Tuesday, January 27, 2009

AMS seminar on sustainable practices and consumption patterns

American Meteorological Society's Environmental Science Seminar Series

Coming to Grips with Sustainable Practices: Where Do We Go from Here?

What are the forces that shaped consumer culture in the U.S.? How does per capita consumption in the U.S. compare with that of other countries, especially in the realm of energy usage? What impact has consumerism had on resources and living standards in the U.S. and elsewhere? What are the implications of maintaining our present level of consumption? What are the implications of other countries aspiring to levels of per capita consumption on a par with ours? How might our society begin to identify and embrace more sustainable habits and practices, and what might such practices be? What policy steps might the new Administration and Congress consider codifying in the interest of promoting a more sustainable lifestyle and economy?

Public Invited*

Monday, January 26, 2009
New Time - 12:00 noon – 2:00 pm
Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253
Washington, DC
Buffet Reception Following

Moderator:
Dr. Anthony Socci, Senior Science and Communication Fellow, American Meteorological Society

Speakers:
Dr. Juliet B. Schor, Professor of Sociology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA

Betsy Taylor, Consultant, Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions, Strategic & Philanthropic Consulting on Climate Solutions & Sustainable Development, Takoma Park, MD

Program Summary

Sustainability, Consumption and the Path Forward
At the center of the US ecological dilemma lies consumption. We have been a consumer nation for more than a century, having made a directed choice in the 1930s toward that path. Today, in the midst of the simultaneous crises of the economy and the environment, we are again faced with choices about how to move forward. Although it has gotten far less attention, business-as-usual spending is as problematic as BAU energy use. The US ecological footprint, which is twice the level of comparably rich European countries, exceeds the equitable global sustainability level by a factor of 5. Rising per capita consumption underlies the ecological overshoot of the world economy, which now exceeds biological capacity by 40%. In the United States, inflated-adjusted personal consumption expenditures increased 88% from 1973 to 2003, which resulted in a 37% rise in our ecological footprint. This is important because it has accompanied decades of attempts to save energy and de-materialize production, all of which have proved inadequate. Fortunately, there is increasing awareness of these issues, and a grassroots movement to transform consumer patterns and habits is underway. However, it has had virtually no legislative presence to date.

In Dr. Schor’s presentation, the issue of consumption will be placed into its historical and comparative context. New data will be presented on the magnitude of the ‘cheap import’ boom in material (and therefore ecological terms) over the last 15 years. Underlying economic factors such as labor market policies and the distribution of income affect the path of consumption and ecological impact. A medium term consumption path will be sketched out, which yields high levels of human well-being, is becoming broadly popular, and is ecologically sustainable.

Ms. Taylor will discuss an array of policy instruments that could promote a more sustainable standard of living and more sustainable consumerism. In the lead-up to address climate change through cap & trade or carbon fees, it would serve our collective interests to simultaneously address the root causes of ecological degradation and collapse. Ms. Taylor will also call for a rekindled debate on policies and programs that might steer our economy and culture in a more sustainable and durable direction.

Biographies

Dr. Juliet Schor is Professor of Sociology at Boston College. Her latest book, Born to Buy: the Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Scribner, September 2004), has been translated into six languages. She is also author of the national best-seller, The Overworked American: the Unexpected Decline of Leisure (Basic Books, 1992) and The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need. The Overworked American appeared on the best seller lists of The New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, the Chicago Tribune, the Village Voice, the Boston Globe as well as the annual best books list for the New York Times, Business Week and other publications. The book is widely credited for influencing the national debate on work and family. The Overspent American was also made into a video of the same name, by the Media Education Foundation (September 2003). Dr. Schor is also the author of Do Americans Shop Too Much?, published by Beacon Press in 2000. She is also the co-editor of Consumer Society: A Reader (The New Press 2000) and co-editor of Sustainable Planet: Solutions for the Twenty-first Century (Beacon Press 2002).

Dr. Schor is currently working on issues of environmental sustainability and their relation to American lifestyles and the economy. She is a co-founder and co-chair of the Board of the Center for a New American Dream (newdream.org), a national sustainability organization headquartered in Maryland.

A graduate of Wesleyan University, Dr. Schor received her Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts. She also held a chair in the Economics of Leisure Studies at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Before joining Boston College, she taught at Harvard University for 17 years, in the Department of Economics, and the Committee on Degrees in Women's Studies. Her scholarly articles have appeared in professional venues such as the Economic Journal, The Review of Economics and Statistics, World Development, Industrial Relations, The Journal of Economic Psychology, Ecological Economics, The Journal of Industrial Ecology, Social Problems and others.

Dr. Schor has also served as a consultant to the United Nations, at the World Institute for Development Economics Research, and to the United Nations Development Program. She was a fellow at the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1995-1996 for a project entitled "New Analyses of Consumer Society". In 1998 Dr. Schor received the George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contributions to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language from the National Council of Teachers of English. In 2006 she received the Leontief Prize from the Global Development and Economics Institute at Tufts University for expanding the frontiers of economic thought.

Dr. Schor has lectured widely throughout the United States, Europe and Japan to a variety of civic, business, labor and academic groups. She appears frequently on national and international media, and profiles on her and her work have appeared in scores of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and People magazine. She has appeared on 60 Minutes, the Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show on CBS, numerous stories on network news, as well as many other national and local television news programs.

Betsy Taylor is the principal consultant with Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions, a consulting firm that serves clients dedicated to addressing climate change and promoting sustainable economic practices & policies. She is co-founder and Board President of 1Sky (www.1sky.org) a national campaign created in 2007 to focus the power of millions of concerned Americans on a single goal: federal actions by 2010 that can effectively address global warming and create five million green jobs. She co-founded and served as president of the Center for a New American Dream (www.newdream.org) a national organization that helps Americans live and consume prudently in the interest of a more sustainable world and improving the quality of life. During her tenure at NAD, the Center launched the Responsible Purchasing Network, an association of socially and environmentally responsible purchasers representing over fifty billion dollars in buying power. The effort earned numerous awards, including being named in Washingtonian Magazine’s as one of the top fifty places to work in the D.C. metropolitan area. Betsy has appeared frequently on national television and radio and is the co-editor and author of Sustainable Planet: Solutions for the 21st Century. She previously served as Executive Director of the Merck Family Fund, Stern Family Fund, and Ottinger Foundation and has consulted with numerous foundations and donors. She has an M.P.A. from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. from Duke University.

January 27, 2009 in Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Obama: Energy and Environment Directives

Here's a source for primary information about Obama's Energy and Environment Directives on the California waiver and the CAFE standards.  I searched for this yesterday and couldn't find it -- maybe some of you had the same problem.

