Marcia G. Yerman

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“After Fire” — The Challenges Facing Female Veterans

“After Fire” — The Challenges Facing Female Veterans

Women vets are encouraged to suppress their feelings and not appear “weak.” This leads to isolation and an absence of support.

December 6, 2016 | 1 comment | Read More »

“After Fire” — The Challenges Facing Female Veterans

“After Fire” — The Challenges Facing Female Veterans

Women vets are encouraged to suppress their feelings and not appear “weak.” This leads to isolation and an absence of support.

December 6, 2016 | 1 comment | Read More »

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

Post-Election: New Women in Congress Inspire Hope

On Election Day, I cast my vote full of hope.

On Wednesday morning, I went to bed at 3 a.m. — after watching eight hours of election returns. When I woke up, I had a severe case of dread. Not an existential dread. Rather, a version that I could feel in every fiber of my body.

I have been writing about the environment for six years.

As I looked over all the articles I have produced,

November 17, 2016 | No comment | Read More »

Trump Puts Big Oil Over the American People

Trump Puts Big Oil Over the American People

Trump’s presentation in the Oval Office was his version of political theater. He held up the signed documents housed in a portfolio, like a teacher showing illustrations to a first-grade classroom. He engaged in a monologue with the usual inflections, inflations, and disinformation.

January 26, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

Bill de Blasio Holds Town Hall in Northwest Bronx

It almost felt like a cross between a Town Hall and a pep rally. There was no screaming or shouting. Just a gymnasium filled with people who had plenty on their minds and over two hours to get their questions answered. (Those who weren’t picked handed in cards with their queries. They were guaranteed that they would receive follow-up responses.)

A diverse group of constituents from the Northwest Bronx met with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council member Andrew Cohen, for a forum that fielded concerns from local schools to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Mayor was accompanied by a complement of city agency brass, to either follow up on his responses, fill in the gaps, or personally meet those who were having problems.

As Cohen pointed out, Bronxites in this area hadn’t received a mayoral visit since the days of Ed Koch.

De Blasio greeted the crowd with, “Good evening Northwest Bronx.” There was a communal Pledge of Allegiance, and then lots of reciprocal shout-outs. Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz warmed up the audience by delivering some unflattering comments about Trump, before thanking the Mayor for “universal pre-K.” Darcel Clark was introduced, and she assured those present, “You have a DA who is here for you.” Cohen, who functioned as the MC, expressed his gratitude to de Blasio and laid out the ground rules: “Vigorous and respectful conversation. No speeches. Questions please.”

Up for re-election, de Blasio did some politicking by running down his accomplishments after observing, “Everyone who is here in this room is here for a good reason.”

Noting the current stats for high school graduates (72.6 percent), he added, “Fifteen years ago, it was under 50 percent.” He stated, “Seventy thousand kids are in pre-K.” De Blasio talked about police and community relations, affordable housing for seniors and vets, getting a rent freeze in place, and traffic safety. Then he told the audience, “I look forward to your questions.”

The first inquiry was about the potential impact of Betsy DeVos on public education. De Blasio voiced concern about a reduction of federal revenue due to proposed tax cuts for the wealthy. “We have reserves,” he said. “Now we fear Washington, D.C. more than loss of revenue.”

The hyperlocal issues ran the gamut from school overcrowding to landlord abuse. On lack of local parking, de Blasio shifted the conversation to, “I think we need to expand mass transit.” Regarding the Bronx River Greenway, he offered, “We’ll follow up.” Several people spoke about homelessness, including existing dismal facilities for male and female veterans. “We got 700 people off the streets,” the Mayor said, while emphasizing the need for permanent housing and “getting people back into communities.” A request for more police officers who speak Bengali was an opportunity for de Blasio to mention that there are “900 Muslim members of the NYPD.” In promoting his successes, de Blasio lamented, “Good news doesn’t travel as well or as fast as bad news.”

The bigger themes of the evening reflected a generalized fear — about what was going to happen to the Affordable Care Act, how to protect the undocumented, and the future of the country.

