In Portland on Saturday, a tanker truck of gasoline crashed into a parked train. In photos, such as the one below, the resulting fire can be seen blazing a few hundred feet from a liquid natural gas storage tank. The images are a strong statement on the safeguards we should consider as we experience growth of the oil and gas industry in Cascadia.
The nearly 50-year old storage tank, owned by Northwest Natural, was constructed in 1969. Concerns about aging natural gas infrastructure are heightened by an ongoing, massive natural gas leak near Los Angeles, California that has been called the invisible version of the Gulf Coast’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The underground gas well (which the company acquired in 1972) has been leaking for almost eight weeks, and it will take months to end the spill. Thus far, 1,600 families have had to flee the area, and 1,700 more have applied for relocation assistance.
It’s really hard to watch Donald Trump continue to get such visibility for his hate speech and to know that polling still shows significant support for him as a candidate for president of the world’s most powerful country. So I was heartened by this particularly excellent part of a letter Michael Moore wrote him on Wednesday:
Fortunately, Donald, you and your supporters no longer look like what America actually is today. We are not a country of angry white guys. Here’s a statistic that is going to make your hair spin: Eighty-one percent of the electorate who will pick the president next year are either female, people of color, or young people between the ages of 18 and 35. In other words, not you. And not the people who want you leading their country.
As a young woman still developing my own professional voice, I found this article (from July) made for a particularly good read. One of the author’s assertions summed up that element of communications-advice-for-women that still bugs me, too, even as I grudgingly often observe it: “Asking women to modify their speech is just another way we are asked to internalize and compensate for sexist bias in the world.” Yep. And further:
[Linguist Robin] Lakoff argues that the very things career coaches advise women to cut out of their speech are actually signs of highly evolved communication. When we use words like so, I guess, like, actually, and I mean, we are sending signals to the listener to help them figure out what’s new, what’s important, or what’s funny. We’re connecting with them. “Rather than being weakeners or signs of fuzziness of mind, as is often said, they create cohesion and coherence between what speaker and hearer together need to accomplish—understanding and sharing,” Lakoff says. “This is the major job of an articulate social species. If women use these forms more, it is because we are better at being human.” Language is not always about making an argument or conveying information in the cleanest, simplest way possible. It’s often about building relationships. It’s about making yourself understood and trying to understand someone else.
I’d love to see somebody conduct this analysis for Seattle. What do 80 percent of Portland’s top restaurants have in common? As Michael Andersen explains, they’re in buildings without parking.
The best environmental rock song I’ve heard in ages is Courtney Barnett’s 2015 offering, Dead Fox. The video isn’t bad either.
With their customary attention to beautiful visual storytelling about science and ecology, Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele examine the future of Dungeness crab.
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It’s the season for heaters on buses, the most baffling and unforgivable feature in the world of transit. I’m only barely able to contain myself from using all caps when I write that there is never any reason for a bus to have a heater.
It’s also persimmon season, which is reason enough to read this poem by Li-Young Lee.
Ten actors read 10 poems about the damage fossil fuels do to our climate.
Next August Seattle University’s Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability will host a conference entitled Just Sustainability. I like this conference because it’s incredibly interdisciplinary—it examines questions of environmental justice from the perspective of theology, business, engineering, law, and much more. This year the conference will specifically focus on responses to Pope Francis’ encyclical about the links between social, economic, and environmental justice, Laudato Si’. If you are interested in presenting at this conference, it is currently accepting abstracts through January 18th. Send something in! This promises to be an excellent gathering.
A recent New York Times article describes the way that the second-poorest class of Americans is increasingly voting for conservative candidates sworn to eviscerate the social safety net it relies on. It explains that for those on the second rung of the economic ladder, resentment of the meager help meted out to those one rung below them is politically potent. The article’s author calls for renewed efforts to engage the poorest Americans in politics and for spurring job growth in regions left behind. It doesn’t make two other recommendations that I think warrant more attention.
First, North America’s social safety net would have much more political support up and down the ladder if it made wider use of universal social insurance approaches, rather than means-tested welfare programs: more Medicare, for example, and less Medicaid; more Social Security, less dole. Europe is much more generous to its poor for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that it has more universal social insurance programs. A program isn’t stigmatized as welfare if everyone gets it. More generally, Cascadia can reject narrow cost-effectiveness evaluations for alleviating poverty and instead build a movement for universal benefits such as free or near-free college for all; less-expensive transit service for everyone; higher minimum wages (backed with the earned-income tax credit/working families tax exemption); overtime reform; Nick Hanauer and David Rolf’s ideas about a next-generation employment-based social security system; and—ultimately and above all—a guaranteed basic income to all citizens. If I could eliminate all means-tested programs in favor of universal benefits, I would do so in a heartbeat, even if the benefit levels for the poorest were somewhat less generous. The political constituency for universal benefits will be far more powerful.
Second, I wonder if social policy should demand that its beneficiaries vote. In some US states, leaders call for welfare beneficiaries to pass drug tests, which I consider an abuse of power. If leaders called for the beneficiaries of means-tested programs to pass a voting test, though, I might not object. Australia requires that citizens vote and fines those who do not. More intriguingly, though still a long shot politically, this Atlantic article makes a non-ridiculous argument that cities could start a snowball rolling toward mandatory voting in the United States all by themselves. (Mostly, though, I think our next move on voting is not to mandate but remove barriers to doing it, by replicating Oregon’s automatic voter registration law in the rest of Cascadia.)