Today, January 27, we posted a lengthy summary of various reactions to President Obama's Climate Change and Energy Presidential Memos on our eNewsUSA blog at: http://enewsusa.blogspot.com/. The summaries include links to the full text of the releases. The posting includes both positive and negative reactions from U.S. Congressional leaders, industry, environment and government organizations. The posting also includes links to the full text of the President Obama Memos. Also included, on the January 26 posting, are a summary of President Obama statement on the Memos and links to the full text and video of the speech and related information. The posting also includes some clarifications of some misleading reporting and statements that have been made regarding the President's announcement and the Memos.

January 27, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Oregon's Measure 37: The Paralyzing Effect of Takings Legislation and its Treatment

One of my students just published an article on Oregon's battle with takings legislation: David Boulanger, The Battle over Property Rights in Oregon: Measures 37 and 49 and the Need for Sustainable Land Use Planning, 45 Willamette L Rev 313 (2008). 

If you have any interest in land use law, how takings law affects the environment or in takings legislation, this article is worth a read.

January 27, 2009 in Agriculture, Cases, Constitutional Law, Economics, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Choose the Best Answer: Organizing Climate Change Negotiation in the Obama Administration

Northwestern University Law Review has published an interesting essay on who should lead the US negotiating team on climate change.  Professor Zasloff suggests the US Trade Representative.  My immediate reaction to the question is Carol Browner or Hillary Clinton, but.... see what you think.  NWU L Rev Zasloff on climate change negotiations Here's the introduction:

Jonathan Zasloff[*]

[download pdf]

Bureaucratic reorganization may well constitute the most dismal swamp of policy analysis. Agencies are restructured, responsibilities reassigned, bureaus renamed, boxes are moved around—yet all too often, nothing happens. This failure, of course, leads to yet another fruitless round of thrashing about.

But organizational choices matter. At the start of the War on Terror, President Bush made two crucial decisions: he gave the CIA (rather than the FBI) control over the interrogations of high-value terror suspects[1] and he gave the Defense Department (rather than State) control of postwar Iraqi reconstruction.[2] These choices carried disastrous results. Bush’s earlier decision to grant Vice President Dick Cheney essentially free rein throughout the executive branch also had critical consequences for the substantive outcomes of his administration.[3]

So it is with international climate change negotiations. Which American agency or entity would be the most capable choice to design effective international climate change architecture? This Essay examines the usual suspects—the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, a “Climate Czar,” and a special climate change representative—and considers the advantages and pitfalls of each.

I conclude, however, that the (tentatively) best choice is one never mentioned by commentators: the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Although USTR does not perfectly fit the task, it has fewer shortcomings than other available agencies. While hardly without problems, the USTR represents the best maximization of advantages and minimization of problems.

January 27, 2009 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama directs reconsideration of California auto emission standard waiver and raising CAFE standards to 35 mpg

President Obama announced today that he had directed EPA to reconsider California's waiver application under Title II of the Clean Air Act, which allows it to set stricter limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from cars and trucks.  If the California waiver is granted, 13 other states have already adopted the California standards and will be allowed to implement those standards. Obama has also directed DOT to raise CAFE standards to an average fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 at the latest.

White House press briefing 1/26/09

The President's press secretary discussed the CAFE standards at today's press conference:

    "The particular action that the President took today was to take legislation that Congress approved in December of 2007, and President Bush signed, and in January of 2009 implement changed CAFE standards for model year 2011. So I don't think it comes as any surprise to automakers or consumers that a change in our fuel mileage standards was on the horizon. In fact, between December of 2007 and October of 2010 -- which is when manufacturers begin the next model year -- we believe, and I've seen testimony from the auto companies, that changing those fuel mileage standards is certainly doable. The President wants to work with the auto industry to ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow are produced and built here in America for Americans to buy. And I think that government working with the auto industry can ensure that we have a sustainable path toward the production or more fuel-efficient autos, that those fuel-efficient autos will be more appealing to American consumers, and that that can be a win-win for both. The actions that the President took today put us on the path when we realize a fuel efficiency standard of 35 miles to the gallon -- it's 27.5 now -- 35 miles to the gallon will constitute a savings of 2 million barrels of oil a day, which is roughly comparable to the amount of oil that we import each day from the Persian Gulf."

            ....

    "I think what ultimately we'll come up with is something that moves along the twin goals of ensuring a strong manufacturing sector while at the same time ensuring that we take the necessary steps to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

January 26, 2009 in Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The War on Bottled Water

People are starting to get it: tap water was named one of the top 10 food trends of 2008 (Time article), one of the top 10 green stories by Grist (Grist article), and Zagat says tap water is in and designer water is out.  I recently asked our administration to eliminate the purchasing of bottled water for law school functions -- although there wasn't immediate affirmation, at least I didn't get laughed out of the office.  Willamette University President Lee Pelton is considering having a University-wide ban on University purchasing of bottle water.

Photodisc / Getty

Time article:

In 1992's The Player, Tim Robbins' character, the consummate Hollywood insider, showed his sophistication at restaurants through his ability to differentiate among various kinds of bottled water. But today, that same Hollywood macher would never ask for anything but tap. Because of the environmental costs of producing and shipping bottled waters, more and more chefs are offering only filtered tap water to customers. Mario Batali and his business partner Joseph Bastianich stopped selling bottled water at their New York City restaurants Del Posto and Otto earlier this year, and eateries in Florida and Massachusetts are also serving only tap. The U.S. Conference of Mayors voted in June to recommend that City Halls stop serving bottled water even at special functions. Once hip, bottled water is now unforgivably '90s.



Continue reading

January 26, 2009 in Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

And the winner is......

Way back on Election Day I made my prognostications about the Green Team.  The most important omissions -- an energy and environment czar and the CEQ chair.  I didn't know about the plan to have a top policy advisor, although it makes infinite sense.  I don't know why I didn't do CEQ -- I guess because I haven't perceived CEQ as the source of real power on the environment.  And I don't think that will change with Obama, especially with Browner in the top policy advisor role.  So, at any rate, here are the winners.  Again, you can see why I don't gamble in Las Vegas or anywhere else!

Here are some predictions/picks on the Cabinet positions of most significance to environmental matters according to Politico's semi-official leaks.  My picks and comments are in green.  Results are in red.

Attorney general: Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine; Eric Holder, who was deputy AG under Clinton and is now with Covington & Burling and led Obama’s vice presidential search; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. Odds on favorite is Holder  Score one for the home team

Supreme Court nominee: Washington superlawyer Robert Barnett; legal scholar Cass Sunstein; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York; Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard Law School. Consensus is it would most likely be a woman. First nominee has got to be a woman - Kagan is smart and has credibility, but this is a much shorter list than Obama will look at.  Nope - Solicitor General instead, but give her a couple of years at Justice and she's teed up for a trip to the Court

Secretary of State: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.); Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind)  State is too important to give to a Republican, Kerry's too valuable in the Senate, and Richardson was UN Ambassador so he knows  international diplomacy   Boy, did I blow it.  Clinton was an obvious and brilliant choice.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator: Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.); Kathleen McGinty, former head of the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Agency Again, McGinty is an odds on favorite who knows her stuff  Not even close -- Lisa Jackson wasn't on the short list even.

