Volume 11 No. 2
February , 2018
View this email in your browser
Banner Photo Above: Sierra Madre Mountains, Mexico (Pinterest)

Greetings Friends,

Context.  February in the Northern Hemisphere brings cold days, and harsh weather but the sun lingers a little longer each day that it appears.  I hope the weather wherever you are reading this gives comfort and provides all that is needed for food and shelter.  We know that weather is not climate and we are all subject to the impacts as the climate continues to warm globally.
Questions. The various pieces in this edition are framed by questions.  This device is intended to provoke some thinking ahead of time as the reader scrolls the articles; teachers are always looking for ways to probe and engage the mind to ready the ground for new ideas.  You can read about the water crisis coming to Cape Town, South Africa,  which is imminent.  You can read about the great shift in responding to the US administration in Washington as the Earth care concerns of the nation appear to lose ground at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior works to open thousands of square miles of public land to extractive industries.  Bill McKibben has a long -term strategy for how each of us might respond.
Earth Martyrs.  Very sadly we must report regularly on the "Earth Martyrs'.  In this case it is Isidro Baldenegro of Mexico who was killed last January for his work with the Tarahumara peoples of the Sierra Madre region. The banner photo above is from the Sierra Madre mountains there.   As a young boy, Baldenegro witnessed the assassination of his father after he took a stand against logging. But despite the serious risks, Baldenegro dedicated his life to defending the forest and the lands inhabited by his community for hundreds of years. He was a Goldman Environmental Prize winner in 2005.   In all, 2015 was the deadliest year on record for environmental activists globally with at least 185 killed.
Sand, SDGS and Students.  We look briefly at the continuing warming of the planet, the wisdom of just what is the best way to motivate people to take action, the implications of a zero carbon future, a note on collapsing glaciers in Tibet, some surprising news from India about the shortage of sand, an encouraging account of how one young man in Nigeria moved his neighbors to action,  and a set of suggestions on attracting minority students to environmental studies.  

As is customary, a word from Thomas Berry is included at the end of this newsletter.  And a word from Pope Francis in  Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.

Br. Kevin

Edmund Rice International

Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona
Why Is Cape Town South Africa Running Out of Water?  
By Craig Welch PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2, 2018
Four Million. By late spring, four million people in the city of Cape Town--one of Africa's most affluent metropolises--may have to stand in line surrounded by armed guards to collect rations of the region's most precious commodity: drinking water.
 (Photo: Theewaterskloof Dam on 10 May 2017, when it had less than 20% of its water capacity. Since then, it has dropped to 13.3% Rodger Bosch/AFP)

Day Zero. Population growth and a record drought, perhaps exacerbated by climate change, is sparking one of the world's most dramatic urban water crises, as South African leaders warn that residents are increasingly likely to face "Day Zero." That's the day, now projected for mid-April, when the city says it will be forced to shut off taps to homes and businesses because reservoirs have gotten perilously low--a possibility officials now consider almost inevitable.
Anarchy? "The question that dominates my waking hours now is: When Day Zero arrives, how do we make water accessible and prevent anarchy?"  says Helen Zille, former Cape Town mayor and the current premier of South Africa's Western Cape province, in a guest newspaper column published two weeks ago.
Many Threats.  For years, a shutdown of this magnitude in such a cosmopolitan city had been almost inconceivable. But as overdevelopment, population growth, and climate change upset the balance between water use and supply, urban centers from North America to South America and from Australia to Asia increasingly face threats of severe drinking-water shortages.  Nowhere has that threat seemed to come on faster and catch more by surprise than it has in Cape Town.  Read More

