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Orca Tokitae’s Totem Pole Journey

The Lummi Nation campaigns to free a once-wild orca from Miami's Seaquarium

The orca, or killer whale, is a popular icon of wildness in the communities surrounding Puget Sound, a complex system of waterways forming the southern portion of the Salish Sea and extending 100 miles from Washington's Whidbey Island to the state capital of Olympia. Orcas adorn license plates, t-shirts, and murals throughout the Seattle metropolitan area, where human residents sometimes see small family groups (pods) of these striking marine mammals swim by the shorelines of the city's public parks. Killer whales also spark the imaginations of regional ferry riders, who keep their eyes peeled for towering dorsal fins or the dramatic black and white flash of an orca breaching in the distance.

Lolita at the SeaquariumPhoto byRoss CobbTokitae/Lolita, who was captured as juvenile from Puget Sound's Penn Cove in 1970, has been living in a small concrete pool for almost half a century. The Lummi Nation wants to bring her back home to the Sailesh Sea.

Meanwhile, 3,000 thousand miles and a world away, an orca named Lolita performs showy tricks twice a day at Miami's Seaquarium, where exuberant crowds have cheered her on for almost half a century. Lolita, known before her sale to the Seaquarium as Tokitae (a Coast Salish greeting meaning "nice day" or "pretty colors"), was taken as a juvenile from Puget Sound's Penn Cove in 1970 and has lived in Miami ever since. Her small concrete pool — at only 80 feet long and 35 feet widedamage to his head in 1980.

This spring, Washington's Lummi Nation is saying enough is enough for Tokitae, and that it's long past time to bring her home. In early May, several tribal members — with support from orca organizations, Sierra Club, and other activists — embarked on a 27-day, cross-country Tokitae Totem Pole Journeyto return Tokitae to Puget Sound. As part of the journey, Lummi leaders are transporting a totem pole carved in honor of the captive orca.

Jay Julius, chairman of the Lummi Nation, released the following statement before the journey's launch in Bellingham, Washington, on May 9: "Tokitae’s story is more than a story of a whale. Her story is the story of the Native peoples of this country who have been subjected to bad policies. Because of the failure of policymakers to protect our wildlife, she was stolen from her family 47 years ago and taken to the Miami Seaquarium. Because she is a relative of the Lummi people, it …more

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Only Radical Environmental Activism Can Bring About Whole-System Change

To come to terms with the many dimensions of our ecological crisis we need to co-create conscious, connected communities, and act together

A healthy future for humanity requires a healthy living planet. And our growth economy based on constant material expansion has become incompatible with the health of our finite planet. But transitioning beyond a growth-dependent industrial economy will require a multidimensional transformation, not just outward political and economic change, but radical cultural and psychological change as well. 

a heart shaped leafPhoto byemdot/FlickrTimes of catastrophe are moments when the system is breaking down and breaking open. Surprisingly, they can present remarkable opportunities to create larger systemic change. .

This means that to radically reengineer the system, we will have to simultaneously reengineer ourselves. This is whole system transformation — requiring a healthier, more creative, more compassionate and  engaged humanity than we have ever seen up to now. Both of these together — our Earth and its biosphere, and our own inner lives and life choices, individually and in community — constitute our life-support system. And on every level we are poised at a tipping point. 

The nature and unprecedented seriousness of our predicament presents us not only with great challenges, but with a basis for radical hope.

The more I learn, the more I find myself moving in two directions simultaneously. On the one hand, I have grieved ever more profoundly for the worsening state of the planetary biosphere. On the other, the more radically I submit to the chilling recognition of our actual situation, the more I find myself opening into radical acceptance of the adventure of doing what we can on behalf of our personal, interpersonal and global health and future, even amidst great uncertainty.

We must do our best to anticipate future conditions. But clearly, our ability to foresee the future has severe limits. This calls for forms of activism rooted in something much more profound than prediction and strategy. The nature of the problem demands a kind of thinking that we mostly don’t yet know how to do. As Einstein is quoted as saying, “We can’t solve our most pressing problems with the kind of thinking that created them.”

We are being called to make a transformative leap to a whole new paradigm not only of thinking, but of being human — a new consciousness and a whole new stage in the evolutionary trajectory of our species.

Radical Inquiry

No one can say with certainty how our civilizational crisis will play out. We don’t know how much suffering and destruction — human and nonhuman — might lie ahead, or where, or exactly how, or how soon. But we do know, with …more

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Landmark Lawsuit Claims Monsanto Hid Cancer Danger of Roundup for Decades

California groundskeeper makes history by taking company to trial on claims it suppressed information about the weedkiller’s toxicity

At the age of 46, DeWayne Johnson is not ready to die. But with cancer spread through most of his body, doctors say he probably has just months to live. Now Johnson, a husband and father of three in California, hopes to survive long enough to make Monsanto take the blame for his fate.

roundup bottlePhoto courtesy of Global Justice NowActivists have been relabelling bottles of Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller in garden centres and DIY shops across the United Kingdom. Roundup contains glyphosate, a chemical that the WHO has shown to be "probably carcinogenic".

