Category Archives: pollution

A Beautiful Action

I spent last Saturday in Richmond, California with a couple thousand amazing people, including Bill McKibben, who had this to say:

… daily life was interrupted dramatically one year ago today [August 6th] when the Chevron refinery exploded and released toxic chemicals into the air, sending 15,000 people to the hospital; much like how daily life is interrupted around the globe almost constantly by flood or drought or storms.

Daily life was also interrupted on Saturday — in a good way, this time — by a beautiful march and demonstration outside the Chevron refinery. Highlights included the magnificent sunflower mural that kids painted on the street; the thousands of sunflowers that we carried with us through the streets; the speeches by local leaders including a powerful elder of the Lao community; and the ride in the police wagon with six friends old and new. We were some of the first of 210 people who were arrested at the gates of Chevron’s refinery — so many that the police eventually ran out of zip cuffs.”

You can maybe almost see me in this photo of the pre-march rally near the Richmond BART station (by the wall, green shirt… that might be me and that’s about where I was standing then; the speaker is Richmond’s mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who seems awsome, and who just started a lawsuit against Chevron for the damage caused by last year’s fire).

August 3rd Summer Heat pre-march rally, Richmond BART (photo by by Shadia Fayne Wood/Project Survival Media)

So we listened to some speeches, then picked up sunflowers (I heard they were acquired by Urban Tilth, not only because they are so beautiful and cheerful and pro-solar-energy, but because they are reputed to pull toxins out of the soil) and signs (here’s my farewell picture of the one I carried – anyone know who did the art and screenprinting on these, because they were gorgeous?)…

stop-climate-chaos-screenprint (photo by M. Merrill, art by ???)

… then we marched through Richmond, including a long lonely stretch leading up to the Chevron refinery that followed their pipeline…

Chevron-Petroleum-pipeline (photo by M. Merrill)…then we gathered on the street outside the refinery.  Some of us did a huge round dance, led by some folx involved with Idle No More.  There was a welcome ceremony performed by some of the locally indigenous Ohlone (I believe Chochenyo), then speeches from a diverse array of local activists, with an emphasis on environmental justice.

They invited all those who wanted to get arrested to get prepped, then the civil disobeyers (is that a word? maybe “civilly disobedient persons”?) trespassed by going through the gates and onto the property of the refinery so they could be arrested.  Not me – too chicken :-(  But I stayed with the thousand or so that cheered on our arrested heroes.  There was a festive jazz band, a great street painting, and some interesting theater out there.

I’m not altogether convinced that actions like this are effective, but they do get a fair amount of press, so they must be worth something.  Plus, it’s good to gather with a purpose like this, not to mention FUN!

Richmond-Rally-Chevron-Summer-Heat-08-03-13 (we dance and chant while the brave got arrested)


Mobilize: The Next BIG Rally [in the SF Bay Area] Plan, Fund and Spread the Word (Save the Date) Saturday, August 3 [Richmond, CA]  Remember the Richmond Chevron refinery fire last August. Well, we’re mobilizing! It’s part of the national days … Continue reading

Stand with First Nations – Oppose Tar Sands Mining and KXL

There are a few resonating news items regarding tar sands extraction, the Keystone XL Pipeline, and their impact on the indigenous people of this continent:

1. Alberta toxic waste spill could be biggest North American environmental disaster in recent history

The spill was first discovered on June 1st, about 100 kms south of the border with the Northwest Territories, near the small town of Zama City. Texas-based Apache Corporation, the oil company responsible for the spill, just released their estimate of its size on Wednesday [June 12th]…

“Every plant and tree died,” said James Ahnassay, chief of the Dene Tha First Nation, according toThe Globe and Mail, as he spoke of the effect the spill has had on the land. The Dene Tha apparently also believe that waterfowl may have been killed in the spill, which took place in a wetlands area, but according to The Globe and Mail, Apache representatives said they saw no impacts on wildlife.