De Blasio referenced the irony of people complaining about “Obamacare” in 2009, and, “Now they want it.” He suggested, “I urge everyone in this room to fight. Every additional person who signs up — it makes it harder to get rid of.”

The pointed request to follow Seattle’s action, and divest all of New York’s funds from those entities who finance the DAPL pipeline, got an open-ended answer. “New York City has reached out to New York financial institutes. We have applied positive pressure. If they refuse…”

De Blasio’s response trailed off.

There were numerous healthcare and education professionals on site. They consistently underscored their concerns for immigrant youngsters and their mental health. One teacher commented with palpable concern, “We have students who are living in fear right now.”

Speaking to the status of New York as a sanctuary city for 500,000 undocumented residents, de Blasio affirmed, “We’re all here together. We’re not making our law enforcement people into immigration agents. The only funding they can cut is from Homeland security. If they actually want to try it, we’ll take them to court.” Later he reiterated, “In anything controlled by the City of New York, people are safe. The vast majority of the undocumented are contributing to the life of our city.”

“What should city people do to defend against Trump initiatives?” de Blasio was asked.

Asserting that “something’s been unleashed by the Trump campaign,” de Blasio ticked off a list of actions. “Sign up people for health insurance; sign up for idNYC; report acts of bias or hatred. People need to see the consequences.”

New York is the media capital of the world,” de Blasio maintained. “Everything we do here gets magnified.” Later, a woman challenged the Mayor about the dismal state of the country. She told him emphatically, “Our country is in crisis. I want you to use your bully pulpit on a daily basis.”

Taking issue with her prediction that the country was in an irrevocable downward spiral, de Blasio replied:

“America is fighting back. I agree with your urgency, but people are standing up and using all the tools of democracy. It’s a difficult period, but not impossible.”

Let’s hope so.

 

Photo: mgyerman

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Feb 23, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Trump Puts Big Oil Over the American People

TrumpandMoneyOn Tuesday, January 24, Donald Trump made a symbolic show of putting his signature on two presidential memorandums that demonstrate how his administration plans to deal with the environment.

President Obama nixed the Keystone XL Pipeline and blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline. Now Trump is reversing his actions.

A chilling gag order has gone out to employees of the EPA, telling them not to communicate with the American public or press. In response to tweets deleted from the Badlands National Park account on carbon dioxide stats, a rogue handle, @AltNatParkSer, has sprung up. It describes itself as, “The Unofficial ‘Resistance’ team of U.S. National Park Service.”

Trump’s presentation in the Oval Office was his version of political theater. He held up the signed documents housed in a portfolio, like a teacher showing illustrations to a first-grade classroom. He engaged in a monologue with the usual inflections, inflations, and disinformation.

“This is subject to terms and conditions negotiated by us,” Trump said, referencing the XL Pipeline. He continued free-form. “We’re going to build our own pipes in the United States…A lot of jobs. 28,000 jobs. Great construction jobs.” (Note: Construction jobs are temporary, not permanent jobs.)

It didn’t take long before the legal experts sent out reaction e-mails.

Waterkeeper Alliance General Counsel and Legal Director Daniel E. Estrin wrote:

“Each year in the United States, oil pipelines spill an average of 11-million gallons. The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines threaten the fishable, swimmable, drinkable water for millions and the viability of North American farmland.

Clean energy is the future. It creates more jobs, more economic growth and makes us energy independent. Investing in oil pipelines is outdated, dangerous thinking that puts American lives at risk.” He added, “Trump is padding the bottom line of companies he’s invested in at the expense of the American people.”

Let’s take a look at the tangled web of money and interests around the XL Pipeline and the DAPL, which puts the interest of building pipelines over the people they harm.