On 18 June, Johnson will become the first person to take the global seed and chemical company to trial on allegations that it has spent decades hiding the cancer-causing dangers of its popular Roundup herbicide products – and his case has just received a major boost.

Last week Judge Curtis Karnow issued an order clearing the way for jurors to consider not just scientific evidence related to what caused Johnson’s cancer, but allegations that Monsanto suppressed evidence of the risks of its weed killing products. Karnow ruled that the trial will proceed and a jury would be allowed to consider possible punitive damages.

“The internal correspondence noted by Johnson could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic … but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere and to bolster its defenses in products liability actions,” Karnow wrote. “Thus there are triable issues of material fact.”

Johnson’s case, filed in San Francisco county superior court in California, is at the forefront of a legal fight against Monsanto. Some 4,000 plaintiffs have sued Monsanto alleging exposure to Roundup caused them, or their loved ones, to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Another case is scheduled for trial in October, in Monsanto’s hometown of St Louis, Missouri.

The lawsuits challenge Monsanto’s position that its herbicides are proven safe and assert that the company has known about the dangers and hidden them from regulators and the public. The litigants cite an assortment of research studies indicating that the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicides, a chemical called glyphosate, can lead to NHL and other ailments. They also cite research showing glyphosate formulations in its commercial-end products are more toxic than glyphosate alone. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a more

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Controversial Kangaroo Cull Underway in Canberra

Animal rights and environmental groups question ethics, efficacy of annual event in Australia's capital

May is late autumn in the southern hemisphere, and as we creep closer to winter, Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is carrying out its annual, and controversial, kangaroo cull. With some pride, the city is known as the “bush capital” due to its wide corridors of native grasslands and gumtree and casurina tree woodlands, and an abundance of accompanying wildlife. As the city sprawls, it is displacing native habitats. At the same time, suburban lawns and sports ovals offer appealing alternative spaces for some animals, particularly our largest and most mobile grazing species, the eastern grey kangaroo. Due in part to the near disappearance of the kangaroo’s main natural predator, the dingo, or wild dog, and declines in traditional Indigenous hunting, kangaroo populations have exploded over recent decades.

kangaroosPhoto by Dieter BethkeThe annual killing by shooting of kangaroos is a slaughter of a creature intricately associated with Australia.

The annual killing by shooting of kangaroos is a slaughter of a creature intricately associated with Australia. The kangaroo is immortalized on our coat of arms, the logo of our world-renowned airline, Qantas, the star of the stilted but global hit ‘60s TV series “Skippy,” not to mention a major a tourist drawcard.

Yet the Canberra government says the adaptable eastern grey also poses hazards as its numbers grow. While the government has been grappling with appropriate, effective and socially-acceptable responses to the kangaroos since the 1990s, in 2014, they categorized the eastern grey kangaroo as a “controlled native species,” paving the way for culls to take place and becoming the first Australian government to publish a government policy on the marsupials and conservation. In May 2017, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government issued an updated management plan for the species. This plan identified three areas of concern regarding the proliferation of eastern grey kangaroos in the region: environmental, economic, and social. The plan was finalized following community consultations which occurred earlier in the year.

The environmental concerns relate to claims of the overgrazing of native grasses by kangaroos, leading to further degradation of the habitat, and harm to threatened species like grassy woodland bird species, lizards, and invertebrates. This includes birds that nest or rely on grassy ground cover for food and insects, such as the hooded robin and brown tree creeper, and reptilian grassland specialists such as the earless dragon, striped legless lizard, and pink tailed worm lizard. Threatened invertebrates include grassland specialists such as the golden sun moth and Perunga …more

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Brief Eulogies for the Animals We Have Lost

Tributes to the curlews, moths, and toads that are no more

An excerpt from Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals: An Extinction Reader.

Urania Sloanus at Sunrise

When the pear tree blossoms, one after another begins to appear just as the sun rises whence they come is a mystery — and their velvet black wings, banded in metallic blue-green and flecked with red and gold, now radiate ever more brilliantly as the sunbeams glint off them, and, fluttering, by dozens, by hundreds, dizzy with the fragrance of the bloom, the glancing light sparkling from myriad refractions so bright one must almost shield the eyes, they engage in playful combats, dancing in their joyousness, crazy with delight, wheeling and soaring higher and higher above the tree, flying up and up till they are lost to sight.

image of Urania sloanus Image by Pieter Cramer and Caspar Stoll, via Wikimedia Commons The last sighting of Urania sloanus, a moth endemic to Jamaica, was reported in 1884 or 1895.

The Freshwater Mussels of North America

Lolling about in the riffles and shallows of the Tennessee and Cumberland river systems were once so many mussels, their names evocative and flamboyant: Sugarspoons and Acornshells, Winged Spikes and Narrow Catspaws. The free-flowing waters were filtered by Angled Riffleshells, Forkshells, and Leafshells, both Cumberland and plain, and in the gravels with rapid currents hid the Yellow-blossoms, Green-blossoms and Tubercled-blossom Pearly Mussels.

Pollywogging in the Wabash tributaries would turn up abundant Round Combshells, Tennessee Riffleshells and Sampson’s Naiads.

