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Following a record fine in January for illegally dumping wastewater, the Port of Morrow continued to pump nitrogen-rich water onto northeast Oregon farms, according to a revised penalty from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
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NORTH BRADDOCK, Penn.—On Wednesday evening, 10th grader Abby Wypych stood in front of Woodland Hills School District’s board and urged them to approve a feasibility study on installing solar panels.
“Woodland Hills has provided me with many opportunities to get involved with climate action, which I’m very passionate about,” she said. “As a student with severe asthma, I’m also very concerned about the poor air quality in our region.”
Wypych and her co-presenter Lauren Palamara, a youth educator for the climate advocacy nonprofit Communitopia, reminded the board that thanks to student advocacy, Woodland Hills became the first school district in Pennsylvania to pass a climate resolution in 2020. With a goal of having net-zero emissions by 2050, the district has helped educators create climate change lessons for their classrooms, established a climate-friendly food and gardening program, improved recycling and energy efficiency in school buildings, and students hosted the region’s first youth climate action summit. In 2021, the district won a national “Best of Green Schools Award” from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“How do we continue to champion this phenomenal work?” Palamara asked. “Imagine our next news headlines if Woodland Hills takes steps toward becoming a regional leader in solar power.”
Abby Wypych presents to the Woodland Hills School Board, urging them to move forward with a proposed solar power project. (Credit: Kristina Marusic)
The pitch was effective: The school board voted to accept a letter of intent from solar developer BAI Group. As a next step, they’ll review the company’s proposal to conduct a solar feasibility study for the district.
Woodland Hills is not alone. The number of K-12 schools using solar power in Pennsylvania doubled from 2020-2021, according to a report published today by Generation180, a clean energy nonprofit.
The 108 schools using solar energy in the state represent nearly 5% of all K-12 students in the state (about 90,000 students), and about 2% of all Pennsylvania schools.
“If this growth continues, schools could set Pennsylvania up as a clean energy leader and not just the fossil fuels we’re known for,” Shannon Crooker, the Pennsylvania director at Generation180, told EHN.
In recent years, energy costs increased while the cost of solar panels decreased. According to Generation180’s report, a majority of solar projects at Pennsylvania schools were installed in low-income districts at little to no upfront cost, enabling schools to start saving money immediately.
“We’ve been able to put the money we’re saving on energy toward teacher resources and curriculum materials,” Joe Stroup, the district superintendent for Midd-West School District, which has the largest school district solar array in Pennsylvania, told EHN. “It’s also good for the community because it takes some of the burden of taxes off people in the district.”
Midd-West School District in Middleburg is located in rural central Pennsylvania. In 2019 the district began installation of its solar array, which covers 7.25 acres divided between two school properties and creates up to 2.56 megawatts of solar power. Since the system went online in 2020, the district has generated 90%-95% of the school district’s power, which is expected to reduce its electricity bill by $9 million over 40 years.Most of the schools that have installed solar panels are in the central and eastern parts of the state, with just a handful of projects in western Pennsylvania. Historically, energy costs have been low for schools in the western half of the state, but that’s beginning to change as energy rates increase statewide.
Generation180 has helped schools across the country switch to solar power. A 2020 nationwide report by the group found that the number of K-12 schools in the U.S. using solar power increased by roughly 81% from 2014-2020, and that more than 5.3 million kids and teens attend schools using solar energy. Generation180 is officially launching its Pennsylvania program with the publication of the new report on solar-powered schools in the state, and hopes to help additional school districts switch to solar with free technical assistance and resources.
“There’s a misconception in western Pennsylvania that we can’t go solar because it’s so overcast,” said Crooker. She noted that Pittsburgh’s weather is often compared to rainy Seattle, which is home to the greenest commercial building in the world, the world’s first net-zero energy high-rise apartment building, and the world’s first net-zero energy arena — all of which rely on solar energy.
Palamara hopes Woodland Hills will help lead the way. “I think this district could be a– model in the region for solar-powered schools,” she said.
Low installation costs
Solar panels at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Credit: Scalo Solar)
Solar array at Steelton-Highspire School District
in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Credit: McClure Company)
Pennsylvania is one of 29 states that allows “third-party ownership” of solar arrays, which enables a solar developer to pay for, install, and maintain a solar energy system on a property owned by someone else (such as a school district), then sell the property owner the power generated at a discounted price.
Most school districts aren’t eligible for clean energy tax incentives because they’re public entities, but privately owned solar companies that install solar panels on schools receive substantial tax credits, making the relationship beneficial for both parties.
