Those Who Fail to Learn From History Are Doomed

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Staten Island Ferry and a tanker in the fog off the Battery in New York Harbor

It always takes me a few weeks to transition into summer, and the seemingly endless rain in New York of late has only slowed my progress. As I’m only now writing my May newsletter – badly delayed by the end of the school year – I thought I’d do a quick roundup of news and action items here before devoting my next few newsletters to the continuation of my Infrastructure Series.

Speaking of RoundUp, “Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping want the City Council to “cast out” Monsanto’s demonic spawn by passing Councilmember Ben Kallos’s bill banning chemical pesticides and herbicides in the city.” Meanwhile, “Lawns are the No. 1 irrigated ‘crop’ in America“, and New York City’s quixotic mayor – who is hopeless on public transit issues and “owes more than $300,000 in unpaid legal bills to [a firm that] has targeted [his] office” – is running for president while local nonprofits desperately wait to get paid by the City.

Fracking continues to menace the state, region, and nation. Millions of abandoned wells, fracking wastewater, and virtual pipelines (just trucks full of methane) are among the sources of concern, while at the macro level, Food & Water Watch’s ““Fracking Endgame” Report Spells Out Planetary Catastrophe, [and] Reinforces Need for Action Against Fracked Gas Infrastructure in Virginia.” Somewhere else in the universe, the “US energy department rebrands fossil fuels as ‘molecules of freedom’.” According to the CDC, “2018 saw the most multistate outbreaks of foodborne illness in more than a decade“, and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels passed 415 parts per million, the highest level in three million years.

Still, there is plenty of good news. Belatedly, but still boldy, The Guardian “is changing the language it uses about the environment” to more accurately reflect the urgency of the climate crisis; Bill McKibben is among many on the left calling out Joe Biden’s dismal record; and Charlottesville, Virginia has voted to divest from weapons manufacturers and fossil fuel companies. Morbid, but Washington State is “legali[zing] human composting“, and here in New York City, Hudson River Park is now using goats instead of herbicide.

Speaking of New York, the news is mixed relative to our mass transit system; there seems to be growing awareness that the Governor controls the MTA, and that it has been on his 8+-year watch that the recent pronounced deterioration has taken place, and there have also been a number of good ideas put forward about what the future of NYC’s mass transit might look like, including by Reinvent Albany. Of course, strange things continue to sometimes happen underground, and the path forward remains very uncertain, with Gov. Cuomo evidently struggling to coexist with the very talented Andy Byford. (I continue to believe a mass movement of informed citizens will be essential to break the impasse and move towards socially-just and climate-sane transit policies.)

Sometimes, it takes a huge amount of effort to confirm the obvious – on the one hand, air pollution is very bad for children, but on the other, being in nature is good for more or less all of us.

Finally, given the very link-heavy post, I’ll make only one serious reading recommendation – this New York Times piece by Brian M. Rosenthal on “How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers” – and one less serious – this piece on the momentous discovery, by an intrepid Ugandan explorer, of the River Gulu in the heart of London.

As for action items, look for more coming in the next week or two, but in the meantime, perhaps just celebrate that vocal activists have halted, for now, the construction of the proposed Williams Pipeline – which would have carried fracked gas under New York Harbor – and have driven a number of significant victories in Albany during the current legislative session, including what looks like will be the passage of the Climate & Communities Protection Act, though if you’re looking for modest personal steps to take, it’s never too soon to give up drinking bottled water, and perhaps (almost) all selfies while you’re at it…

Till soon, be well!

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