A newsletter about people causing and coping with climate change, by Alexander C. Kaufman.

Happy hour TONIGHT in Brooklyn with Kate Aronoff and me

Hello, friends.

I’m sorry it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve sent you something. I’m a schmuck! But a schmuck who’s co-hosting a happy hour tonight in Brooklyn. From about 7 p.m. - 10:30 p.m., you can join me and the very great Kate Aronoff at Cherry Tree Bar in Brooklyn. It’s super cheap, and the pizza is pretty good.

Kate did a nice job of summing up the event in an email she sent to friends last night, so I’m going to just blockquote that and hope those of you who agree “that Kaufman guy is a real schmuck” will show up for her. Come through!

The basic idea is just to bring together folks who work on, think and/or worry about climate change in any way shape or form. It will be a chance to hang out with cool/fun/smart people who are interested in the same stuff as you. It will not be a horribly depressing and studious, structured discussion about the National Climate Assessment, COP 24 et. al. No special knowledge of greenhouse gasses is needed to attend, just a vague commitment to prefiguring our leisurely eco-socialist future (i.e., chilling).

Please bring and/or invite any friends, comrades, coworkers, etc. who you think might be interested! I've almost certainly left off several people who should be on this list. 

Hopefully see you soon!

Kate

P.S. - This will hopefully soon become semi-regular. Maybe even regular! And certainly with a little more advanced notice than this late-night-email. So if you can't make it tomorrow but want to stay in the loop let me know :) 

Big Oil's one glaring midterm loss

Hello from Huntington, Long Island, where I’m celebrating my dad’s birthday, Armistice Day and Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday, in that exact order.

It was a big week for politics on Long Island, as well. On Election Night, incumbents in Congress held firm, including Democrat Tom Suozzi -- whose district this is, and Republicans Pete King and Lee Zeldin. But the state Senate is another story.

Long Island Democrats flipped four seats, retaking the Senate for the third time since World War II. Among those ousted was Carl Marcellino, the 75-year-old state senator who’s represented the district spanning from Glen Cove to Huntington since 1995.

Marcellino will be replaced by Democrat James Gaughran, 61, an attorney and former chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority. On the environmental front, he proposed increasing state grants for homeowners to replace aging cesspools -- a major source of nitrogen pollution in the Long Island Sound.

Gaughran also said he wanted to convert lands into “forever wild” preserves, and pay for his environmental agenda by pursuing “aggressive legal actions against polluters, like Grumman, that have caused serious damage to our aquifers,” according to an interview he did with the Long Island Herald. My mom is excited about that one.

Announcements:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 27: Jewish Currents presents Bad For the Jews: Halakhic Thunderdome at littlefield in Brooklyn. Tickets are $12 to $15. You can buy them here, and RSVP here.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 28: I’m hosting a climate/environment happy hour at Cherry Tree in Brooklyn. It’s FREE, and will go from 7 - 10:30 p.m.


The post-ops of how Democrats fared in Tuesday night’s election ranged pretty quickly from “blue wave? more like blue ripple” to “Beto 2020.” While, Democrats’ sweep in state attorney general seats was largely overlooked.

Four states flipped blue, and 13 Democrat incumbents were re-elected in seven of them. In an election sweep that secured 27 states and knocked off three of Exxon Mobil’s top allies, that could be bad news for an oil and gas industry that had another otherwise great night.

The wins came as climate change-related litigation at the city and county levels is finally making landfall in state capitals, with two states now suing oil companies and another charging ahead with an investigation that’s likely to lead to a third lawsuit. It’s unlikely any state besides California could follow New York’s lead on the investor fraud suit filed last month.

But with Rhode Island and Massachusetts pursuing very different legal routes, it’s possible others paths will emerge.

I wrote about this, and broke some news about California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s donors and incoming Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s potential plans. You can read the full story here.


🛢️ 🛢️ 🛢️

$100 million.

That’s a rough underestimate of how much money the oil and gas industry spent to kill ballot measures in three states that posed a risk to its business.

