Posts tagged with: Environmental issues

It’s all over but the chanting, which seemingly will continue unabated until religious shareholder activists bring energy companies to heel. What the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility hyperbolically billed as “a watershed year” trickled into a puddle of disappointment yesterday for shareholder activists’ climate-change resolutions.

The chanting began outside Dallas’ Morton E. Meyerson Symphony Center and the Chevron Park Auditorium in San Ramon, Calif., prior to the annual shareholder meetings conducted, respectively, by ExxonMobil Corp. and Chevron Corporation. Real chanting, dear readers, which admittedly isn’t equal to Abbie Hoffman attempting to levitate the Pentagon, but it does indicate a certain religious zealotry applied to the contested scientific theory of manmade global warming:

2016 is a watershed year for the fossil fuel industry, in particular, oil and gas giants ExxonMobil and Chevron. Pressure is building in the wake of last year’s historic agreement at COP21 in Paris, where nations of the world, global corporations and leading investors achieved consensus on the need to limit global warming to below 2-degrees celcius to avoid catastrophic planetary impacts. Pending investigations by 17 State Attorneys General is also intensifying public pressure for action. The Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si’, continues to grow in significance, and has done much to underline the clear moral imperative to address the 2 degree warming scenario.

Simultaneously, fossil fuel companies face both a moral and business imperative to rethink their long-term business strategies, as these company face impending regulation that will soon force them into compliance. Faith-based and values investors and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility have been pressing for this transition for nearly 40 years. This year, proponents of shareholder proposals at both Exxon and Chevron (both on May 25) will be making their cases at the annual meetings of both companies in the hope that shareholders will broadly join them in pressing the companies to change.

Would that the priests, nuns, clergy and other religious affiliated with ICCR exert similar spiritual and physical energy toward championing what philosopher Alex Epstein calls “the moral case for fossil fuels.” Instead, they increase their carbon footprint immeasurably by traipsing around the globe in their buses and planes in efforts to pull the plug on cheap and plentiful energy while lecturing the rest of us on the evils of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and energy-company lobbying. At the same time ICCR extols the imperative of limiting global warming to 2-degrees C by deploying measures that will increase costs – especially for the poor for whom higher prices devour a greater percentage of household assets – while making little to no difference on global temperatures. (more…)

soil-stewardship-sundayDuring the drought that struck the United States from 1934 to 1937, the soil became so badly eroded that static electricity built up on the farmlands of the Great Plains, pulling dust into the sky like a magnet. Massive clouds of dust rose up to 10,000 feet and, powered by high-altitude winds, was pushed as far east as New York City.

When the “black blizzard” hit Washington, D.C. in May 1934, Hugh Hammond Bennett — the “father of soil conservation” — was testifying before a congressional committee about the effects of soil erosion. Bennett’s testimony lead Congress to unanimously pass legislation declaring soil and water conservation a national policy and priority.

But fixing soil erosion was not something the government could do on its own. As the National Association of Conservation Districts explains, “Because nearly three-fourths of the continental United States is privately owned, Congress realized that only active, voluntary support from landowners would guarantee the success of conservation work on private land. In 1937, President Roosevelt wrote the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts.”

In an email last week, – a coalition opposed to genetically engineered and genetically modified organisms, which counts shareholder activist group As You Sow a member – blasted an email chock-a-block with material for two previous posts (here and here). And now comes a third PowerBlog post about the activists’ effort to roll back Senate support for the Safe and Affordable Food Labeling (SAFE) Act, dubbed the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know Act – get it?).

Readers can judge the bill’s merits for themselves by reading the text of the original SAFE, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last summer and is now under consideration in the Senate. The law, if passed, cuts both ways. First, it may require labeling GMO food if such labeling is deemed by the FDA as “necessary protect public health and safety or to prevent the label from being false or misleading.” SAFE would prohibit labeling and advertising that makes claims of better safety or higher quality for either GMOs or organic foods. SAFE would also establish rules for non-GMO classification throughout the supply chain from farm to market.