Nationwide, roughly 79% of the solar energy installed at schools from 2015-2020 was financed this way, according to Generation180, and in Pennsylvania, about 66% of existing school solar projects have been paid for this way. Most of the Pennsylvania schools with solar qualify for some sort of Title 1 assistance, meaning a significant portion of their students are from low-income households.
“I think many people assume solar is too expensive,” Tish Tablan, program director at Generation180, told EHN. “Many Pennsylvania schools in low-income areas have already used third-party ownership to go solar with no upfront costs.”
A school district in rural Arkansas made national headlines in 2020 after saving more than $1 million in two years by switching to solar, then raising teacher salaries by up to $15,000 a year (more experienced teachers got the highest raises). One longtime teacher in the district told reporters the raise allowed her to quit the second job she’d had to work for her entire career.
Not all solar contracts are so advantageous, so Tablan’s organization helps school districts work with independent consultants that assess schools’ needs and shop for the best deal.
Midd-West School District used third-party ownership. The district didn’t pay anything for the installation, and will instead pay the solar company, Greenworks, a set rate for the power generated by the panels for the next five years.
“That locks in what we’re paying for energy right now,” Stroup said. “As a school district with a budget, that’s very important for us.”
When five years are up, the district will have the option to purchase the solar array, which they intend to do. The district is also considering expanding its solar capacity to generate up to 110% of its energy needs, which would enable them to sell energy back to the grid.
The proposed plan in Woodland Hills School District would also take advantage of the third-party ownership option.
“The cost savings are a no-brainer in my opinion,” Palamara told the school board, “and 80% of our energy at the high school would be coming from renewable energy, which would help us meet our climate action plan goals for 2050.”
Clean energy job training for students
Philadelphia Junior Solar Sprint Artistic Merit winners. (Credit: Philadelphia Solar Energy Authority)
Frankford High School—where students can learn how to install solar panels, take field trips to solar sites, and can get paid summer internships. (Credit: Generation180)
Schools throughout the country are preparing students for one of the fastest-growing employment sectors: clean energy.
Pennsylvania has been ranked as a top state for solar employment growth since 2015, and school districts with their own solar arrays have a unique advantage. At Midd-West School District, for example, high school students taught fourth grade students about how the district’s solar array works this week as part of their STEM curriculum.
In 2020, the School District of Philadelphia launched “Bright Solar Futures,” one of the first solar career training programs in the country, as a three-year vocational program at Frankford High School. Students learn how to install solar panels, take field trips to solar sites, and can get paid summer internships.
“This program has enabled [students] to take control of their future in a way that will have a positive impact on their community and their environment,” Jordan Crolly, the School District of Philadelphia’s solar energy technology teacher, told Generation 180. “Having a meaningful career path to work towards that pays well has given many of the solar energy technology students a sense of direction and a reason to try in school.”
Room for more solar at Pennsylvania schools
Abby Wypych and Lauren Palamara, pictured in the Woodland Hills School District administration building after giving their presentation to the school board. (Credit: Kristina Marusic)
When Generation180 published its 2020 report on solar energy at schools across the country, Pennsylvania ranked 25th in the nation for the number of K-12 schools with solar energy, lagging behind neighboring states like New York and Maryland.
“We want to help more Pennsylvania schools flip the switch to solar, especially in low-income school districts that will benefit the most from the savings,” Crooker said.
Pennsylvania has one of the largest public education systems in the U.S. with more than 1.7 million students. If Pennsylvania schools keep adopting solar energy at the same rate over the next five years, they’d sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a rate equal to covering the cities of Pittsburgh and Scranton with forests, according to Generation180’s report.
The report also determined that if every K-12 school in Pennsylvania installed an average-size solar energy system of 267 kilowatts, it would eliminate carbon dioxide emissions each year equivalent to closing 3.8 natural gas-fired power plants.
“Growing up in my generation and hearing everything bad about climate change, it kind of feels like you have no hope, like what’s the point,” Wypych said. “Having opportunities in school to make [climate advocacy] something fun honestly changes your perspective. Climate change is still this horrible thing, but we have hope because we can still change things. Just because we’re younger doesn’t mean we’re any less powerful.”
Banner photo credit: Generation180
Last month the Biden Administration announced that it would resume selling leases for new oil and gas drilling on public lands.
This decision raises significant climate change and environmental justice concerns, particularly for those disadvantaged communities who may live near future drilling sites.
