by Michael D. Pulliam
HISTORIC REPRESENTATION IN WASHINGTON
In the December issue of EcoNews, we noted that progressives were calling upon the incoming Biden administration to name Representative Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) as Secretary of the Interior. A few weeks later, President-Elect Biden announced that historic choice: he will nominate Haaland as the USA’s first Native American Cabinet secretary. Haaland’s prospective nomination prompted numerous statements, endorsements, and congratulations from Indigenous leaders around the country, notably Gussie Lord, managing attorney of the Tribal Partnerships Program at Earthjustice, and Jonathan Nez, President of the Navajo Nation.
The Biden team additionally plans to nominate Michael S. Regan (currently heading North Carolina’s Dept. of Environmental Quality) as administrator of the EPA, and Brenda Mallory (with decades of experience in state and national climate policy positions, including President Obama’s administration) as chair of the Center for Environmental Quality. Both Regan and Mallory would be the first Black Americans to hold those offices.
Sources: Yes! Magazine, Washington Post
RENEWABLE ENERGY COMPANY OUTPERFORMS EXXON
Once enjoying the title of “largest public company on earth,” oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. may have its best days behind it—along with the rest of the oil industry. For most of October 2020, NextEra Energy Inc., the world’s biggest supplier of wind and solar energy, overtook Exxon’s market value by around $3 billion (sometimes more). With demand for oil and gas declining sharply nationwide, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, major oil companies have seen significant drops in their economic standing.
Renewable energy production is gaining market ground over fossil fuels across the board, especially in terms of cost effectiveness. Onshore wind technology is already cheaper than some gas-powered turbines for generating electricity, and solar infrastructure is on track to become the least expensive form of bulk power options in the very near future. The long-term energy market outlook published by BP (British Petroleum) in September 2020 offered little hope for the oil industry to regain its former prominence in the years to come.
Sources: Bloomberg, Motley Fool
NEZ PERCE TRIBE RECLAIMS 148 ACRES OF ANCESTRAL LAND
The Nez Perce Tribe has reclaimed part of its ancestral lands in Eastern Oregon with a purchase of 148 acres. Shannon Wheeler, Chairman of the Tribal Executive Committee, shared “a lot of excitement buzzing around,” saying, “We feel fortunate… that we are on our way home. We feel the landscape misses us, and we miss the landscape.” Historically, the Nez Perce occupied an area of what is now the junction of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, sometimes ranging into parts of what are now Montana and Wyoming to hunt and fish. Chief Joseph (1840-1904), whose widely-known speeches and writings have long kept him in the American consciousness, led a band of the Nez Perce through what may have been the most tumultuous time in that people’s history: several U.S. treaties and forced renegotiations culminating in the 1877 Nez Perce War, when U.S. forces drove Native people off the land and pursued them into Canada. Chief Joseph used to hold council on the ridgetop in the area the Nez Perce are reclaiming.
Nakia Williamson-Cloud, director of the Cultural Resources Program for the Nez Perce, points out that history books often stray from the truth: “The narrative is that the Nez Perce never went back there. That is not the case…. Our people would continue to go back there to hunt and fish under persecution. It was privatized by non-Indian homesteaders…. It’s been a long struggle for our people to maintain that connection, but they did.”
Sources: Oregon Public Broadcasting, NezPerce.org
AFTER 80 YEARS, SALMON SPAWNING IN COLUMBIA RIVER
After more than a generation, Chinook salmon have been seen spawning in the upper Columbia River system. “I was shocked at first,” said Crystal Conant, a member of the Colville Tribal group connected with studying and rehabilitating the salmon run. “Then I was just overcome with complete joy. I don’t know that I have the right words to even explain the happiness and the healing.”
Since 2019, the team has released around 160 salmon into the Columbia River above the Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams, as well as along the Sanpoil River, a tributary of the Columbia. “It’s an exciting project,” said Casey Baldwin, a research scientist for the Colville Tribe. “It’s been rewarding to work on.” After tracking how the salmon not only survived the unfamiliar river, but spread out and began spawning, Baldwin said, “We were pleasantly surprised…. You never know if the fish are just going to turn around and swim away.” The team counted 36 redds (underwater nests) and reported healthy conditions for continued salmon reproduction.
Sources: Oregonian, Spokesman-Review
MORE THAN FIFTY CITIES ON TRACK TO MEET CLIMATE GOALS
Fifty-four metropolitan cities around the globe are projected to reach their goals in tackling the impacts of global warming. ‘C40 Cities’ is a network of nearly 100 of the world’s megacities whose mayors and other leadership are collaborating to share ideas, resources, and accountability on climate change action. C40’s latest report shows that current programs in Buenos Aires, Milan, Mexico City, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro, among dozens of other metro areas, will cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 1.9 billion metric tons over the next decade—that’s roughly five times the annual emissions of the United Kingdom.
The report was released in December 2020, coinciding with the five year anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement. The mayor of Paris praised the “important milestone” in climate change action.
Source: The Guardian, C40.org
UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY STUDENTS HUNGER STRIKE FOR BASIC NEEDS
In March and April 2019, a coalition of student groups at the University of Kentucky organized a direct action campaign to benefit the many thousands of their fellow students who could not pay for food and housing. According to the campaign’s public statements, roughly 43% of University students were unable to afford meals, and around 2,500 students were unable to pay for a place to live. The campaigners made eight clear demands of their university administration, including the establishment of a physical Basic Needs Center and student access to a Basic Needs Fund, as well as a series of policy reforms to increase equitable benefits for and representation of Black students.
After rallies, student assemblies, and floods of phone calls were unsuccessful at getting the administration’s attention, the campaign announced that 21 students would begin an indefinite hunger strike until the University would “acknowledge the magnitude of the problem we face and act in proportion.” More students joined the hunger strike that night and the next day, and by the third day over 200 people had publicly committed to varying degrees of the strike.
Within a week of beginning their fast, the students announced a win: the University President agreed to seven of their eight demands, and made concessions on the eighth.
Source: Global Nonviolent Action Database