“We had a pretty good shot, but they definitely had way more resources than we did,” one advocate for Colorado’s Proposition 112, a measure to drastically limit fracking, told The Intercept. “I guess the oil and gas industry is just another example of money buying elections.”

📺 📺 📺

Ryan Zinke is considering going full-time at Fox News. The embattled Interior secretary -- whose mounting scandals make him the most vulnerable Cabinet member since the president fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions -- is weighing a possible job at the Rupert Murdoch-owned propaganda network, Politico reported.

It’s familiar territory. During his first 13 months in office, Zinke appeared on Fox News four times more often than on all other major cable and broadcast networks combined, according to data from the watchdog Media Matters.

🌆 🌆 🌆

New York City’s climate lawsuit against Big Oil isn’t dead yet.

Four months after a judge tossed the suit, the city is appealing the decision, according to documents filed late Thursday. The suit adds to the oil and gas industry’s legal woes just weeks after the New York attorney general sued Exxon Mobil Corp. for defrauding investors over climate change.

🗑️ 🗑️ 🗑️

18 million miles.

That’s how much truck traffic New York City estimates it will eliminate with a long-awaited new plan to overhaul the private trash pickup industry. The mayor’s office says the plan to divide the city into 20 separate commercial waste zones, each to be served by three to five private carters, will slash traffic 63 percent and dramatically cut air pollution.

🚰 🚰 🚰

Baltimore banned water privatization.

Seventy-seven percent of more than 148,000 voters backed a proposal to amend the city’s charter to make sewage and water-supply systems inalienable.

“With water corporations circling around Baltimore over the past several years, ramped up privatization ploys last Spring, and a federal administration hellbent on propping up corporate power over peoples’ rights, it is momentous that the city has voted to keep its water public,” Rianna Eckel, the Maryland organizer for Food & Water Watch, said in a press release.

🔥 🔥 🔥

Southern California is burning.

The Camp Fire in Butte County killed five people as of Friday and forced tens of thousands to evacuate. The Woolsey fire torched the ultra-wealthy seaside enclave of Malibu, burning down reality-TV star Caitlyn Jenner’s mansion.

The president, meanwhile, is tweeting remarks that reveal he either doesn’t know half of California's forests are managed by the federal government, or doesn’t care, using a disaster that killed nearly a dozen people in a cynical ploy to play to Republican farming interests in the state.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrumpThere is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!

🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸

HBO is making The Plot Against America into a show.

This has nothing to do with climate change or environmental issues, necessarily, but this is my goddamn newsletter, that’s my favorite Philip Roth book, and David Simon is writing it!


Quotable menschen

“Even more importantly: Amazon is bad. It is monopolistic. Its owner should have his immoral hoard of wealth forcibly expropriated by the state before his power grows so great that all of society is warped by it.”

Hamilton Nolan in The Guardian.

“To Pelosi and the new Democratic leadership in the House: we hear you have no plan to combat climate change. This is unforgivable."

Sunrise Movement founder Varshini Prakash on Tuesday’s election.

David Roberts@drvox8. It puts the lie to the notion that fossil fuel incumbents are going to be productive partners in the climate fight. Big Oil is tromping around like a giant troll, stomping on citizen climate efforts. That's the landscape, happy talk aside.
Zephyr Teachout@ZephyrTeachoutI trust that the new New York State Senate--now controlled by Dems!--will not unquestioningly rush into a relationship with a company who has prided itself on radically asymetrical deals that leave Amazon with data and power, and its partners with dependency. @rontkim
Sam Stein@samsteinYou might be thinking: "Damn, this morning's mass shooting in the LA bar is pretty damn close to our last mass shooting, the one in the Pittsburgh synagogue." In fact, there were 11 mass shootings (four or more victims) in between. https://t.co/ReEVjNq6EZ
David Sirota@davidsirotaClimate Change: I'm literally burning down your towns and cities. Media/Politicians: Let's talk about anything other than climate change.

Recommendations:

First, this song.