Our recent study on community exposures to oil and gas production shows that historical redlining has perpetuated patterns of environmental injustice. Redlined neighborhoods have nearly twice the density of oil and gas wells than otherwise comparable neighborhoods that were not redlined.
Our findings may partially explain how it is that Black and Latinx people are more likely to live near oil and gas development infrastructure today.
In light of these findings, policymakers should consider the scientific evidence of the risks posed by oil and gas production to public health, and how historical racist policies contributed to the health disparities we see today.
Redlining and environmental injustice
Many environmental problems disproportionately faced by communities of color and the poor in the U.S. are rooted in discriminatory policies put in place generations ago by local, state, and federal governments. One such policy is known as redlining, in which the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, in trying to revive the housing market in the 1930s in the wake of the Great Depression, graded and mapped how risky neighborhoods were for real estate investment.
Neighborhoods comprised of largely low-income, immigrant, or Black residents were deemed “hazardous” or “definitely declining” and mapped in red (i.e., redlined), while whiter and wealthier communities were considered “best” or “still desirable.”
A 2018 study in Los Angeles found that at least some Home Owners’ Loan Corporation officials explicitly considered the racial makeup of neighborhoods and the presence of oil and gas wells when making decisions about redlining, which influenced future locations of new oil and gas development. Officials gave the highest grade to one predominantly white Los Angeles neighborhood near oil and gas wells after local leaders agreed to impose “racial restrictions in perpetuity,” to keep the neighborhood white while also stopping future oil and gas well drilling. In our recent study, we found that neighborhoods that already had wells were more likely to be redlined, and, in turn, redlined neighborhoods were more likely to have new oil and gas wells drilled after the policy went into effect.
These legacies remain imprinted on neighborhoods today. For many families who have stayed in their redlined neighborhoods for generations, significant environmental and health consequences remain. Research shows that historically redlined neighborhoods have worse air quality, a lack of greenspace, and higher heat island risks, as well as elevated rates of cardiovascular disease, asthma hospitalizations, poor birth outcomes, and other diseases.
Although redlining may not have directly caused these disparities, this discriminatory policy codified and accelerated them through disinvestment in already struggling neighborhoods, which, in turn, has shaped the present-day location of environmental hazards and associated health risks. In terms of oil and gas production, research shows that drilling and operating oil and gas wells worsens air pollution and puts residents living nearby at risk of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, depression, and poor birth outcomes, including premature birth.
Shifting away from oil and gas
In California, policymakers, affected residents, and advocates are debating how to protect communities and workers from the impacts of nearby oil and gas production operations, including limiting new drilling permits and establishing buffer zones between active wells and the places where people live, work, play, and go to school. As the state seeks to phase out oil and gas production and prohibit drilling in residential neighborhoods, policymakers should account for the ongoing adverse impact of historical redlining on the environmental quality of communities of color.
This requires that decision-makers engage fence-line communities near oil and gas production facilities to reduce exposures. It also requires expanding programs such as California’s Climate Investments, which has invested over $4.5 billion in transformative, environmental justice projects that address climate change, including renewable energy initiatives. Similarly, the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, modeled closely on California’s program, would require that at least 40% of federal investments in climate-change mitigation and clean energy projects benefit environmental justice communities.
The worsening climate crisis, along with strained energy supply chains due to rising global tensions amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, make clear the urgent need for the U.S. to shift away from oil and gas production and toward renewable energy sources. Equally important is that hastening this energy transition would go a long way toward advancing environmental justice for those communities who have endured the health impacts of oil and gas development for generations.
David J.X. González is a Ford Foundation and University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow and Rachel Morello-Frosch is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health and Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Morello-Frosch is also a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
Banner photo: UCLA Law students and faculty participated in a toxic tour of Wilmington, CA, a predominantly Latinx neighborhood surrounded by the Port of Los Angeles, heavy industry, and an oil field in 2019. (Credit: Emmett Institute/flickr)
In a rush to reap the economic benefits of fracking, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), the state General Assembly and three governors ignored or gave underwhelming responses to public health concerns, according to a new white paper from the nonprofit Environmental Health Project.
“[I]t is clear that, to date, many members of the General Assembly, the Governor’s Office, and the DOH have failed to make a good faith effort to understand and address the health risks and resulting health impacts of shale gas development,” the paper, entitled "Pennsylvania's Shale Gas Boom: How Policy Decisions Failed to Protect Public Health and What We Can Do to Correct It," states.
Environmental Health Project, a health organization focused on how shale gas drilling and its byproducts impact communities, collected health data from Pennsylvania residents living near shale wells, which now number more than 13,000 in permits, to make up for what it describes as inaction by the state.