Why the kerfuffle? While your writer finds the bill far less than perfect due to requiring FDA approval of GMOs before allowing them to market, the remainder seems relatively benign. However, intern Carly Giddings frets: (more…)

crowd_2At the beginning of human history, God gave mankind a mandate to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Sometime later—around the 19th-century—people started wondering, “Is the earth close to being filled with humans?”

In 1798, Thomas Malthus predicted that if current birth rates persisted, many in Great Britain would starve to death. Instead, the birth rate was matched by increased agricultural yields, allowing more people to be fed with fewer land resources.

Despite Malthus’s failed predictions, others worried that population would eventually outgrow our resources. In 1838, the Belgian mathematician Pierre Verhulst calculated that his country could never support more than 9.4 million people. Verhulst was wrong; Belgian’s current population is more than 11 million.

In 1925, Raymond Pearl, head statistician for the U.S. Food Administration during World War I, calculated the maximum population limit of the U.S. to be 200 million. We reached that in 1968 and are currently at around 319 million. Pearl also predicted the world population limit would be 2 billion, a number that was surpassed in 1930.

Other similar calculations and predictions followed—and they turned out to be just as faulty. Why do smart people get population limit predictions so wrong? As Adam Kucharski explains,

As You Sow (AYS), a shareholder activist group, was rebuffed last month in a move to curtail the use of Abbott Laboratories’ genetically modified organisms in its Similac Soy Isomil infant formulas. The defeat of the resolution marks the third year Abbott shareholders voted down an AYS effort to limit and/or label GMO ingredients by significant margins. This year’s resolution reportedly garnered only 3 percent of the shareholder vote.

Such nuisance resolutions fly in the face of the facts: GMOs have been found to be completely safe and, further, benefit the environment by increasing crop yields, thereby reducing the land area required for farming, as well as significantly reducing the need for pesticides. Try telling that to the AYS activists, whose 2015 Abbott resolution states:

 Shareholders request the Board of Directors publish within six months, at reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information, a report on genetically engineered ingredients contained in nutritional products sold by Abbott. This report should list Abbott product categories that contain GMOs and estimated portion of products in each category that contain GMOs, and discuss any actions management is taking to reduce or eliminate GMOs from its products, until and unless long-term studies show that the genetically engineered crops and associated farming practices are not harmful to the environment, the agriculture industry, or human or animal health.

“The full story is that GMOs are having a significant environmental impact and no agency is monitoring for health effects,” fretted Margaret Weber, corporate responsibility director at the Congregation of St. Basil of Toronto, an AYS member, one year ago. “In fact, monitoring for health impacts is nearly impossible because in the US, where the vast majority of GMOs are grown and consumed, there is no labeling.” (more…)

ArchieFrankensteinCover250The left’s war against genetically modified foods continues apace. Last week, the nonprofit Green America outfit boasted a victory over The Hershey Company, which has agreed to use “simpler ingredients” in its addictive Hershey’s Kisses Milk Chocolates and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars. Yes, “Frankenfood” fearers, the delicious GMO-derived sucrose of Hershey’s chocolate soon will be replaced with an identical product coincidentally known as sucrose.

Finally, the “Sugar, Sugar” bubblegum world imagined by The Archies in 1969 has been realized as “Sucrose, Sucrose.” You might still be my candy, girl, but you’ve got me wanting to lecture you in basic science and economics. Just as most candy Easter bunnies are only air wrapped in chocolate, the Green America triumph is a hollow victory. (more…)

figure6A new report out of the U.K. shows just how muddled discussion on genetically modified crops really is. Late last week the U.K. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published: “Advanced genetic techniques for crop improvement: regulation, risk, and precaution.” Very broadly, this report set out to look at the “challenge of feeding a burgeoning global population, using few resources,” specifically the use of GMOs, as well as the “EU’s current regulatory regime for genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”

The report acknowledges that no single type of food can end the difficulties feeding the global population; however, “novel crops could play an important role in helping tomorrow’s farmers to produce more from less.” The report found major obstacles keeping innovations like this from wider use:

The EU’s current regulatory regime for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) threatens to prevent such products from reaching the market, both in the UK, in Europe and, as a result of trade issues, potentially in the developing world.