Thanks for reading the latest issue of This Anthropogenic Life. This newsletter is a labor love, and there’s plenty of love to give, so send it to your colleagues and friends and enemies, too. It’s free. As always, reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you. My email is alexanderckaufman@gmail.com.

A blip of good climate news from tonight's election

For people who don’t want to see coastal cities drown in the coming decades, tonight’s election results were a mixed bag, to say the least. The oil and gas industry’s $70+ million spending bonanza paid off as voters rejected Washington’s carbon tax initiative and Colorado’s anti-fracking measure. Texas elected a climate denier to replace Lamar Smith, the House’s notorious climate denier-in-chief. A country-club Republican beat a populist Democrat in one of the poorest parts of West Virginia with the generous help of the natural gas industry.

But there was a blip of good news.

The Democratic Party’s nascent Green New Deal wing took shape as a series of progressive climate hawks notched historic, if expected, victories — establishing the first group of lawmakers in Congress from either party advocating policies scientists say might actually make a dent in planet-warming emissions.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, handily won New York’s 14th District and will become the youngest woman elected to Congress. Ilhan Omar surged ahead in Minnesota’s 5th District, and Rashida Tlaib, facing no Republican challengers, sailed to victory in Michigan’s 13th District. They became the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress. In the one competitive race of the bunch, Antonio Delgado, 41, overcame Republican Rep. John Faso’s racist smears in New York’s upstate 19th District.

Their victories cement the first contingent of Democrats calling for a radical federal spending plan to rapidly wean the United States off fossil fuels and prepare the nation for climate change that looks increasingly likely to cause cataclysmic damage in the coming years. Dubbed the “Green New Deal,” the vague set of policy proposals hark back to the Depression-era spending programs that built many of the country’s infrastructure landmarks.

Their wins might help temper some stinging losses. You can read my full report here.

The Green New Dealers are ascending in the same election that cost the Republican Party its leading advocate for action on climate change. Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo narrowly lost in Florida’s 26th District, Miami suburbs where Hillary Clinton won by double digits in 2016. His ouster raises questions about the future of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, derided as the “climate peacocks” club by folks like Climate Hawks Vote’s RL Miller, who see it as effective only at laundering the reputations of lawmakers who consistently vote against climate policies. You can read my full report on Curbelo’s loss to Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell here.

It’s almost 1:30 a.m. here in New York, and I’m still in the HuffPost newsroom, wondering how the hell I’m going to muster the energy to return here tomorrow (today?). But I wanted those of you who got sleep tonight to wake up to something in your inboxes. Because I love you all so dearly. You’re, uh, welcome.

Maddie Stone@themadstoneJust hit me that the House Science Committee will, for the first time in nearly a decade, be led by someone who accepts mainstream climate science

If you like this newsletter, and appreciate how willing I am to make up for the two weeks I neglected to send it last month, send it to someone you love. It’s free. Email me at alexanderckaufman@gmail.com.

New York’s *hottest* happy hour

Hello from lovely, autumnal Astoria, Queens. I went last week to the opening of Zaria Forman’s new exhibition in the Winston Wächter Fine Art gallery in Chelsea. It’s really hard to make compelling art about climate change with images of polar ice. But Zaria is a master of it, and I recommend checking out the show, which is open through mid December.

I realize it’s been a few weeks since your last edition of This Anthropogenic Life. I went upstate for a long weekend to roast marshmallows in a solar-powered cabin and enjoy New York’s finest season. Then, to be honest, last week’s massacre in Pittsburgh made it too difficult to set myself to writing. But now I’m back, and I’m bearing an invitation to a very cool real-life event.

Kate Aronoff and I are co-hosting a happy hour for environment/climate nerds on Nov. 28 at Cherry Tree in Brooklyn from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. You’re invited.


Not to make the non-New Yorkers jealous, but the story I wanted to draw your attention to is a local one with international implications.

I got my hands on an early version of New York City's landmark bill to cut climate pollution from big buildings, the city's top source of carbon dioxide emissions by far.