“Since we have been doing this for 10 years, it seemed like time to reflect on the comprehensive narrative on how we got to where we are today,” said EHP Executive Director Alison L. Steele.
Research has linked increased risk of infant mortality, low birth rates, depression, and hospitalizations for skin and urinary issues to live near fracking wells. The findings come a year after Environmental Health News’ “Fractured” investigation, which found that Western Pennsylvania families near fracking are exposed to harmful chemicals, and regulations fail to protect communities' mental, physical, and social health.
The authors of the new report call for more funding to government agencies, for drillers to make public the list of chemicals they use, and a better way for residents to file environmental health complaints.
Original shale drilling law
The report criticizes Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, whose term, from 2003 to 2011, saw the staging of the first fracking wells. However, it traces much of the systematic neglect to Act 13, passed in 2012 under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
The law established some fundamentals for shale drilling in Pennsylvania. It enabled the state to preempt some local environmental laws and zoning authority in order to establish uniform statewide standards for shale gas well development.
Act 13 also created the “impact fee,” an annual per-well fee paid by the operator. Pennsylvania is the only state to tax drill operators in this way; the 33 other oil producing states tax profits. While the fees generated about $150 million to $200 million a year, the report states that, “It has been estimated that a severance tax, either instead of or in addition to an impact fee, would have provided the state with billions of dollars in revenue over the first decade of the shale boom.”
This money could have gone toward mitigating the impacts of the fracking industry on infrastructure like highways and bridges, future capping of abandoned wells, or efforts to track the health effects of fracking. Environmental Health Project researchers could find no evidence that any impact fee revenue was put toward evaluating residents’ complaints or concerns about fracking.
The state kicked around the idea of creating a registry to log health complaints that may be related to contamination of ground water and other complications of fracking. Act 13 included $2 million for one, but that feature was cleaved off the bill before it passed.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who took office in 2015, proposed $100,000 for one and the General Assembly agreed to fund it in 2016. By then, “the DOH had been getting phone calls from residents with health complaints for several years, but there was no established structure, systematic protocol, or sustainability plan for the collection of reliable information,” the new report states, adding “it is possible that this move is still too little, too late to have a significant impact on the state of health research in frontline communities.”
Department of Health
The report gives Wolf credit for reinstating a ban on fracking on state-owned lands, which had been removed by Corbett, and for bringing health consequences of shale gas development back into conversation, but concludes that none of his actions have “limited residents’ exposure to toxic substances in their air and water, which continued to increase.”
The DOH also “failed in its own right to protect public health,” the report states, noting media investigations alleging that staffers were instructed not to return calls from residents reporting health problems linked to franking and “were given a list of words related to gas operations and told not to engage in conversations with residents who called about any of the words on the list.”
When reviewing calls about water and emissions near drilling operations on the ground, the DOH often collaborated with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, but their investigations yielded little follow up.
DOH’s stated position, in a correspondence with state Attorney General Josh Shapiro included in the report, was that “the science in this area is developing, and it is fair to say that it has not been proven that fracking harms public health.”
Steele said this approach contrasts starkly with the DOH’s responses to Covid-19 and to the opioid epidemic—which encompasses data collection, prescription drug monitoring and guidance and education for healthcare providers.
“We know that they are capable of delivering a public health response,” she said. “In this case, they were not given a mandate.”
Environmental Health Project is not the first to point out DOH inaction. Attorney General Shapiro, in a comprehensive report on the state’s response to fracking issued in 2020, stated that it was “remarkable that a newly created organization like [Environmental Health Project] swiftly gathered data and provided guidance to Pennsylvanians on how they could protect themselves from the effects of industry operations, while a long-established government entity, DOH, did not.”
DOH did not immediately return emails seeking comment.
Noting that neighboring New York and Maryland instituted moratoriums on shale drilling in light of new evidence of their public health costs, the Environmental Health Project concludes that, “The public health failures Pennsylvania’s governors have demonstrated with respect to shale gas development were not inevitable; they were choices. The only constraints were political.”
Editor's note: This article was updated to more accurately reflect EHP's positions, and to correct earlier errors in PA oil and gas laws.
Banner photo: Bryan Latkanich of Washington County, Pa., points to drilling equipment near his home in 2019. (Credit: Kristina Marusic)
In March 2021, EHN published Fractured, a groundbreaking investigation on chemical exposures and fracking. One year later, where do things stand when it comes to fracking and health?