In the Apalachicola River system, both the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers that ran through the loblolly pine forests, you could find the Lined Pocketbook.

The Hazel Pigtoe reclined in the Mobile basin with the True Pigtoe while the Scioto Pigtoe took to the Ohio and the Coosa Elktoe to the Coosa.

The Carolina Elktoe thrived in the Carolinas and the Ochlockonee arcmussel sought the shoals of the Ochlockonee River in Florida and Georgia.

The Tombigbee River has lost its eponymous moccasinshell, the Rio Grande its Monkeyface and False Spike. The empty shells of the Stirrupshell were last collected in Alabama and Mississippi in 1989, their lustrous interiors still brilliant.

The Flight of the Eskimo Curlews

Once the curlews flew across North America in vast flocks a mile long and a hundred yards wide. From far off the calls of a distant flock were said to sound like the jingling of countless sleigh bells. They flew in a wedge shape, the sides of which were constantly swaying back and …more

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British Appetite for Avocados is Draining Region Dry, Say Chilean Villagers

Growers accused of illegally diverting rivers and leaving locals without water

British supermarkets are selling thousands of tons of avocados produced in a Chilean region where villagers claim vast amounts of water are being diverted, resulting in a drought.

Major UK supermarkets including Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl source avocados from Chile’s largest avocado-producing province, Petorca, where water rights have been violated.

avocadoPhoto by Procsilas Moscas Demand for avocados in the UK has soared in recent years, and 67 percent of those avocados come from the Valparaiso region in Chile.

In Petorca, many avocado plantations install illegal pipes and wells in order to divert water from rivers to irrigate their crops. As a result, villagers say rivers have dried up and groundwater levels have fallen, causing a regional drought. Residents are now obliged to use often contaminated water delivered by truck.

Veronica Vilches, an activist who is responsible for one of the Rural Potable Water systems, says: “People get sick because of the drought – we find ourselves having to choose between cooking and washing, going to the bathroom in holes in the ground or in plastic bags, while big agri-businesses earn more and more.”

In 2011, Chile’s water authority, the Dirección General de Aguas, published an investigation conducted by satellite that showed at least 65 illegal underground channels bringing water from the rivers to the private plantations. Some of the big agribusinesses have been convicted for unauthorized water use and water misappropriation.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents the major supermarkets, said the stores had been made aware of the allegations. A spokesperson said: “Our members have been made aware of the allegations made regarding production practices of avocados in the Petorca region of Chile. Retailers will work with their suppliers to investigate this.

“Safeguarding the welfare of people and communities in supply chains is fundamental to our sourcing practices as a responsible industry.”

Lidl said most of its avocados came from a supplier whose practices they trusted. But the store said it would investigate to see if any of its fruits came from Petorca.

A spokesman said: “While not all of our avocados are sourced from the Chilean province of Petorca, those that do come from this region are sourced from Rainforest Alliance-certified producers. Nevertheless, we were concerned to learn of these allegations and will therefore be investigating the matter with both our supplier and the Rainforest Alliance.”

Two thousand liters …more

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City Hall vs. Big Oil

Podcast takes listeners to Richmond, CA, where organizers are mobilizing for a sustainable future

Smackdown: City Hall vs. Big Oil is the 4th episode in Stepping Up podcast, which tells the stories of people who are responding in unique and unexpected ways to the daunting crisis of climate change. Perhaps the most compelling form of climate activism today is local electoral politics. With climate deniers holding the highest offices in the land, many Americans are getting involved in city and county elections, working from the ground up for a clean and carbon-free environment.

Andres Soto is one of them.

photo of Richmond refineryPhoto by Michael Moore The Chevron refiery has been in Richmond for more than a centruy, but a 2012 explosion and subsequent fire drew renewed attention to the health and safety issues associated with the operation .

Smackdown takes us to Richmond California, a mid-sized American city with a large Latino and Black working class population. At 62, Soto has spent his whole life in the Mexican American neighborhoods of Richmond and surrounding towns. His powerful build belies a sweet personality. Music is his passion and he leads his hot Latin jazz band, the Bay Breeze, on his saxophone.

But organizing for a sustainable Richmond is Soto’s mission. Working to protect the town from toxic pollution as head of the Richmond chapter of Communities for a Better Environment, he joins with residents of all races and classes. The local Chevron oil refinery looms large over this pursuit.

Established in 1905, the Chevron refinery has been in Richmond for more than 100 years. And the city has been run as a company town for most of its history, with Chevron doling out jobs and holding sway over local politics. Pollution stemming from this refinery is legendary — the facility spews particulate matter into the air and dumps waste into toxic pools. Processing 240,000 barrels of crude oil daily, it is also contributing heavily to global warming. And it is one of five big refineries hugging this piece of the East Bay shoreline.

In 2004, Andres helped establish the Richmond Progressive Alliance, or RPA. The goal was to turn city politics on its head, creating a local government that would work on issues such a police relations, housing, and education. It would also challenge Chevron’s hegemony over the town. The RPA won big that year and continued to build a strong, left-leaning government over the next ten years. They called for higher taxes on Chevron, stricter control of flaring, and …more

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