How Can We Battle Climate Change Without Washington DC ?
Bill McKibben   The Guardian Feb 1, 2018
Progress Elsewhere. Global warming is an immediate battle with enormous consequences. We dare not wait for Washington to return to sanity – nor do we have to.  This means many things, but for climate campaigners one of them should be patently clear: if we’re going to make progress on climate change it’s not going to come through Washington DC – not any time soon.
Money Too Powerful in Capitols.  The strategy that’s been evolving for US climate action – and for action in many other parts of the planet – bypasses the central governments as much as possible. That’s because the oil industry is strongest in national capitols – that’s where its money is most toxically powerful. But if frontal attack is therefore hard, its flanks are wide open.  Consider what happened in mid-January, for instance, when New York City declared war on the oil industry, pledging to divest its $200bn pension funds of fossil fuel stocks and announcing that it would sue the five biggest energy majors for the damage they knowingly inflicted by not ’fessing up to their knowledge of climate change.  

This fight is going aggressively local, and fast.  It has three main components.
The first – joining in work pioneered by groups like the Sierra Club – is to persuade towns, cities, counties, and states to pledge to make the transition to 100% renewable energy.
Job two is to block new fossil fuel infrastructure. In some places, that will be by law: Portland, Oregon, recently passed a bill banning new pipes and such, over the strenuous objections of the industry. In other places it will take bodies – tens of thousands have already pledged to journey to the upper midwest if and when TransCanada decides to build out the Keystone XL pipeline that Trump has permitted.
And third is to cut off the money that fuels this industry – by divestment, which has now begun to take a real and telling toll ($6tn worth of endowments and portfolios have joined the fight, and studies show it is cutting the capital companies need to keep exploring for oil we don’t), and by the kinds of lawsuits that New York, San Francisco and a host of other cities have already filed.
Sun, Sit, Sue. Those actions keep the industry off balance, affecting its future plans and weakening its balance sheet even as solar and wind get cheaper all the time.  If you want a shorthand version: Sun, Sit (in) and Sell/Sue.   Read More
Why Are There Still Earth Martyrs?   
"All of the forest, the sky, the sun, and the moon we see as living beings with souls and life just like us." -  Isidro Baldenegro (2005)
This month marked one year since Goldman Prize winner Isidro Baldenegro was assassinated in his native Mexico
Isidro Baldenegro (d. 2017) was jailed for 15 months for organizing protests against illegal logging in the Sierra Madre Mountains and his work to defend the forests, lands and rights of indigenous people. Isidro Baldenegro Lopez is a subsistence farmer and community leader of Mexico's indigenous Tarahumara people in the country's Sierra Madre mountain region. He spent much of his life defending old growth forests from devastating logging in a region torn by violence, corruption and drug-trafficking.
Deeper Than Grand Canyon. The spectacular Western Sierra Madre mountain range hosts one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, ranging from snow-covered peaks to four separate canyons, each deeper than the Grand Canyon in the United States. In addition to the neo-tropical migratory birds which winter in the region, it is also home to 26 threatened or endangered species including thick-billed parrots, spotted owl, northern goshawk, military macaw, as well as a number of native fish, reptiles and amphibians. The region is also home to the Tarahumara, one of the largest indigenous groups in North America. But the region's long history of resource extraction, violence and corruption has threatened both the forest and the indigenous communities.
Old-Growth Forests Logged. Ever since the Spanish invaded Mexico in search of precious metals, the Tarahumara and other native peoples have sought refuge in the remote mountain valleys. In recent years, loggers and ranchers seek lumber and land at any cost, forcing many people to flee and destroying the vast majority of old-growth forest. In fact, 99 percent of the region's old-growth forests have been logged. 
You can help sustain Isidro's legacy and help his family by donating to his partner organization, Tierra Nativa.  
 Read More.
Does Planetary Prosperity Mean Zero Carbon?
Dr.Mathis Wackernagel - CEO Of Global Footprint Network
Paris Goals Still Possible. Examples across the globe show positive results. Cities like Zurich, Curitiba, Malmö, Masdar, and Reykjavik have shown leadership. Regions have taken charge, including California, where Gov. Jerry Brown will convene the Global Action Climate Summit next year. China has made creating an Ecological Civilization in harmony with nature a priority in its latest 5-year plan. France and the UK have announced the end of fossil fuel cars by 2040, and Tesla surpassed General Motors earlier this year to become the most valuable US auto maker – without ever building a gasoline-powered car. Other companies such as Schneider Electric thrive on driving down their clients’ carbon emissions and costs. Achieving the goals of the Paris  Climate Agreement is possible.