Commerce secretary: Penny Pritzker, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)  Need some Republicans and Olympia Snowe is a liberal one; although she's more valuable in the Senate.  So maybe one of the non-environmental positions will go to a Republican and Obama will stick with a Democrat.  I'd take Sebelius -- she's articulate and mid-Western.  This is a black box question mark now that Richardson's out of the running along with Sebelius. 

Secretary of the Interior: Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  This is the position most likely to go to someone who hasn't been in the running.Well, I didn't get Salazar's name, but I did figure out that the right name wasn't obvious.



Secretary of Energy: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.); My pick would be Lincoln Chafee, a liberal Republican who understands environmental issues as well as energy issues.  Again, Bingaman's too valuable in the Senate.   Way, way, way, way wrong!!!  Chu's a far better choice than I would ever have imagined. 

Secretary of Agriculture: Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)  Vilsack is odds on favorite.  OK, got this one

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January 24, 2009 in Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Energy and Environment Investments in Obama's Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

Here are the items in Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that directly affect energy and environment: renewable energy; smart electricity grid; weatherizing homes; clean energy private sector finance; highway and bridge infrastructure replacement projects and mass transit projects; water supply, water treatment, wastewater treatment and sewage system projects. Energy and environment projects in recovery plan  I wonder how Obama plans to deal with NEPA and permitting issues.

From the report on specifics:

  • Doubling renewable energy generating capacity over three years. It took 30 years for our nation to reach its current level of renewable generating capacity – the recovery and reinvestment plan will double that level over the next three years. That increase in capacity is enough to power 6 million American homes.
  • Jump-starting the transformation to a bigger, better, smarter grid. The upfront investments and reforms in modernizing our nation’s electricity grid will result in more than 3,000 miles of new or modernized transmission lines and 40 million “Smart Meters” in American homes.
  • Weatherizing at least two million homes to save low-income families on average $350 per year and modernizing more than 75% of federal building space, saving taxpayers $2 billion per year in lower federal energy bills. Today, the federal government is the world’s largest consumer of energy. The recovery and reinvestment plan will make an historic investment in upgrading the federal building stock that will save taxpayer dollars and help catalyze a green building industry.
  • Launching a Clean Energy Finance Initiative to leverage $100 billion in private sector clean energy investments over three years. The finance authority will provide loan guarantees and other financial support to help ease credit constraints for renewable energy investors and catalyze new private sector investment over the next three years.
  • Enacting the largest investment increase in our nation’s roads, bridges and mass transits systems since the creation of the national highway system in the 1950s. The plan will repair and modernize thousands of miles of roadways in the U.S. and providing new mass transit options for millions of Americans.
  • Modernizing our nation’s water systems with funding to support 1,300 new wastewater projects, 380 new drinking water projects and construction of 1000 rural water and sewer systems, ensuring that 1.5 million people have new or improved service.

January 24, 2009 in Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Obama Administration's Energy and Environment Agenda

ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT  White House link

The energy challenges our country faces are severe and have gone unaddressed for far too long. Our addiction to foreign oil doesn't just undermine our national security and wreak havoc on our environment -- it cripples our economy and strains the budgets of working families all across America. President Obama and Vice President Biden have a comprehensive plan to invest in alternative and renewable energy, end our addiction to foreign oil, address the global climate crisis and create millions of new jobs.

The Obama-Biden comprehensive New Energy for America plan will:

  • Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future.
  • Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.
  • Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars -- cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon -- on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America.
  • Ensure 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025.
  • Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Energy Plan Overview

Provide Short-term Relief to American Families

  • Crack Down on Excessive Energy Speculation.
  • Swap Oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to Cut Prices.

Eliminate Our Current Imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 Years

  • Increase Fuel Economy Standards.
  • Get 1 Million Plug-In Hybrid Cars on the Road by 2015.
  • Create a New $7,000 Tax Credit for Purchasing Advanced Vehicles.
  • Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
  • A “Use it or Lose It” Approach to Existing Oil and Gas Leases.
  • Promote the Responsible Domestic Production of Oil and Natural Gas.

Create Millions of New Green Jobs

  • Ensure 10 percent of Our Electricity Comes from Renewable Sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025.
  • Deploy the Cheapest, Cleanest, Fastest Energy Source – Energy Efficiency.
  • Weatherize One Million Homes Annually.
  • Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology.
  • Prioritize the Construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline.

Reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions 80 Percent by 2050

  • Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
  • Make the U.S. a Leader on Climate Change.

January 23, 2009 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Let Clean Water Flow

Here's my church's video to launch our 2009 Drink Water for Life lenten challenge.  If you benefit from the work I do on this blog, please, please, please......take the challenge or find another way to contribute to organizations that do community-based water projects.  Church World Service or Global Ministries are great faith-based organizations.  Water for Life and Water for People are great secular groups. Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water borne disease like cholera or dysentery from lack of clean water and sanitation.  Together, we can change this.  Village by village. 

Let Clean Water Flow 

January 23, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Worldwatch Climate Symposium online

Here's a good climate change overview for class:

Watch the State of the World 2009 Washington Symposium

                                       
                   

                   
                   
                   

On January 15, leading thinkers, scientists, and policymakers convened in Washington, D.C. to discuss the significance of 2009 for the Earth's climate. Authors of State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World engaged an audience of more than 150 people on the state of the science, the gaps between science and policy, and practical solutions to help avert the worst effects of climate change -- all in advance of critical climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Agenda and Video

Introduction and Keynote:

Welcome by Christopher Flavin, President, Worldwatch Institute
Keynote Address by Dr. R. K. Pachauri, Chairman, IPCC (Download Dr. Pachauri’s Powerpoint Presentation)
Under Secretary of State Bo Lidegaard, Featured Guest Speaker
Q&A

Click here for video.

 

Panel 1:

Robert Engelman, Vice President, Worldwatch Institute
Bill Hare, Visiting Scientist, The Potsdam Institute
Tom Lovejoy, President, The Heinz Center
Sara Scherr, President, Ecoagriculture Partners

Click here for video.