The bill is based on a historic agreement from August that set out a policy framework and established a united front of real estate giants and housing advocates who promised to support the legislation.

But this version -- which, sources stressed to me, is an early draft -- doesn't include parts of the agreement that proposed loopholes for New York's dwindling stock of less than 1 million rent-regulated apartments. That means it could, as it's written now, cause rent hikes.

Instead, the draft proposal offers a green energy loophole that critics say won't work, and will also allow landlords to raise prices.

It’s hard to stress how important this bill is. New York made waves in January by suing big oil companies and announcing plans to divest its pension funds of $5 billion worth of fossil fuel investment. That prompted other cities to do the same. If New York can successfully regulate its biggest source of climate pollution -- big buildings -- other cities, from Toledo to Tokyo, might, too


Quotable menschen

"(Our) job is to educate the Jewish masses on the meaning of white supremacy and to enroll the Jewish community in an all-out fight against it."

-- Jewish Currents, back in 1950, much to the chagrin of white supremacists at the time.

“I like to think that Lincoln doesn’t have his back to General Lee. He’s in front of him. There’s a difference. Similar to Martin Luther King doesn’t have his back to Lincoln. He’s in front of Lincoln as we march together to form a more perfect union. That’s a great story, and so is Camp Nelson.”

-- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke comparing Robert E. Lee to Martin Luther King, Jr. during a ceremony to open a national monument at Civil War site famous for its African-American history.

noah kulwin@nkulwTablet Magazine [which defended Sebastian Gorka after it was revealed he was part of a Nazi-supporting Hungarian order] Has Media Friends in High Places https://t.co/IdkjYxXeEE
David Sirota@davidsirotaNBC’s $69 million payout to Megyn Kelly is enough to pay for four 50-person newsrooms of $65,000-a-year reporters for the next 5 years.

🦁  🦁 🦁

Welcome back to the 1880s. Monopolies thrive. Billionaire tycoons run amok. Cartoonishly unshy corruption allows coal executives to bring home the wild animals they kill on safari.

Steven Chancellor -- a guy who would definitely do fucked up stuff in “Westworld” and who raised more than $1 million for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign --- obtained permits to import the heads and hides of at least three male lions he shot in Zimbabwe. That came after he got a political appointment at the Interior Department. My colleague Chris D’Angelo found the retroactive permits in a FOIA response..

🌀  🌀 🌀

Six years ago, North Carolina lawmakers passed a bill barring policymakers and developers from using up-to-date climate science to plan to for sea level rise.

Last Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper, a conservative Democrat, signed an executive order calling on agencies to cut greenhouse gases 40 percent before 2005 levels by 2025. It’s a significant step forward for a state still reeling from Hurricane Florence.

⚜️  🍤 ⚜️

Hurricanes are already changing the way we talk.

A study of New Orleans English found shifts in the accent and lingo after Hurricane Katrina sent thousands into diaspora and brought many more to the city. The research suggests displacement from climate change-fueled storms is going to transform regional dialects.

🚘  🚘 🚘

The Trump administration’s fuel-economy rollback is riddled with mathematical errors.

That’s the finding of Robinson Meyer’s deeply-reported analysis in The Atlantic, which reads: "The mistakes range in scope from the comical to the bizarre, from the obviously accidental to the how-did-they-miss-that."

☀️   🔨 🌬️

Democrats are warming up to the idea of a green jobs plan.

In a nationwide YouGov survey of 1,903 Democrats, registered voters on average ranked green jobs fifth among 15 progressive policy priorities ― behind universal health care, gun control, immigration reform and impeaching President Donald Trump. That ranking put green jobs ahead of several other priorities of the left, including criminal justice reform, strengthening unions and statehood for D.C. The survey found even stronger support among young voters and people of color. Voters aged 18-29 ranked green jobs as their No. 4 priority, and voters of color in that age range ranked it No. 3.

Nonvoters who identified as Democrats also ranked green jobs third, suggesting that such a policy could open a previously untapped well of electoral support.

