Thursday, December 25, 2008

Coal for christmas

happy holidays

This xmas, my thoughts are with those who are unfairly impacted by the coal industry. May this unfortunate event help bring justice more swiftly.

toxic sludge pond failure covers 400 acres

Toxic Pond Fail

You might have heard the breaking story of a sludge pond failure in Eastern Tennessee. 500 million gallons of toxic coal waste spilled down a valley and damaged 14 homes and covered 400 acres in heavy metals and other toxins.

merry christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New "Clean Coal" add features Obama (robot)

I'd prefer to give Obama the benefit of the doubt until he's in office. But in the end he's either playing the game, or the games playing him. After all, no one makes it to the position of president-elect without having full support of the corporatocracy, including King Coal. I just hope he's paying lip service to the king until he get's close enough to his neck.

Obama has had the tendency to get us wrapped up in his well-written and emotional speeches, until he'd reach his obligatory and blood-curdling support of "clean coal and safe nuclear." (I almost choked while eating during his acceptance speech in Denver). Well, the coal industry front group, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) has chosen a few of Obama's (or Robobama's) gems and put out a new advertisement, perhaps in response to the Reality Campaign ad's which have been getting impressive air time.

You can see the new ad at the ACCCE website,

With all the good news about Obama's appointees, I guess we still have reason to be optimistic. But it's up to us to put the pressure on him, and to let him know that there is no such thing as clean coal. Maybe he just needs a little gentle support and guidance. But we should, by no means, limit ourselves.

It is of utmost importance that we successfully debunk the myth of clean coal. And, thanks to the power of media, we'll have to do it over and over again. Remember, repetition is key. Repetition is key.

Thankfully, the Reality Campain (thank you Mr. Gore) is releasing a new commercial, called "smudge." Check it out.

If letter-writing and phone calls aren't enough for you, it's time to get involved with serious grassroots organizing against King Coal. Next March, Mountain Justice Spring Break will give you the chance to learn from and stand with those most directly impacted by the dirty coal industry. What better way to spend your spring break? Keep an eye out for more information in the near future, or better yet, email MJSB to find out how to help!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Geeking out on geomagnetism

High-energy pulses of solar wind distort the Earth's magnetic field.

For some reason I felt like geeking out tonight. Reading about variations in the Earth's magnetic field, among other things. Scientists know that the Earth's magnetic field changes over time, and that complete reversals of the poles have happened many times in the past, the last time being about 700 thousand years ago. The overall field of the Earth has decreased 7% over over the last 100 years, which some scientists think might be a sign of a pending reversal. The thing they can't decide is whether the change happens quickly (over a few years) or slowly (over a few thousand years). When the fields reverse, they first collapse, leaving the Earth and it's inhabitants exposed to flares of solar radiation. The coming collapse (if it happens) will be the first to occur with a global technology-based population (that we know of). All of our satellites and other technology would basically be wiped out without protection from solar radiation. Should make for interesting times.... indeed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rising Tide Boston to Bank of America: We’re still breaking up with you.

While it's important to celebrate our victories, and keep a positive momentum, we know that the fight is far from over. Bank of America's new "coal policy" is nothing more than a PR ploy, and we must not be distracted.

A message, from the core of Rising Tide Boston:

Rising Tide Boston not fooled by Bank of America's "Coal Policy"; plans to break up with them this Valentine's Day


Rising Tide Boston wishes to announce that the group will continue its part in the widespread campaign to pressure Bank of America to drop its involvement with the coal industry, despite the bank's recent release of a new "Coal Policy". We view this so-called policy as a PR gimmick intended to distract the public from Bank of America's ongoing funding of the coal industry. Bank of America's Coal Policy fails to commit to a timeline or any concrete action to halt their financing of mountain top removal coal mining, and the alternatives the bank pledges to support are not solutions at all.

Bank of America claims that they will "phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal." Without having any sort of schedule, there is no way to know that Bank of America actually intends to follow through on their stated plan. If the bank's intention is a "phase out" over a number of years, what does that mean for places being bombed or covered in toxic sludge every day? If and when Bank of America does drop companies like Massey Energy, we hope they would extend this action to all companies wreaking havoc on ecosystems and coalfield communities through strip mining.

Friday, December 5, 2008

We can use the media, too

You might have seen this add on every single commercial break last night during Daily Show and Colbert. It's about time we get some screen time.

The Reality campaign is a project of Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. Unfortunately the campaign materials leave out the single largest argument that there's no such thing as clean coal; AS LONG AS WE'RE BLOWING UP MOUNTAINS, it doesn't matter how much emissions are cleaned. (a good article about the ad campaign, here).

You might have caught another quick shout to the coal justice movement during Wednesday's Daily Show. During the "Lame Duck Presidency" skit, PC guy makes reference to the Lame Turduken Bush's 11th hour decision to effectively gut the Stream Buffer Zone rule, allowing mining operations to dump waste into rivers. Obama? Clean-up, aisle eleven.

The tide may be rising, but it's also turning...

It's important to have milestones, checkpoints. Right now is such a juncture at which we can celebrate, take a mindful breath, look how far we've come, re-establish our footing, and dig in for the long road ahead. Fortunately, our pace is quickened, and our momentum is growing. Our goal is now within our site. We will see and end to mountaintop removal, and an end to coal.

There may never be a truly ethical corporation. They are programmed to do one thing, after-all, get money. But if the people organize, we can translate ethics into business terms. When it comes to the destruction of our mountains, and of our rivers, and the systematic genocide of an entire culture, business as usual ends now. Bank of America may be starting to get the picture.

Yesterday, Bank of America released its new coal policy, which appears to announce the bank's divestment from the most destructive form of coal mining, mountaintop removal. The policy states, in part:

Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal.

This is pretty huge, considering Bank of America is currently the single largest investor in coal extraction, giving billions of dollars to the largest coal companies performing mountaintop removal, including Massey, Arch and Peabody. Of course, we'll have to see how this plays out. After all, they don't call what they're doing in Tennessee by the term "mountaintop removal."

Either way, this is a momentous occasion. It sends yet another message to the coal companies, and to other investors. Time is running out for coal.

News of the divestment came less then two days after a federal judge revoked the air quaility permit for the Cliffside plant in North Carolina. Duke energy now has 70 days to update its technology or construction will be halted by the court. (Props to our friends and allies in Asheville!)

It's been a particularly momentous last few weeks for the energy justice movement. Recent events were almost foreshadowed earlier in November. The night before the National Day of Action against Coal and Coal Finance, some of us were gathered at the house in Boston, making signs and painting banners. Word came through the interwebs that a major victory had been won. A wave of elation ran through some of us, when we learned that a court had ruled that all new coal plants must use “Best Available Control Technology." Of course, none of those currently being built or proposed are up to par, so its back to the drawing board. More than just stalling all current projects, the ruling makes coal an even riskier investment. (We can certainly help it along, and make it even riskier.)

The Day of Action went well, across the country. I was happy to watch videos of a rather impressive march in Austin, Texas, with props, costumes, and a giant Bank of America card, with scissors. Back in Boston, a small of troupe ventured out for a day of culture-jamming, street theater, and quasi-educational tomfoolery. We decided to help the banks with their green image, by marketing their investments in "green coal"...