 

Panel 2:

Christopher Flavin, moderator
Janet Sawin, Senior Researcher, Worldwatch Institute
Satu Hassi, Member of the European Parliament
Malini Mehra, Founder, Centre for Social Markets, India
Yingling Liu, China Program Manager, Worldwatch Institute

Marcel Brenninkmeijer, Chairman Good Energies, Featured Guest Speaker (Download Mr. Brenninkmeijer’s Powerpoint Presentation)

Click here for video.

January 22, 2009 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Final Action on All Proposed Rules Suspended Pending Legal and Policy Review

Earthjustice reported:

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel Tuesday sent a memo to the heads of all executive departments and agencies, ordering a stop to all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration.

A rule that would eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains except for those in Wyoming was scheduled to be published on January 27. Now it will fall under review with the new administration. 

Among others, the Bush administration recently finalized rules that significantly weaken the Endangered Species Act, allow for mining deposits to be dumped within 100 feet of flowing streams and exempts large-scale factory farms from notifying government officials when they release unsafe levels of toxic emissions into the community. Earthjustice, a public interest law firm, filed suit against all of these rules.

The following statement is from Patti Goldman, Vice President of Program for Earthjustice:

"While we are pleased that the new administration has put a stop to these hasty actions, there are some rules we continue to monitor.

"Under the Emanuel memo, the wolf delisting rule will be withdrawn. This rule was extremely controversial and was rushed through even though a federal district court had declared the wolf delisting illegal in July. It defied the law which prohibits a state by state listing when the wolves do not respect state boundaries. 

"For the vast majority of the midnight regulations, the Bush administration got them published in time to evade the Emanuel memo's freeze.  Earthjustice has brought dozens of legal challenges to Bush rollbacks, which provides the ultimate pathway to reining in the excesses of the Bush administration."

January 22, 2009 in Biodiversity, Governance/Management, Law, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Obama issues Executive Order regarding presidential records

   

 

President Obama issues executive order allowing invocation of executive privilege only by President when either the Attorney General or the Counsel to the President believes invocation is justified.

Executive Order -- Presidential Records

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to establish policies and procedures governing the assertion of executive privilege by incumbent and former Presidents in connection with the release of Presidential records by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) pursuant to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Definitions.  For purposes of this order:

(a)  "Archivist" refers to the Archivist of the United States or his designee.

(b)  "NARA" refers to the National Archives and Records Administration.

(c)  "Presidential Records Act" refers to the Presidential Records Act, 44 U.S.C. 2201-2207.

(d)  "NARA regulations" refers to the NARA regulations implementing the Presidential Records Act, 36 C.F.R. Part 1270.

(e)  "Presidential records" refers to those documentary materials maintained by NARA pursuant to the Presidential Records Act, including Vice Presidential records.

(f)  "Former President" refers to the former President during whose term or terms of office particular Presidential records were created.

(g)  A "substantial question of executive privilege" exists if NARA's disclosure of Presidential records might impair national security (including the conduct of foreign relations), law enforcement, or the deliberative processes of the executive branch.

(h)  A "final court order" is a court order from which no appeal may be taken.

Sec. 2.  Notice of Intent to Disclose Presidential Records.

(a)  When the Archivist provides notice to the incumbent and former Presidents of his intent to disclose Presidential records pursuant to section 1270.46 of the NARA regulations, the Archivist, using any guidelines provided by the incumbent and former Presidents, shall identify any specific materials, the disclosure of which he believes may raise a substantial question of executive privilege.  However, nothing in this order is intended to affect the right of the incumbent or former Presidents to invoke executive privilege with respect to materials not identified by the Archivist.  Copies of the notice for the incumbent President shall be delivered to the President (through the Counsel to the President) and the Attorney General (through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel).  The copy of the notice for the former President shall be delivered to the former President or his designated representative.

(b)  Upon the passage of 30 days after receipt by the incumbent and former Presidents of a notice of intent to disclose Presidential records, the Archivist may disclose the records covered by the notice, unless during that time period the Archivist has received a claim of executive privilege by the incumbent or former President or the Archivist has been instructed by the incumbent President or his designee to extend the time period for a time certain and with reason for the extension of time provided in the notice.  If a shorter period of time is required under the circumstances set forth in section 1270.44 of the NARA regulations, the Archivist shall so indicate in the notice.

Sec. 3.  Claim of Executive Privilege by Incumbent President.

(a)  Upon receipt of a notice of intent to disclose Presidential records, the Attorney General (directly or through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel) and the Counsel to the President shall review as they deem appropriate the records covered by the notice and consult with each other, the Archivist, and such other executive agencies as they deem appropriate concerning whether invocation of executive privilege is justified.

(b)  The Attorney General and the Counsel to the President, in the exercise of their discretion and after appropriate review and consultation under subsection (a) of this section, may jointly determine that invocation of executive privilege is not justified.  The Archivist shall be notified promptly of any such determination.

(c)  If either the Attorney General or the Counsel to the President believes that the circumstances justify invocation of executive privilege, the issue shall be presented to the President by the Counsel to the President and the Attorney General.

(d)  If the President decides to invoke executive privilege, the Counsel to the President shall notify the former President, the Archivist, and the Attorney General in writing of the claim of privilege and the specific Presidential records to which it relates. After receiving such notice, the Archivist shall not disclose the privileged records unless directed to do so by an incumbent President or by a final court order.

Sec. 4.  Claim of Executive Privilege by Former President.

(a)  Upon receipt of a claim of executive privilege by a living former President, the Archivist shall consult with the Attorney General (through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel), the Counsel to the President, and such other executive agencies as the Archivist deems appropriate concerning the Archivist's determination as to whether to honor the former President's claim of privilege or instead to disclose the Presidential records notwithstanding the claim of privilege.  Any determination under section 3 of this order that executive privilege shall not be invoked by the incumbent President shall not prejudice the Archivist's determination with respect to the former President's claim of privilege.

(b)  In making the determination referred to in subsection (a) of this section, the Archivist shall abide by any instructions given him by the incumbent President or his designee unless otherwise directed by a final court order.  The Archivist shall notify the incumbent and former Presidents of his determination at least 30 days prior to disclosure of the Presidential records, unless a shorter time period is required in the circumstances set forth in section 1270.44 of the NARA regulations.  Copies of the notice for the incumbent President shall be delivered to the President (through the Counsel to the President) and the Attorney General (through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel).  The copy of the notice for the former President shall be delivered to the former President or his designated representative.

Sec. 5.  General Provisions.

(a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   authority granted by law to a department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budget, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 6.  Revocation.  Executive Order 13233 of November 1, 2001, is revoked.

 

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE,
    January 21, 2009

January 22, 2009 in Governance/Management, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Obama issues Executive Order closing revolving door

President Obama has issued an executive order tightening the ethics rules that apply to presidential appointees.  Link  The full text appears below:

Executive Order -- Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and sections 3301 and 7301 of title 5, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Ethics Pledge.  Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2009, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee:

"As a condition, and in consideration, of my employment in the United States Government in a position invested with the public trust, I commit myself to the following obligations, which I understand are binding on me and are enforceable under law:

"1.  Lobbyist Gift Ban.  I will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations for the duration of my service as an appointee.