Our series found that families with children living near fracking wells in Pennsylvania had high levels of toxic chemicals in their air, water, and bodies. Several children in the study had biomarkers for exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in their bodies at levels that exceed those in the average adult cigarette smoker. The reporting drew local, national, and international media coverage, and prompted action from readers, activists, and legislators.
A group of 35 state lawmakers published a letter urging Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to further investigate chemical exposures among residents of the state who live near fracking operations. Advocacy groups called for additional research using the methodology we developed for the investigation and demanded a statewide fracking ban in response to the series.
In June 2021, Alison Beam, the acting secretary of the state Department of Health sent a letter to the 35 lawmakers who’d called for further investigation. The letter said the agency had reached out to the federal Agency for Toxic and Substances Disease Registry for assistance reviewing the data presented in our reporting, and to discuss the possibility of collaborating on a biomonitoring study similar to the one conducted by EHN. That acting secretary has since moved on to a job in the private sector.
EHN became aware of this letter for the first time recently. We plan to follow up with the new head of the agency.
“I don’t think there was ever any real follow-up there,” state Sen. Katie Muth, who drafted the initial letter along with state Rep. Sarah Innamorato, told EHN. “There’s a lot of convincing that still needs to happen, and people understanding this issue and applying public pressure is going to continue to be really important.”
Despite our investigation providing shocking evidence that children who live near fracking operations are being exposed to harmful chemicals, little has changed in the last year. While some inroads have been made at the federal level to address health concerns related to fracking, legislative attempts at the state level have repeatedly failed. Meanwhile, the ongoing war in Ukraine has prompted calls for even looser regulations and increased production from Pennsylvania’s fracking fields, and residents living near oil and gas operations—including those we tested—remain at risk, with little ability to protect their families.
Federal and state fracking regulations
At the federal level, the Biden administration has taken steps aimed at giving states more power to regulate oil and gas pipelines, canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, halted new oil and gas leases on federal lands, reversed the Trump administration's rollback on methane regulations, and attempted to end some subsidies for fossil fuels (a task that has proven difficult). The Biden administration has also approved many permits for oil and gas wells on public land, frustrating environmentalists.
At the state level, Pennsylvania Democrats have pushed for numerous changes aimed at protecting people who live near well pads, but those efforts have been stymied by a Republican-controlled legislature.
For example, in May 2021, Pennsylvania Senate Democrats, joined by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, put forth numerous bills aimed at tightening oversight of the industry in response to a 2020 Grand Jury report on harms caused by fracking. The legislation would have increased the minimum distance between well pads and occupied buildings, required fracking companies to publicly disclose the chemicals they use, increased air and water monitoring, required hazardous waste labeling for trucks carrying fracking waste, and given more power to the Attorney General to prosecute cases against fracking companies that harm residents.
All of those bills languished in committee.
State legislation that Muth and Innamorato sponsored, aimed at closing loopholes that allow the oil and gas industry to treat radioactive waste as non-hazardous, met a similar fate.
One reason these bills aren’t getting through: Daryl Metcalf, the majority chair of the Pennsylvania House Environmental Resources and Energy committee. He has publicly bragged about blocking all Democrat-sponsored bills from consideration in his committees.
“We knew being referred to his committee would be a death knell for the [hazardous waste bills],” state Rep. Innamorato told EHN. “We could lobby to re-refer it, but we don’t want to make that effort until we have commitments from other Republicans on other committees to try and move it forward … It’s mostly just a tool to organize around, to create some momentum we can use to move other pieces.”
For example, in July 2021, in response to public pressure around the waste loophole bills, the Wolf administration announced that it would require landfills that accept waste from the oil and gas industry to conduct quarterly testing for radioactivity.
In response to EHN’s investigation, the Wolf administration stated last year that while the administration has taken numerous steps to protect Pennsylvanians from harmful exposures from the oil and gas industry, “more can and should be done.”
“We stand ready to assist the legislature in developing more stringent measures to protect the public, as further regulation of the industry would require approval from the federal government or state legislature,” the statement continued. Muth and Innamorato said those promises have fallen flat.
“There’s no accountability there,” Muth said. “People are being seriously harmed by exposure to fracking chemicals, they don’t have safe drinking water, and meanwhile [Wolf] says he’s at the mercy of the legislature and he’s off the hook … it’s incredibly offensive.”
Ukraine war sparks oil and gas debates
More recently, Pennsylvania Republicans have leveraged Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to propose increasing oil and gas development and decreasing regulations in the name of “energy independence,” drawing sharp criticism from Gov. Wolf, who called exploiting a humanitarian crisis to “line the pockets of the natural industry” deplorable.