🇩🇪  🇩🇪 🇩🇪

Germany’s Green Party is on the rise.

The center-left party, which hit a 15-year record low in polling last year, is surging in popularity as disaffected voters flee the neoliberal Social Democratic Party.

“Admittedly, you can’t entirely hold it against the foreign media to be less fascinated with the recent rise of the Greens than with the AfD,” Leopold Traugott a policy analyst at the think tank Open Europe, wrote for the London School of Economics. “Nevertheless, if you want to understand German politics, closely watching this party over the coming months will be crucial.”


Recommendations:

Thanks for reading. This newsletter, inconsistent as it may be sometimes, free. Forward it to someone you love. Email me anytime: alexanderckaufman@gmail.com.

John Morales is looking for higher ground

Hello from beautiful Astoria, Queens, where -- after a month of travel -- I am very happy to be home. It’s actually feeling like fall weather (for now), and you better believe I broke out a sweater and bought apple cider doughnuts for the first time this season.

A few announcements:

  • My wonderful editor, Kate Sheppard, gave birth Friday to a beautiful, healthy baby girl named Zora Hazel Sheppard Freelon. Congrats to her, Deen and newly-promoted big brother August.

  • Kate is on maternity leave until February, so please feel free to send climate and environment pitches my way in the meantime. I’ll also be running out end of the Climate Desk partnership in her absence.

  • We are celebrating Larry Bush, the long-time editor of Jewish Currents, at a retirement gala this afternoon at Corkbuzz at 13 E 13th Street. Come celebrate with us from noon to 3 p.m.

  • As a reporter, I make a rule of never donating to causes. This GoFundMe to help the Moira Donegan, the creator of the Shitty Media Men list, defend herself against an alleged rapist’s $1.5 million lawsuit felt like a worthy exception. You might consider doing the same.

  • HuffPost is hiring for more than a dozen positions! We at the union put together a convenient Twitter thread listing the openings here.


A week before hurricane season began in June, I flew down to Miami to spend a few days with John Morales, the bilingual NBC weathercaster in Miami. He took me to mangrove parks where he watched historic storm surges engulf restaurants and rock towering palms. He recounted the horror of warning his friends and octogenarian mother in Puerto Rico, where he grew up, of what was to come before Hurricane Maria made landfall last year. He drove me past giant waterfront towers and bemoaned what he called the “paradox of cities like Miami Beach” -- the need for more development to increase the tax base to pay for the climate-related damage that the development will incur. A vicious cycle.

Over espresso one morning in his beautiful home in Coconut Grove, he casually shared what might be the most unintentionally perfect origin story I’ve ever heard. He was born on May 13, 1962, in Schenectady, New York. His father struggled with schizophrenia and paranoia, and stopped taking his medication. One day, he left baby John in the bath unattended, and wandered off in a fit of hallucination. His mother found him. Fearing that staying with the man she loved would endanger their son, she left and took John to Puerto Rico to raise him among her family.

The boy saved from watery peril would go on to devote his career to warning some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations to the threat of sea level rise and storms intensified by climate change.

You can read my profile, featuring incredible photos from my colleague Chris McGonigal, here.


Quotable menschen

"I don't remember doing it. At all. I believe it was probably on accident. You know, 90 percent of my Facebook is done on my iPhone, just scrolling through it. It was not on purpose. I find it offensive. In fact, when I was shown the picture by my staff, I said, 'What the hell is this,' and they said, 'It's from your Facebook,' and I said, 'No, it's not.'"

--Andrew Wheeler, the acting EPA administrator, on the racist meme I reported he liked on Facebook.

“Dominion is ripping off Virginia families and pushing through unnecessary and dangerous pipelines.”

--Yasmine Taeb, the human rights lawyer challenging a top Virginia Democrat next year, making an almost unheard of challenge to the state’s utility monopoly-cum-political kingmaker.