Fires. Mother Nature seems to be in full revolt. A stone's throw from the city of Oakland, where Global Footprint Network is based, the seasonal Diablo winds recently reached record intensity, fanning the worst fires that the famous wine-producing region of Napa has known, reducing to ashes vineyards and residential neighbourhoods, and pushing tens of thousands of inhabitants on the roads. Now Santa Ana winds are wreaking similar havoc in Southern California, causing more evacuations and burning more structures.
Hurricanes. On the other side of the continent, the Caribbean islands most affected by the hurricanes of the last weeks - Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy and Puerto Rico in front - face a tremendous reconstruction project, needing to rebuild access to safe water and electricity. The time is not for discouragement or defeatism. More than ever, it is evident that every human community must do its utmost to keep pace with the planet that is hosting us. The time for transformation is now.  
Zero Carbon for Prosperity. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of this transformation is sparking the imagination of people around the world and making them realize that a zero-carbon world is much more likely to secure long-term prosperity than continuing our destructive path   Read More.
Does Fear Motivate?   
by Sarah DeWeerdt | Jan 23, 2018
A new study suggests that the motivation to act against climate change depends not on fear but instead on psychological coping strategies that help people deal with their environmental worries.    by Sarah DeWeerdt | Jan 23, 2018
(Photo: Annafur)
Scary Article. Last summer, David Wallace-Wells published a terrifying article about climate change in New York magazine. (The first sentence: "It is, I promise, worse than you think.") The article touched off a debate not just about the accuracy of its dire predictions but also whether terrifying people quite so thoroughly is a good strategy. Some people posited that we need to be scared into action against climate change. Others argued that scaring people is counterproductive because it will just paralyze us.
Slow-Moving Threat. One reason for the debate is that there's been relatively little research on the psychology of climate change. It's clear that climate change-related natural disasters impact the mental health of people who are directly affected. But what about the effects of an everyday awareness of climate change as a slow-moving, planetary-scale threat?   Read More.
Did Long-Term Warming Trend Continue in 2017?   

2017 Second Warmest? Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2017 ranked as the second warmest since 1880, according to an analysis by NASA.   Continuing the planet's long-term warming trend, globally averaged temperatures in 2017 were 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.90 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. That is second only to global temperatures in 2016. 

NOAA Study. In a separate, independent analysis, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded that 2017 was the third-warmest year in their record. The minor difference in rankings is due to the different methods used by the two agencies to analyze global temperatures, although over the long-term the agencies’ records remain in strong agreement.

Both analyses show that the five warmest years on record all have taken place since 2010.  Read Full Story›

Why Are Glaciers Collapsing?

Current Rate. Average global temperatures are likely to rise by 1.5°C above pre-industrial times in less than 20 years, climbing to 2.0°C in as few as 35 years if the world sticks with its current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, according to research published in 
Nature Geoscience.
Ocean Heat Content. "Immediate action is required to develop a carbon-neutral or carbon-negative future or, alternatively, prepare adaptation strategies for the effects of a warmer climate," said lead author Philip Goodwin, a lecturer at the U.K's University of Southampton. "We've narrowed the uncertainty in surface warming projections by generating thousands of climate simulations that each closely match observational records for nine key climate metrics, including warming and ocean heat content."
"Peak Water." New modeling used to study 56 glacier drainage basins around the world found that about half those glaciers had reached "peak water" and are now sending a diminishing amount of freshwater runoff to the communities that rely on them. The results, published Monday in Nature Climate Changesuggest water supplies from all 56 basins are on a trajectory to decrease by about 43 percent by 2100, if the world can make significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. If not, the declines could reach 74 percent, leaving millions of people without freshwater.