"2.  Revolving Door Ban    All Appointees Entering Government.  I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.

"3.  Revolving Door Ban    Lobbyists Entering Government.  If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 2, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment:

(a)  participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment;

(b)  participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls; or

(c)  seek or accept employment with any executive agency that I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment.

"4.  Revolving Door Ban    Appointees Leaving Government.  If, upon my departure from the Government, I am covered by the post employment restrictions on communicating with employees of my former executive agency set forth in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, I agree that I will abide by those restrictions for a period of 2 years following the end of my appointment.

"5.  Revolving Door Ban    Appointees Leaving Government to Lobby. In addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 4, I also agree, upon leaving Government service, not to lobby any covered executive branch official or non career Senior Executive Service appointee for the remainder of the Administration.

"6.  Employment Qualification Commitment.  I agree that any hiring or other employment decisions I make will be based on the candidate's qualifications, competence, and experience.

"7.  Assent to Enforcement.  I acknowledge that the Executive Order entitled 'Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel,' issued by the President on January 21, 2009, which I have read before signing this document, defines certain of the terms applicable to the foregoing obligations and sets forth the methods for enforcing them.  I expressly accept the provisions of that Executive Order as a part of this agreement and as binding on me.  I understand that the terms of this pledge are in addition to any statutory or other legal restrictions applicable to me by virtue of Federal Government service."

Sec. 2.  Definitions.  As used herein and in the pledge set forth in section 1 of this order:

(a)  "Executive agency" shall include each "executive agency" as defined by section 105 of title 5, United States Code, and shall include the Executive Office of the President; provided, however, that for purposes of this order "executive agency" shall include the United States Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission, but shall exclude the Government Accountability Office.

(b)  "Appointee" shall include every full time, non career Presidential or Vice-Presidential appointee, non career appointee in the Senior Executive Service (or other SES type system), and appointee to a position that has been excepted from the competitive service by reason of being of a confidential or policymaking character (Schedule C and other positions excepted under comparable criteria) in an executive agency.  It does not include any person appointed as a member of the Senior Foreign Service or solely as a uniformed service commissioned officer.

(c)  "Gift"

(1)  shall have the definition set forth in section 2635.203(b) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations;

(2)  shall include gifts that are solicited or accepted indirectly as defined at section 2635.203(f) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations; and

(3)  shall exclude those items excluded by sections 2635.204(b), (c), (e)(1) & (3) and (j) (l) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.

(d)  "Covered executive branch official" and "lobbyist" shall have the definitions set forth in section 1602 of title 2, United States Code.

(e)  "Registered lobbyist or lobbying organization" shall mean a lobbyist or an organization filing a registration pursuant to section 1603(a) of title 2, United States Code, and in the case of an organization filing such a registration, "registered lobbyist" shall include each of the lobbyists identified therein.

(f)  "Lobby" and "lobbied" shall mean to act or have acted as a registered lobbyist.

(g)  "Particular matter" shall have the same meaning as set forth in section 207 of title 18, United States Code, and section 2635.402(b)(3) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.

(h)  "Particular matter involving specific parties" shall have the same meaning as set forth in section 2641.201(h) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, except that it shall also include any meeting or other communication relating to the performance of one's official duties with a former employer or former client, unless the communication applies to a particular matter of general applicability and participation in the meeting or other event is open to all interested parties.

(i)  "Former employer" is any person for whom the appointee has within the 2 years prior to the date of his or her appointment served as an employee, officer, director, trustee, or general partner, except that "former employer" does not include any executive agency or other entity of the Federal Government, State or local government, the District of Columbia, Native American tribe, or any United States territory or possession.

(j)  "Former client" is any person for whom the appointee served personally as agent, attorney, or consultant within the 2 years prior to the date of his or her appointment, but excluding instances where the service provided was limited to a speech or similar appearance.  It does not include clients of the appointee's former employer to whom the appointee did not personally provide services.

(k)  "Directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients" shall mean matters in which the appointee's former employer or a former client is a party or represents a party.

(l)  "Participate" means to participate personally and substantially.

(m)  "Post-employment restrictions" shall include the provisions and exceptions in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, and the implementing regulations.

(n)  "Government official" means any employee of the executive branch.

(o)  "Administration" means all terms of office of the incumbent President serving at the time of the appointment of an appointee covered by this order.

(p)  "Pledge" means the ethics pledge set forth in section 1 of this order.

(q)  All references to provisions of law and regulations shall refer to such provisions as in effect on January 20, 2009.

Sec. 3.  Waiver.

(a)  The Director of the Office of Management and Budget, or his or her designee, in consultation with the Counsel to the President or his or her designee, may grant to any current or former appointee a written waiver of any restrictions contained in the pledge signed by such appointee if, and to the extent that, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, or his or her designee, certifies in writing (i) that the literal application of the restriction is inconsistent with the purposes of the restriction, or (ii) that it is in the public interest to grant the waiver.  A waiver shall take effect when the certification is signed by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget or his or her designee.

(b)  The public interest shall include, but not be limited to, exigent circumstances relating to national security or to the economy. De minimis contact with an executive agency shall be cause for a waiver of the restrictions contained in paragraph 3 of the pledge.

Sec. 4.  Administration.

(a)  The head of every executive agency shall, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Government Ethics, establish such rules or procedures (conforming as nearly as practicable to the agency's general ethics rules and procedures, including those relating to designated agency ethics officers) as are necessary or appropriate to ensure that every appointee in the agency signs the pledge upon assuming the appointed office or otherwise becoming an appointee; to ensure that compliance with paragraph 3 of the pledge is addressed in a written ethics agreement with each appointee to whom it applies, which agreement shall also be approved by the Counsel to the President or his or her designee prior to the appointee commencing work; to ensure that spousal employment issues and other conflicts not expressly addressed by the pledge are addressed in ethics agreements with appointees or, where no such agreements are required, through ethics counseling; and generally to ensure compliance with this order within the agency.

(b)  With respect to the Executive Office of the President, the duties set forth in section 4(a) shall be the responsibility of the Counsel to the President or his or her designee.