“Hope and its doleful twin, Hopelessness, might be thought of as the co-muses of the modern eco-narrative. Such is the world we’ve created—a world of wounds—that loss is, almost invariably, the nature writer’s subject. The question is how we relate to that loss. Is the glass ninety-five per cent empty or is it five per cent full?”

--New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert on “how to write about a vanishing world.”

Jamie Tyberg@jtbrgthis week saw: the strongest hurricane the florida panhandle has ever experienced an earthquake in haiti a tsunami AND an earthquake in indonesia but y’all still talk about the climate crisis in future tense, why
kate wagner 🏘️✨@mcmansionhellClimate change is legitimately class war
Kate Scare-onoff@KateAronoffPeople who are now climate policy experts after reading one (1) story about the new IPCC report,, hello

🌀  🌀 🌀

Hurricane Michael rattled Florida amid an environment-centered election. The historic storm struck the Sunshine State’s panhandle just as candidates are making a final push before voting day in November.

This cycle has had an unusual focus on environmental issues. The toxic algae bloom spreading across the state’s waterways put intense scrutiny on Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s record of cutting water management budgets by $700 million since 2011. Now the deep-pocketed governor’s bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson could determine the partisan tilt of the Senate next year.

🛢️  🛢️ 🛢️

The United Kingdom started fracking. Fierce protests and legal challenged failed and this week the fossil fuel firm Cuadrilla drilled two gas wells in Lancashire after the High Court ruled that local officials showed “no evidence” the company failed to properly assess safety risks.

"You can have fracking or you can deal with climate change -- you can't do both," one environmentalist said.

☣️  ☣️ ☣️

The Chemical Safety Board is cutting back under Trump. Insiders at the federal watchdog told The Wall Street Journal they’ve been “encouraged to cut back on regulatory recommendations,” and raising the risk of serious workplace hazards as a result.

"I don’t know if we have the political will to do it, and we definitely don’t have the capacity to do that now."

🇧🇷  🇧🇷 🇧🇷

Brazil’s presidential election could have devastating climate change impacts. The world’s fifth-largest country is on the verge of electing far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro, a military dictatorship enthusiast and the so-called “Trump of the Tropics.”

Yet he could do more to accelerate global warming than the fossil fuel-friendly American president. Bolsonaro has signaled a desire to open indigenous areas to mining, pave a highway through the Amazon and pull out of the Paris Agreement.

🏭  🏭 🏭

Republican climate hawks are facing a big challenge. The small but growing movement of conservatives who want to slash greenhouse gas emissions has long espoused Republicans’ free-market orthodoxy.

But the United Nations report that came out last Sunday showed that so-called “market solutions” -- i.e., a carbon tax -- is never going to be enough to cut emission by an unimaginable 45 percent in 12 years, the deadline set for keeping the planet from warming more than a catastrophic 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Can you put a sigh in your story?” Alex Flint, the executive director of the Alliance for Market Solutions, told me. “I don’t know.”


Recommendations

  • Rebecca Leber wrote the definitive profile of David Bernhardt, the former oil lobbyist pulling the strings at the Interior Department and the likely next Interior Secretary if Ryan Zinke departs.

  • Tess Riley has an excellent piece about the first environmental protesters jailed in Britain in nearly nine decades.

  • Yvette Cabrera’s devastating tale of a 12-year-old boy whose family is desperately trying to keep him out of jail does a magnificent job tracking how environmental pollution ruins the lives of brown and black people before they’re old enough to realize what’s happening.

  • Joseph Majkut wrote a fascinating, worthwhile elegy to conservatives’ missed opportunity for a carbon tax.

  • Ben Walsh and Mary Childs have two separate pieces in Barron’s that illustrate how investors are looking at climate-fueled disasters like Hurricane Michael.

  • Zach Carter’s summary of what the new NAFTA deal means is the essential bigger picture missing from much of the initial news coverage.

Thanks for reading This Anthropogenic Life. It’s a labor of love. Return the favor by sending it to at least one person you think would enjoy it. Sign someone up without their knowing! I won’t tell.


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