Glacier Collapse. Another study, published in Nature Geoscience, links recent catastrophic collapses of two glaciers  in Tibet to climate change. Each sent hundreds of millions of cubic feet of ice and snow crashing down at speeds near 200 miles per hour that traveled for miles. "If this happens in areas that are not as loosely populated as Tibet, [it will be] a huge disaster," said senior author Andreas Kääb, a geosciences professor at Norway's University of Oslo.  Read More.
Why is the World Using So Much Sand?
Demand for sand leads to global ecological crisis
by Alexandra Popescu on 8 February 2018
Mongabay Newsletter
Demand for sand has risen rapidly in recent decades, leading to overexploitation in some areas. The resource is particularly vulnerable to illegal mining given its seeming abundance. Extraction of sand can make local communities more vulnerable to storm surges, destroy wildlife habitat and agricultural land, and lead to a loss of groundwater resources. Scientists recommend developing a global sand budget and enforcing local laws to protect people and ecosystems from overexploitation of this resource. Every day, miners remove 5,500 to 6,000 truckloads of sand (about 20 tons each) from the scenic beachfronts and 17 river basins of Tamil Nadu in India, according to the state government. (photo by Mylleum of hill being mined near Shillong)

India is hungry for sand. Fueled by a real estate boom estimated to generate $180 billion annually by 2020, India is digging 500 million metric tons of sand every year, feeding an industry worth more than $50 billion. And India's hunger is bound to increase, as the government plans to build about 60 million new affordable homes between 2018 and 2024.
 “Beach sand mining is taking place within the high tide line, inside the sea,” says Sandhya Ravishankar, an independent journalist from Chennai, the state capital, who covers illegal sand mining in the region. She adds that the mining occurs within the coastal regulation zone, an area ostensibly off-limits for such activity. Read More.

What Can a Young Person Do? 
Chris Junior Anaekwe, a self-appointed 'ambassador' for the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, drew praise on Twitter after he persuaded local teens to tackle rubbish in Onitsha. A Nigerian man living in one of the world's most polluted cities  he has been hailed for "leading by example" and cleaning up his community in the face of government inaction. Chris Junior Anaekwe, 28, drew the applause of the internet for leading a group of local teenagers in tackling rubbish in their neighbourhood in Onitsha, a port city in southern Nigeria. "It is good to always lead by example, not by talking, talking, talking," he wrote on Facebook.   (Photo of Onitsha by Alamy) . Read More.

How Can Colleges Attract More Minority Students to Environmental Studies and Careers?

Generalizations can be misleading when it comes to perceptions about race. Minority students, troublingly, are often perceived as not having the educational background necessary to work in environmental careers, or as not having a strong environmental identity. But a recently published studypolled white, black and other minority students on three different campuses and found they had comparable educational chops, strongly identified themselves as environmentalists and conservationists, and were just as interested as non-minorities in working in environmental organizations, both governmental and private.

University of Michigan Study. The study — conducted by Dorceta Taylor, the director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Michigan and a professor at its School for Environment and Sustainability, as well as a lifelong environmental justice advocate — is significant because the percentage of minorities in the field is still low, despite the diversity-increasing steps that have been taken. Taylor’s findings show what needs to be done to fix the imbalance. Read More

Laudato Si : On Care for Our Common Home.   

The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others. (95) . Read More.

Message from Thomas Berry

“Here we might observe that the basic mood of the future might well be one of confidence in the continuing revelation that takes place in and through the earth. If the dynamics of the universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth, if this same dynamism brought forth the continents and seas and atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings, and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process. Sensitized to such guidance from the very structure and functioning of the universe, we can have confidence in the future that awaits the human venture.” (Thomas Berry, “The New Story,” in The Dream of the Earth, 137).
Photo by Lou Niznik 10–6–1999
Copyright © 2018 Edmund Rice International, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list