(c)  The Director of the Office of Government Ethics shall:

(1)  ensure that the pledge and a copy of this order are made available for use by agencies in fulfilling their duties under section 4(a) above;

(2)  in consultation with the Attorney General or the Counsel to the President or their designees, when appropriate, assist designated agency ethics officers in providing advice to current or former appointees regarding the application of the pledge; and

(3)  in consultation with the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President or their designees, adopt such rules or procedures as are necessary or appropriate:

  (i)    to carry out the foregoing responsibilities;

  (ii)   to apply the lobbyist gift ban set forth in paragraph 1 of the pledge to all executive branch employees;

  (iii)  to authorize limited exceptions to the lobbyist gift ban for circumstances that do not implicate the purposes of the ban;

  (iv)   to make clear that no person shall have violated the lobbyist gift ban if the person properly disposes of a gift as provided by section 2635.205 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations;

  (v)    to ensure that existing rules and procedures for Government employees engaged in negotiations for future employment with private businesses that are affected by their official actions do not affect the integrity of the Government's programs and operations;

  (vi)   to ensure, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, that the requirement set forth in paragraph 6 of the pledge is honored by every employee of the executive branch;

(4)  in consultation with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, report to the President on whether full compliance is being achieved with existing laws and regulations governing executive branch procurement lobbying disclosure and on steps the executive branch can take to expand to the fullest extent practicable disclosure of such executive branch procurement lobbying and of lobbying for presidential pardons, and to include in the report both immediate action the executive branch can take and, if necessary, recommendations for legislation; and

(5)  provide an annual public report on the administration of the pledge and this order.

(d)  The Director of the Office of Government Ethics shall, in consultation with the Attorney General, the Counsel to the President, and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, or their designees, report to the President on steps the executive branch can take to expand to the fullest extent practicable the revolving door ban set forth in paragraph 5 of the pledge to all executive branch employees who are involved in the procurement process such that they may not for 2 years after leaving Government service lobby any Government official regarding a Government contract that was under their official responsibility in the last 2 years of their Government
service; and to include in the report both immediate action the executive branch can take and, if necessary, recommendations for legislation.

(e)  All pledges signed by appointees, and all waiver certifications with respect thereto, shall be filed with the head of the appointee's agency for permanent retention in the appointee's official personnel folder or equivalent folder.

Sec. 5.  Enforcement.

(a)  The contractual, fiduciary, and ethical commitments in the pledge provided for herein are solely enforceable by the United States pursuant to this section by any legally available means, including debarment proceedings within any affected executive agency or judicial civil proceedings for declaratory, injunctive, or monetary relief.

(b)  Any former appointee who is determined, after notice and hearing, by the duly designated authority within any agency, to have violated his or her pledge may be barred from lobbying any officer or employee of that agency for up to 5 years in addition to the time period covered by the pledge.  The head of every executive agency shall, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Government Ethics, establish procedures to implement this subsection, which procedures shall include (but not be limited to) providing for factfinding and investigation of possible violations of this order and for referrals to the Attorney General for his or her consideration pursuant to subsection (c).

(c)  The Attorney General or his or her designee is authorized:

(1)  upon receiving information regarding the possible breach of any commitment in a signed pledge, to request any appropriate Federal investigative authority to conduct such investigations as may be appropriate; and

(2)  upon determining that there is a reasonable basis to believe that a breach of a commitment has occurred or will occur or continue, if not enjoined, to commence a civil action against the former employee in any United States District Court with jurisdiction to consider the matter.

(d)  In any such civil action, the Attorney General or his or her designee is authorized to request any and all relief authorized by law, including but not limited to:

(1)  such temporary restraining orders and preliminary and permanent injunctions as may be appropriate to restrain future, recurring, or continuing conduct by the former employee in breach of the commitments in the pledge he or she signed; and

(2)  establishment of a constructive trust for the benefit of the United States, requiring an accounting and payment to the United States Treasury of all money and other things of value received by, or payable to, the former employee arising out of any breach or attempted breach of the pledge signed by the former employee.

Sec. 6.  General Provisions.

(a)  No prior Executive Orders are repealed by this order.  To the extent that this order is inconsistent with any provision of any prior Executive Order, this order shall control.

(b)  If any provision of this order or the application of such provision is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and other dissimilar applications of such provision shall not be affected.

(c)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(1)  authority granted by law to a department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(2)  functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budget, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(d)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(e)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(f)  The definitions set forth in this order are solely applicable to the terms of this order, and are not otherwise intended to impair or affect existing law.

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE,
    January 21, 2009

January 22, 2009 in Governance/Management, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Antarctic warming over larger area than previously believed

Today Nature published correspondence reporting a study by Steig and colleagues showing that much of the Antarctic ice-sheet has been warming since 1957.  Previous studies had only documented warming in a small area of Antarctica.  Obviously,  if a greater area of Antarctica is warming, that increases the feedback effects caused by loss of reflection from the ice and that makes it more likely that Antarctic ice will contribute to a substantial change in sea level. Antarctic warming 1957-2006

FIGURE 2. Reconstructed annual mean Antarctic temperature anomalies, January 1957 to December 2006.

a, East Antarctica; b, West Antarctica. Solid black lines show results from reconstruction using infrared satellite data, averaged over all grid points for each region. Dashed lines show the average of reconstructed AWS data in each region. Straight red lines show average trends of the TIR reconstruction. Verification results for the continental mean of the TIR reconstruction are RE = 0.34, CE = 0.31 and r = 0.73. Grey shading, 95% confidence limits.

January 22, 2009 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Arctic Circle -- check it out

Here's a great website for anyone exploring the oil rush or effects of global warming in the Arctic Arctic Circle natural resources link   My students explored the issue of Who Owns the Arctic a bit more than a year ago and I posted some recent news stories about it at that time.  Who Owns the Arctic - ELP Blog

January 21, 2009 in Energy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another agenda-setting piece: Green America

I like this agenda -- some straight-forward, not at all novel, ideas that resonate with me.   Green America link

Solutions from the Green Economy
        January 15, 2008

Green economyEveryone now understands that the economy is broken.

While many name the mortgage and credit-default-swap crises as culprits, they are only the most recent indicators of an economy with fatal design flaws. Our economy has long been based on what economist Herman Daly calls “uneconomic growth” where increases in the GDP come at an expense in resources and well-being that is worth more than the goods and services provided.  When GNP growth exacerbates social and environmental problems—from sweatshop labor to manufacturing toxic chemicals—every dollar of GNP growth reduces well-being for people and the planet, and we’re all worse off.

Our fatally flawed economy creates economic injustice, poverty, and environmental crises. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can create a green economy: one that serves people and the planet and offers antidotes to the current breakdown.
  Here are six green-economy solutions to today’s  economic mess.
                  
                  1. Green  Energy—Green Jobs
A crucial starting place to rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy. It’s time to call in the superheroes of the green energy revolution—energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and plug-in hybrids—and put their synergies to work with rapid, large-scale deployment. This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, spur job creation (with jobs that can’t be outsourced), declare energy independence, and claim victory over the climate crisis.
                  
