Dwyer relates how Edward Kerry Sullivan was outside his Staten Island apartment building one night last summer when two undercover cops approached, arrested and cuffed him and whisked him off to the pokey.

Sullivan's "crime"? In letters about three inches high, he wrote "The Jerk" on an election poster for local pol James P. Molinaro. (A poster that would turn out to be itself illegally posted.) 

Now, let's admit that this isn't strictly an environmental story. But juxstaposed with the Citizens United campaign-finance ruling from the Supreme Court last week, it certainly seems worth noting. Folks, this is stunning.

And it's about an environmental advocate.

David Suzuki: Space aliens would think humans insane for imperiling life-support systems


[caption id="attachment_6631" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Alexander Kelly and David Suzuki/Photo by Paul Israel"]Alexander Kelly and David Suzuki/Photo by Paul Israel[/caption]

 By Alexander Kelly 

Editor’s note: InvestigateWest correspondent Alexander Kelly will be covering the upcoming international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is an edited transcript of an interview he conducted earlier this year with Canadian environmental leader and scientist David Suzuki. More information on Suzuki is available at the website of his Vancouver-based David Suzuki Foundation. 

InvestigateWest: You are a scientist serving the public interest by stepping outside of academia in order to address the public directly. There are those who are losing hope in the face of findings from such scientists as James Lovelock, James Hansen and yourself. What is it that you really want the public to do?

David Suzuki: In Canada, we’re still left with an administration that is very much in the Bush mode. They are trying to suppress information from the scientific community, manipulate the scientific knowledge, have opposed any admission that climate change is real and we have to act on it, and I think for Canadians, it’s been very frustrating, because for the last two years, climate change has been at the top of the agenda for Canadian concern, and yet politicians aren’t doing anything. So what I say is that people have to inform themselves, and they have to begin to demand change on a large scale. That’s a big thing to ask, but I’ve seen it in the past. I’ve seen it in the civil rights movement.

Navajo leader backs banning environmentalists from reservation; native journo questions MSM coverage

The last time I saw Marley Shebala, she was at the airport. She couldn't get her ATM card to work. She was facing a series of flights home to Arizona. And she was nearly cashless after a week at a journalism seminar. It was the week I was losing my job at the P-I, and I was about to go on unemployment. But I gave her $20 anyway. She'd been so cool to have as a partner in learning at the New York Times Institute on the Environment.

[caption id="attachment_5311" align="alignright" width="73" caption="Marley Shebala"]Marley Shebala[/caption]

I've run into Marley over the years at a number of journalism events and had come to understand that I could always look forward to provocative questions and exciting comments  from her. She's a pistol of a reporter for the Navajo Times and, as High Country News put it, an "undaunted muckraker."

So I was really glad to see her comment in a piece the other day by The Daily Yonder on Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr.'s support for the Hopi Tribal Council’s recent unanimous decision to ban environmentalist groups from their reservation in Arizona.

The tribal leaders, you see, are angry about the greens' efforts to shut down the the Navajo Generation Station, a coal-fired power plant near Page, Arizona.

They call it Fubar, and it shows how restoring forests creates jobs

Fubar is the name of a stream on Alaska's Prince of Wales Island, and apparently it's appropriately named. FUBAR, of course, is an acronym meaning "Fouled up beyond all recognition," or something pretty close to that, anyway.

It's the central scene in a news story by Mary Pemberton of the Associated Press outlining how restoration efforts in the national forests are helping restore jobs in places let down by the timber industry across the West:

Forest restoration is occurring all over the West, said Mary Mitsos with the National Forest Foundation, a Montana-based group. Efforts in Montana, Alaska, Washington and Oregon involve repairing watersheds to encourage healthier fish runs. In Arizona and New Mexico, restoration is more about forest thinning to lessen the danger of wildfires.

At Fubar Creek, soil washed into the waterway from clearcuts upslope, filling it in and causing the water to go all over the place, including a nearby road.  The restoration there in the Tongass National Forest and elsewhere in southeastern Alaska added $8.4 million and 150 jobs to the economy in 2007, according to a study by The Nature Conservancy.

Pemberton quotes Marnie Criley, coordinator of the Montana Forest Restoration Committee:

People are getting to know each other and not automatically hating each other because this person is a timber person and this person is a conservationist. A lot of trust-building has been going on.

We should point out that this is not a new trend. In fact, we wrote about enviros making peace with loggers and agreeing to some logging in Washington's Gifford Pinchot National Forest back in 2004.

Nor does this mean peace is breaking out in the War In the Woods.