An investigation by The Guardian examines the 20 oil, gas, and coal companies responsible for over one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and the efforts these companies have undertaken to forestall meaningful regulation to address climate change. “New data from world-renowned researchers reveals how this cohort of state-owned and multinational firms are driving the climate emergency that threatens the future of humanity, and details how they have continued to expand their operations despite being aware of the industry’s devastating impact on the planet… Michael Mann, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, said the findings shone a light on the role of fossil fuel companies and called on politicians at the forthcoming climate talks in Chile in December to take urgent measures to rein in their activities. “The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price – in the form of a degraded planet – so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits. It is a great moral failing of our political system that we have allowed this to happen.””
The Guardian also reports on efforts in Richmond, California, to address environmental hazards associated with the Chevron refinery through grassroots environmental justice movements, litigation, and local policy changes. “The population in closest proximity to the refinery has disproportionately high rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Data from the California Environmental Protection Agency places every community bordering the Chevron facility in the 99th centile for asthma… In January 2018, Richmond followed the lead of seven other California municipalities in filing a suit against Chevron and a further 28 fossil fuel companies, alleging public nuisance and negligence, and seeking the funds necessary to adapt to a climate-changed future. It was a bold move for little Richmond. But, said Martinez, “Where else could we go?” The lawsuits contend the fossil fuel industry misled the public about the true impact of their products. While defendants attempted to have Richmond v Chevron moved to federal court, arguing that the regulation of emissions was essentially a federal issue, a judge remanded the case back to the state. Richmond v Chevron is pending in the ninth circuit court of appeals. The suit is ongoing. Vic Sher, counsel for Richmond, said: “These are the first cases to apply this approach to climate change impacts on communities, but far from the first to apply them to injuries to communities suffering from a wide range of bad corporate behaviour.” He said if a company engages in a “campaign of disinformation about products that it knows are going to harm people and the planet, they are responsible for the injuries they cause”. And for Richmond and other frontline communities like it, those injuries are disproportionately damaging. “They’re even more dire in under-resourced communities of colour,” Sher said. “Poor communities face more severe impacts, coupled with less ability to pay the high costs of adaptation and survival.”
Vox profiles seven young people of color who are deeply engaged in environmental activism, addressing issues like environmental racism; land use; and climate change. Xiye Bastida, a member of the indigenous Otomi-Toltec community who now lives in New York, describes her approach to issues of climate change and environmental injustice: “We don’t call water a resource; we call it a sacred element… The relationship we have with everything that Earth offers, it’s about reciprocity. That’s the only way we are going to learn how to shift our culture from an extraction culture to a balanced and harmonious culture with the land… The first ones to get affected are Indigenous communities who are displaced because of infrastructure and disrespect of the land. It’s not just coming from Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities being victims of pollution that the fossil fuel industry brings. It’s much deeper than that. Whose spaces are they choosing to contaminate and build infrastructure in the first place?”
In an episode of the Ezra Klein Show, former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy talks about his decision to declare loneliness a public health epidemic, and connects loneliness and social experience with physical health. “As US surgeon general from 2014 to 2017, Vivek Murthy visited communities across the United States to talk about issues like addiction, obesity, and mental illness. But he found that what Americans wanted to talk to him about the most was loneliness. Loneliness isn’t simply painful, it’s lethal. Several meta-studies have found the mortality risk associated with loneliness is higher than that of obesity and equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.”
Vox reports on how planned power outages into California are affecting people of low income who risk missing work, covering childcare with schools closed, or throwing out spoiled food, and people relying on home medical equipment: “But the highest tolls of this outage will be borne by the most vulnerable: People who depend on medical equipment at home, whose jobs will be closed, and who face food insecurity without refrigeration. The PSPS [Public Safety Power Shutoff] is a microcosm of the equity issues that are integral to climate change, that the people who contributed the least to the problem stand to suffer the most. And as average temperatures continue to rise, more difficult choices lie ahead for utilities, their customers, and public officials… [P]art of the utility’s decision to conduct a PSPS also stems from policy decisions… PG&E essentially sells a product, electricity, at a government-set price. “And when that price is not worth the wildfire risk associated with providing service, or when the price does not support the investment necessary to make the service safe, it makes complete sense that they would flip the ‘off’ switch to particular sets of consumers,” Kavulla wrote in an email. The result is that hundreds of thousands of utility customers will lose power through no fault of their own. The utility is balancing losing revenue against the risk of sparking another fire, but its customers stand to lose wages and face risks to health care.”
Politico reports that substance abuse and mental health struggles “surged” following deadly shootings at schools in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas. “The devastating turn in mental health, academic performance and substance abuse is revealed in a series of federal aid applications from these school districts. The documents paint the most detailed picture of what really happens to a school after a mass shooting. Once the funerals are over, the TV cameras leave and students attempt to return to normalcy, there have been dramatic turns for the worse in academic performance, behavior and mental wellness.”
The City of Los Angeles is considering a ban on the sale of all e-cigarettes and vaping devices until the Food and Drug Administration completes its product safety reviews, similar to a policy passed by the City of San Francisco earlier this year.