                  2.  Clean Energy Victory Bonds
How are we going to pay for this green energy revolution? We at Green America propose Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Modeled after victory bonds in World War II, Americans would buy these bonds from the federal government to invest in large-scale deployment of green energy projects, with particular emphasis in low-income communities hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long-term bonds, paying an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy savings that the bonds generate. During WWII, 85 million Americans bought over $185 billion in bonds—that would be almost $2 trillion in today’s dollars.
                  
                  3.  Reduce, Reuse, Rethink
Living lightly on the Earth, saving resources and money, and sharing (jobs, property, ideas, and opportunities) are crucial principles for restructuring our economy. This economic breakdown is, in part, due to living beyond our means—as a nation and as individuals. With the enormous national and consumer debt weighing us down, we won’t be able to spend our way out of this economic problem. Ultimately, we need an economy that’s not dependent on unsustainable growth and consumerism. So it’s time to rethink our over-consumptive lifestyles, and turn to the principles of elegant simplicity, such as planting gardens, conserving energy, and working cooperatively with our neighbors to share resources and build resilient communities.
                  
                  4. Go  Green and Local
When we do buy, it is essential that those purchases benefit the green and local economy—so that every dollar helps solve social and environmental problems, not create them. Our spending choices matter. We can support our local communities by moving dollars away from conventional agribusiness and big-box stores and toward supporting local workers, businesses, and organic farmers.
                  
                  5.  Community Investing
All over the country, community investing banks, credit unions, and loan funds that serve hard-hit communities are strong, while the biggest banks required bailouts. The basic principles of community investing keep such institutions strong: Lenders and borrowers know each other. Lenders invest in the success of their borrowers—with training and technical assistance along with loans. And the people who provide the capital to the lenders expect reasonable, not speculative, returns. If all banks followed these principles, the economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.

6.  Shareowner Activism
When you own stock, you have the right and responsibility to advise management to clean up its act. Had GM listened to shareholders warning that relying on SUVs would be its downfall, it would have invested in greener technologies, and would not have needed a bailout. Had CitiGroup listened to its shareowners, it would have avoided the faulty mortgage practices that brought it to its knees. Engaged shareholders are key to reforming conventional companies for the transition to this new economy – the green economy that we are building together. 

It’s time to move from  greed to green.

--Alisa Gravitz

January 20, 2009 in Economics, Governance/Management, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

And we ask it in Christ's name....

Here's a letter from the US Conference of the World Council of Churches to President Obama, seeking to help set the Presidential agenda.  From the inaugural speech, his agenda is consistent with that of the faith communities represented, but thankfully far more ambitious! 

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, D.C.

20 January 2009

Dear Mr President,

We greet you as your sisters and brothers in Christ, especially because you have been a part of the fellowship of the World Council of Churches, representing over 560 million Christians in nearly 350 churches, denominations, and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world. You are constantly in our prayers.

We want you to know of the excitement about your inauguration as the 44th President of the United States felt by us and so many around the world, who are encouraged by your commitment to rekindle hope and your vision for this country and our world. We are especially inspired by how you have engaged our youth, moving them to action and signaling the real possibility that another world is possible, and that they can be among those from whom ideas and leadership are sought over the course of your administration.

We also share the soberness of the present time as you take office. The challenges are enormous and formidable. They are found in every sector of this society and, indeed, across the entire spectrum of the human family worldwide. So many people in this world of abundance struggle with poverty; we are called by God to address the needs of the poor. So many places of this world are broken by violence and war; we are called by Christ to be peacemakers.

Ours is not to point fingers at your new administration and say “Fix it.” Rather, ours is to roll up our sleeves and partner with you to help bring about the changes that are so desperately needed for the United States and the world to more closely reflect God’s vision for humankind and all of creation. Ours is to call us all into account when we do not follow that vision.

It is a vision described by the prophet Micah, and it reflects our deep hope for this country and for all the countries of the world:

…nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:3-4).

The prophet’s words lift up the kind of peace that goes beyond the cessation of war to that of true shalom. They describe the kind of peace that is built on a foundation of trust and security. Micah’s vision implies a world in which creation is thriving and everyone has enough. It implies a world of justice, where we treat one another as the beloved children of God.

Much is required of you and us if we are to begin to turn things around. We must take responsibility for and work together to:

  • Repair the breach of trust between individuals and entire nations, and replenish goodwill with our neighbors near and far;

  • Re-collect us back together, not as red and blue states, but as the United States of America;

  • Rekindle and lift up the common good over self-interest and greed;

  • Restore the sense of human dignity of each person regardless of race or class;

  • Recognize our own complicity in building a predatory economy on the backs of those most vulnerable, and reconstruct an economy with an emphasis not just on the middle class, but on the poor;

  • Renew a concrete, measurable commitment to human rights;

  • Rebuild an education system that attends to the needs of all of society;

  • Replenish God’s good creation in whatever ways possible;

  • Recommit ourselves to the right of every person to have access to health care.

For its member churches, the World Council of Churches is a unique space: one in which we can reflect, speak, act, worship and work together, challenge and support each other, share and debate with each other. We hope to share a similar space with you and your administration and welcome the opportunity to work together for this common vision of the prophet Micah.

May you hold onto those things that have tended your soul up to this point. May you always find Sabbath time for yourself and your family. May you draw deeply on the faith that has brought you safe thus far. May you be lifted up when you are down, and may you listen carefully for the still small voice of the God who loves you unconditionally.

We close with a pastoral prayer by Martin Luther King, Jr, whose words in 1956 are most fitting as we step into this new day:

O God, our Heavenly Father, we thank thee for this golden privilege to worship thee, the only true God of the universe. We come to thee today, grateful that thou hast kept us through the long night of the past and ushered us into the challenge of the present and the bright hope of the future. We are mindful, O God, that man [sic] cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of things and humanity is not God. Bound by our chains of sins and finiteness, we know we need a Savior. We thank thee, O God, for the spiritual nature of man. We are in nature but we live above nature. Help us never to let anybody or any condition pull us so low as to cause us to hate. Give us strength to love our enemies and to do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us. We thank thee for thy Church, founded upon thy Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon thee. Then, finally, help us to realize that man was created to shine like stars and live on through all eternity. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God’s children, Black, White, Red, Brown, Yellow will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.