2.  The Beaver Lake Cree Judgment: The Most Important Tar Sands Case You’ve Never Heard Of

“…the constitutional standing of the tar sands – one of the world’s largest and most carbon-intensive energy projects – is just what’s at stake in a treaty rights claim the Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) is bringing against the Governments of Alberta and Canada in a case that promises to be one of the most significant legal and constitutional challenges to the megaproject seen in Canada to date…

The Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the claim against the crown, grants the BLCN the opportunity to argue the cumulative negative impacts of tar sands expansion may constitute a legal breach of the band’s historic Treaty 6 with the Canadian government, signed back in 1876.

And the significance of this judgment cannot be overstated. The BLCN’s claim now stands as the first opportunity for legal consideration of the cumulative impacts of the tar sands on First Nation’s traditional territory and the implications of those impacts on the ability to uphold Treaty Rights.”

3. Keystone XL Pipeline Follows in Tracks of Conquest, Sexual Violence and Colonization

Faith Spotted EagleFaith Spotted Eagle wrote an important piece on the consequences of the pipeline going through South Dakota reservations.

“Native communities are viewed by the colonizers as inherently “dirty, dispensable” communities where waste and toxins can be deposited. These reservations communities are located on or near the fifty six waterways identified as being affected by the pipeline…

We climbed into a van that had the pictures on it of missing and murdered Native women. The two grandmothers driving the van explained that they were on a walk across Canada to bring attention to this outrage, which they urgently believe is related to industrial and mining development on or adjacent to Native lands. They were adamant about telling us to keep this in mind when stopping the KXL Pipeline, because it would protect the women, children and families of our nations. As we traveled to the hotel, I could feel the spirits of the murdered and missing women traveling with us in the van.”

She also talked with Caroline Casey on the Visionary Activist Show yesterday, and there’s video of her testifying to the US State Department in April.

Outraged yet?

 “Our Native prophecies state that there will be a time to stand up for what is important, and that time is now!!” ~ Faith Spotted Eagle

Ready to stand up and be Idle No More?

Idle No More


Passing 400 had to start a new page, with some reactions to the rather alarming news from Mauna Loa.  Here are some choice quotes:

On May 9th, for the first time ever, the world’s most important CO2 monitoring station recorded daily CO2 concentrations above 400 parts per million – the highest levels found on earth in over 5 million years…this is yet another sign that our dependence on fossil fuels is out of control.” -
We’re in new territory for human beings–it’s been millions of years since there’s been this much carbon in the atmosphere. The only question now is whether the relentless rise in carbon can be matched by a relentless rise in the activism necessary to stop it.” -Bill McKibben, Co-Founder,
Crossing the 400 ppm threshold is a somber reminder that we haven’t taken the action we need. Nevertheless there is good reason for hope — activists all across the globe are fighting the fossil fuel industry and demanding clean, just and affordable solutions to our energy needs.” –Payal Parekh, Coordinator, Global Power Shift

One can hope that the old saw “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going”*will really kick in.   Of course, as the Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” *

Capitola Bags the Bag

Michelle Y. Merrill, Ph.D.:

It’s time to Bag the (Plastic) Bag! Way to go, City of Capitola.

Originally posted on Cabrillo GreenSteps Blog:

On April 10, 2013, Capitola will join the County of Santa Cruz (the jurisdiction in which Cabrillo College resides) and the Cities of Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Monterey and Carmel when its plastic bag ban goes into effect. The City Council voted unanimously in January, 2013 to ban point-of-sale plastic bags at all retail businesses and initiate a 25-cent charge for carryout paper bags as well. Shoppers are encouraged to bring sturdy reusable bags to carry their purchases. As reported in Capitola’s Winter 2013 newsletter, “As a coastal city, Capitola has a strong interest in protecting the marine environment. Plastic bags that find their way into the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary essentially remain there indefinitely since most plastic bags do not biodegrade. The new ordinance will significantly reduce the amount of plastic bag litter and, in turn, will keep our beaches, land, and creeks cleaner.”[Thanks to CITF listing in…

View original 101 more words

Human Population

Michelle Y. Merrill, Ph.D.:

A little something I put together for my Bio. Anthro. Lab class…

Originally posted on Michelle Merrill's Cabrillo Anthropology Classes:

Biological Anthropology is the study of humans as a species, and how we are related to other species in the Primates.  In thinking about humans as one very biologically successful primate species, it’s important to understand just how many of us there are.