After a lull during the pandemic in 2020, natural gas production is back up in the Marcellus Shale region. Among the top five fracking states, Pennsylvania recorded the most growth in natural gas production in 2021, with 518 new wells drilled last year.
Environmental advocates have pointed out that a shift to renewable energy could create more meaningful “energy independence” without harming health or worsening the climate crisis.
These debates mirror national and global conversations about the value of fossil fuel extraction or shifting focus to renewables in the wake of volatile market conditions spurred by Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.
Fracking and health
Pennsylvania residents who live near fracking wells are worried about the impacts the industry has on their health, but they lack political power to do anything about it.
Despite the continued uphill battle, the families featured in Fractured are still using the investigation to advocate for the health of their families and communities and holding out hope for change. All five of the families in our investigation still live in the same homes, surrounded by fracking wells and infrastructure. Some families stepped up their water filtration systems or purchased air filters after our test results came back, hoping to minimize the harmful exposures our investigation documented.
Gillian Graber, whose family participated in the Fractured investigation, serves as executive director of the environmental advocacy group ProtectPT, which has been fighting the development of fracking wells in Penn Trafford township outside of Pittsburgh for the last seven years. That fight is ongoing today.
"I really hope that more lawmakers will see Fractured and continue to think about reform," Graber said last summer. "I'd be really happy if they'd put me out of a job."
Bryan Latkanich, who also participated in the investigation and spent much of the last year in and out of the hospital with numerous health maladies, said despite the many setbacks, he keeps pushing for change so others won’t have to endure what he and his son have.
“I’ve been fighting this for 11 years,” he said. “It’s taking my life. I understand that now. But I think God must have picked this path for me, telling others about these dangers … I just want them to stop poisoning people.”
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify President Biden's attempts to cut fossil fuel subsidies.
Banner photo: Bryan Latkanich, one of the participants in our "Fractured" series, in 2019. (Credit: Kristina Marusic)
It is hard to think about the environment when lives are being torn asunder by war.
I woke up this morning yearning for peace, mourning loss, and hoping for better collective wisdom to guide us through this insanity.
She noted that posting on a global pandemic feels "insensitive without addressing a different kind of pain and suffering and tragedy that millions will soon face." I concur. Her wisdom is worth sharing:
"Just like the pandemic, many will also fall victim to mis and disinformation—a new tool that enemies have found to work swimmingly well in a time of anxiety and confusion. Please be sure to find (and share) only solid sources; preferably ones with a reporter on the ground in Ukraine. There are such things as disaster epidemiologists, so I hope they come to the forefront, too, ... to share the public health perspective of war or, more accurately, the devastating interaction between war and pandemic."
Ukraine war: Big picture
Our research team will be tracing the ecologic and public health toll of Russia's war in Ukraine. To zoom out, this tweet thread from National Public Radio puts the conflict in a larger perspective.
War and energy
With Russia serving as Europe's largest energy producer, early reporting has focused on how the global response is hindered by the EU's need for Russian natural gas. But Russia is also a major provider of nickel, copper, cobalt—all necessary materials for alternative energy sources needed to transition from fossil fuels.
Two stories of note:
The plant of Norilsk Nickel in Nikel, Murmansk Oblast, Russia
Politico's Jael Holzman explores the crucial metals market—and how reliant clean energy technologies are on exports from autocratic countries like Russia and China.
Key quote, from Abigail Wulf of the resource security nonprofit Securing America’s Future Energy:
“Our concern is that our energy markets are so tied up with nations that do not share our values.”
Cars lining up for gasoline in Lake Brandon, Fla., 2021
An insightful Atlantic article diving into global energy markets, Russia's immunity to foreign sanctions, and the havoc Russia can inflict.
"Any Russian retreat from world oil markets will jolt prices in ways that will be felt at gas pumps around the world."
Some good news
In dark times I often turn back to Gary Snyder's short poem, "For the Children."
I need this today, and his advice at the end is worth carrying forward:
learn the flowers
I'm grateful to our researcher, Autumn Spanne, who found this morsel of good news on the website Reasons to be Cheerful:
March for Science in San Francisco, California, on April 22, 2017.
“Things are changing,” Miriam Gay-Antaki, an assistant professor of geography & environmental studies at the University of New Mexico told reporter Jessica Kutz.
“People are realizing that attending to gender is not a nuisance but something that a lot of people actually want.”