In Christ’s Service,

The Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson

Moderator, United States Conference for the World Council of Churches

& Members of the Board, United States Conference for the World Council of Churches

Members of the Board, Heads of Churches1 & Associate Members
United States Conference for the World Council of Churches

African Methodist Episcopal Church

Bishop John F. White, Sr

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Rev. Dr Staccato Powell

American Baptist Churches USA

Rev. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary (+)

Rev. Dr Cheryl H. Wade

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Ms Anne Glynn Mackoul

Armenian Apostolic Church of America

The Very Rev. Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Dr  Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President (+)

Rev. Dr Robert K. Welsh

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Senior Bishop Ronald McKinley Cunningham

Dr Evelyn Parker

Church of the Brethren

Mr Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary (+)

Episcopal Church

Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop (+)

Bishop C. Christopher Epting

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop (+)

Rev. Donald McCoid

Ms Kathryn Lohre

Friends General Conference

Dr Thomas Paxson

National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.

Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith

Orthodox Church in America

Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk (+)

Rev. Robina Winbush

Ms Vanesa Davila-Luciano

Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Rev. Dr Tyrone Pitts

United Church of Christ

Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President (+)

United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr Larry D. Pickens

Mr Jay Williams

Rev. Motoe Yamada

Other US Conference Member Communions & Associate Members

Church Women United

Ms Gail Mengel, National President

General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns

Dr Stephen Sidorak, General Secretary

International Council of Community Churches

Rev. Michael E. Livingston, Executive Director

Moravian Church (Northern Province)

Rev. David L. Wickmann, Conference President

Moravian Church (Southern Province)

The Right Rev. Dr Wayne Burkette, Conference President

National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

Rev. Dr Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary

 

January 20, 2009 in Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Nourish the Hungry

Greenwire reported on the Madrid meeting next week that will be examining progress on addressing the worldwide food crisis -- where one of every seven people in the world is hungry.  What a wonderful time to begin to make a difference!  Although the crisis in food prices that fueled the Rome discussions last summer has abated, the long-term problem remains.  And, if the Administration is swift and sure-footed enough, President Obama can use the discussions in Madrid to signal that the United States is serious about fulfilling his inaugeral promises:

UNITED NATIONS -- One of President Barack Obama's first forays into into multilateral diplomacy will be following up on a food crisis that engulfed the world's poorest countries last year. Though food prices have fallen sharply in recent months, diplomats will gather Monday in Madrid to see whether they are keeping their promises of food aid and support for agricultural development made at U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) talks in Rome last June. "The Madrid meeting will raise the political profile of food security," said David Nabarro, coordinator of a U.N. task force established last year by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to address the crisis. "The food systems of the world have been in crisis, continue to be in crisis and will go on being in crisis until we're able to create a situation where they work in the interests of poor people."

U.N. officials estimate that about 1 billion people are undernourished and at least 100 million would face imminent starvation were it not for emergency food assistance. Last year, record oil prices, burgeoning demand for food, and failing crops contributed to a upward spiral in the price of most food basics, especially rice, wheat and corn.

U.S. farm income rose by about 50 percent during the boom, but most of the world suffered. Food prices have since plunged, but Nabarro told reporters here yesterday that food commodities are still much more expensive than they were in decades past. And officials fear that under-investment in agriculture expected during the current market slump is only setting the stage for greater problems down the road. "The food crisis is not the story that's on the tip of everybody's tongue right now. It's the financial crisis," said J.B. Reed of the nonprofit Nuru Project, which staged a New York photography exhibit last month showing images of starving people and Third World food riots. "But the financial crisis has implications for the food crisis."

Average food prices more than doubled worldwide over three years. Farm subsidies in wealthy countries, the popularity of biofuels and market speculators were among the culprits blamed. But a long neglect of the importance of Third World agricultural productivity by organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development contributed greatly. For 20 years, aid efforts have focused mostly on industrial infrastructure, figuring the developing world could simply import cheap food grown efficiently in the West. Agriculture enjoyed about 20 percent of international aid dollars back in the late 1980s, but skewed priorities have shrunk its share to just barely 3 percent today. FAO estimates that by mid-2008 food prices were 64 percent higher than 2002 levels. The only other time prices shot up so quickly was in the wake of the oil shock of the 1970s.

In total, governments pledged about $6.6 billion in new spending on food aid and agriculture programs in Rome last year. The lion's share of commitments came from Washington, which pledged to spend $5 billion over the next two years. Since then, the global financial crisis has diverted hundreds of billions of dollars in government resources to shoring up banks and protecting deposits. Meanwhile, collapsed commodity prices and rising food stocks have largely eliminated any sense of urgency. "Actually, most countries that pledged in Rome have followed up, but the follow-up has been a lot slower than we would like," Nabarro said. "One of the things we will be doing in Madrid is tracking that follow-up." Experts who have stayed focused on food security issues worry that the financial crisis will affect future food production more than many appreciate. Falling prices and weaker demand mean farmers in developed countries have little incentive to grow more this year. And the tight credit environment makes it difficult for farmers to finance expanded yields even if they wanted to....

U.N. leaders have said that between $20 billion and $40 billion in new annual spending on agriculture is needed over the next several years to keep up with population growth and expanding demand as nations like India and China grow richer. Nabarro said he hopes at least some new commitments for additional spending will materialize in Madrid, with the new Obama administration playing a lead role. "We take a view that in a world where 14 percent of the population remains hungry ... that is an extremely unsatisfactory situation," Nabarro said. "That is a representation of a crisis."

Lower food costs give public policymakers some breathing room as they focus on halting the decline in the global economy, which began in the developed world but is now hitting developing countries hard, as well. Agricultural economists predict that prices for most food commodities will stay low for much or all of 2009. "World production of wheat, maize and rice is expected to exceed demand and contribute to a partial replenishment of stocks," experts with the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs say in their latest global economic outlook. But economists warn that once the financial system recovers, so will food markets. And price declines over the last few months still don't make up for much of the increases experienced over three years. The World Food Programme's budget for 2009 is estimated at $5.2 billion, a record....

January 20, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Most of the green team confirmed today: Jackson, Sutley, and Clinton remain

E & E News reported:

The Senate unanimously confirmed seven of President Barack Obama's Cabinet picks today, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, but postponed debate on his nominees to lead the State Department, U.S. EPA and White House Council on Environmental Quality...In a post-inauguration session, the Senate quickly approved Chu, Salazar, Vilsack, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also scheduled a 3 p.m. roll call vote for tomorrow on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama's nominee to be secretary of the State Department.... The Senate did not take up two other Obama nominations: Lisa Jackson to be the next EPA administrator and Nancy Sutley to be the chairwoman of the White House CEQ. Both nominees did not face significant scrutiny during their confirmation hearings last week, leaving several Senate Republican and Democratic leadership aides today searching for answers about who was holding up the two Obama environmental picks....Andrew Wheeler, Republican staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) supports both nominees and isn't sure who raised the objection to Jackson and Sutley's confirmations, though he said the objection to Sutley being confirmed today was because her position is not Cabinet-level.

January 20, 2009 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)