“Population is rising sharply as the largest generation in history comes into its childbearing years.” LA Times

Here are some useful resources for exploring that question.

View original 157 more words


A tribute to greenwashers everywhere – enjoy!   I’m tired of hearing oil companies talk about how green they are while they pump pollution into our neighborhoods and sidestep basic safety rules. Just look at Chevron—the fire at its Richmond, … Continue reading


Leaf blowers are another pet peeve of mine (I collect them by the bushel). Here’s a clever idea from Owen Dell that I found on the Terra Nova Landscaping blog: My dear friend and colleague, landscape contractor Ken Foster of Terra Nova … Continue reading

Marine Debris from 2011 Japan Tsunami

Shortly after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, I mentioned the concern about what would happen as all that stuff moved out into the Pacific.  See video below for a summary of NOAA’s recent work on this issue:

Occupied Lands

I’m mostly hopeful about the promise of the “Occupy” movement.   One of the oft-reported weaknesses of the movement is the lack of a unified message.  But this criticism overlooks the essence of the thing: all of these varied concerns have sprouted from the same root.  Where the less-thoughtful of the media see a bunch of different demands from a disorderly gathering of unkempt kids, I hear varied perspectives on the same core issue.

One unifying slogan – “Human Needs over Corporate Greed” – seems to encompass the bulk of the message.  But not everyone understands immediately that human needs include the long-term vitality of ecosystems (and as little climate destabilization as can be obtained at this late date), health maintenance and health care (not just treating the sick, but providing adequate nutrition, clean air and clean water to all), access to educational opportunities (without being tied into debt) and a commitment to justice and true democracy.

I think, I hope, that this movement is a demand for a NEW SYSTEM in which people can be assured opportunities to do all the work that so needs doing, and a system where their needs will be met while doing it.  It’s okay that we don’t know what this system will look like yet.  What’s clear, what’s being protested, are the things that are most actively blocking the chance for something new to grow.

And already, within the movement, are the critiques.  These are valuable.  These are distracting, yes, but we ignore them at our peril.  As Frank Herbert said, “A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.”  One of the most important considerations has to do with indigenous perspectives on the name of the movement:

What “Wall Street” and the U.S. have become — an imperial-colonial power over the world’s economics and the laws that protect it — is a direct legacy of the fraud and violence committed against Native nations.

Perhaps those who now claim to OCCUPY WALL STREET in the name of reforming America’s economy could remember their history and call it something else (see Racialicious’ post for more discussion of the importance of language in opposition). Wall Street is, after all, already an occupied territory.

As are all of U.S. land “holdings” in northern America, the Pacific, and the Caribbean.

Decolonize the opposition!

(especially now that it is OCCUPYING L.A., Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago….)

via Tequila Sovereign: Manna-hata.

Perhaps the movement will find a new and better name as it develops.  I hope that the thoughtfulness, the questioning, is retained as essential to the movement’s well-being.  The importance of the core unifying principle should provide the coherence to prevent disagreements from becoming faultlines.

The people in power (and no, I don’t so much mean elected officials, I mean unaccountable power that comes from concentrated wealth, and the commercial-funded media mouthpieces for such power) want to ridicule what is happening.  They don’t perceive that this is the birth of something new; they only see it as opposing the status quo (which it is), and therefore they link it to older, more familiar terms that were seen as opposition to capitalism (e.g. communism or socialism).  But all of those bear the same underlying structure – the same genes as capitalism - for centralization, domination and short-term thinking.  My hope is that the new generation of activists is a movement away from those old systems of thought.   It hasn’t yet matured into an -ism, and with luck, foresight and courage it may never do so.

I won’t claim to know where this movement is going.  But just the choice speak out, to ask our civilization to change course at all from our headlong rush to ecological and cultural collapse is an improvement, a step away from the wrong direction that just might lead to steps in the right direction.