Harold Hamm, who is giving Trump “advice” on energy policies, made his 15 billion-dollar fortune from his fossil fuel profits. Forbes called him, “The most successful fracking pioneer.” He is expected to use the DAPL to ship his product. Trump has investment holdings in TransCanada and the Energy Transfer Partners, the companies behind the pipelines. No paperwork is yet available to show he has divested. Energy Transfer Partners gave Trump’s campaign $100,000. (Rick Perry and Scott Pruitt have been heavily funded by fossil fuel dollars as well.) After Trump’s announcement, the stock share prices in both companies got a 3.5 percent boost.

If Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, gets the approval of the Senate for Secretary of State, he will be signing the paperwork since Keystone is a “cross-border” project.

When Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry said no to the pipeline in 2015, he made clear that American pursuit of the pipeline “would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combatting climate change.”

What does this renewed fight mean for our children?

Nothing good, especially if you live on Native lands, around Port Arthur, Texas, are from a family of landowners in Nebraska, or reside in one of the four states impacted by DAPL.

It means that public opinion around these projects has been disregarded. Comments from parents, doctors, and scientists flooded the EPA with concerns about the impact on children’s health resulting from an increase in global-warming pollution.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Or), a true climate hawk, nailed it in his clear-cut response to Trump’s actions. He wrote:

“The proposed Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines have inspired unprecedented grassroots opposition, and for good reason: they would turn on the tap to the dirtiest fossil fuels in the world while threatening drinking water. This executive order is a slap in the face to our tribes and to every American who cares about clean water or a livable planet. Instead of using his power to try to ram these damaging pipelines through, Trump should listen to the voices of the millions who have expressed deep concern about the lasting negative impact these projects would have on our nation.”

Where does this leave our kids? Gasping for clean air and water.

Tell Your Senators: Stand Up to Trump’s Climate Denial

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.

Collage: Courtesy of RVR Associates

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Jan 26, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Moving Forward with Grassroots Activism

mcaf-exxon_ceo_sec_state

2016 is finally coming to a close.

For those who care about the environment, the only choice is to look forward toward mobilizing in 2017 — with the goal of keeping progress from backsliding.

Easier said than done?

Not really.

True, there will not be a pro-active partner in the White House. However, the biggest take away from this deadly election cycle is that grassroots action is the key to the success of any movement or ideology. Change emanates from the strength at the bottom, creating a shift that may be slower than desired — but that in the end yields a monumental force.

Too many people are already throwing up their hands, convinced that there is nothing that they — as an individual — can do.

Not true.

There is a much bigger picture here. What cannot be overlooked is the essential hyperlocal aspect of the struggle.

Has your district been gerrymandered so that people faced with environmental justice challenges are not being equitably represented? Does your Councilperson share your alarm about particulate matter in air pollution or the high rates of asthma in children? How about your State Senator?

Do you know where your elected officials stand on state-based deregulation or why the electrical industry is pushing to restructure itself to become a “tradable commodity?”

I recently read Frackopoly by Wenonah Hauter. One of the biggest insights culled from her well-researched book was how actively interconnected fossil fuel companies, finance, government, media, and influence have become. Hauter introduces her story with the evolution of today’s top fossil fuel companies. They evolved out of the 1911 Supreme Court decision to break up the Standard Oil monopoly, which was divided into thirty-four companies, because it violated the Sherman Anti-Trust  Act.

In 1946, Congress opened up public lands that were not yet developed, making them easier to lease and accessible to the grasp of fossil fuel interests. In post-World War II America, there was an expansion of infrastructure devoted to pipelines. It is during this period that fossil fuel interests began to seek out connections within Congress, in order to exert their influence and become active players.

Hauter revisits the history of the CIA’s involvement in the 1953 coup against the democratically elected Iranian government. The purpose was to secure the oil resources connection. In a déjà vu scenario, Trump has spoken about taking all the oil in Iraq as part of his “plan” to defeat the Islamic State.

By 1980, Hauter writes that those in the gas and oil sector began aggressively working to defeat those in the House and Senate who didn’t support their agenda.

The fossil fuel sector had a friend in Ronald Reagan, who appointed James Watt as the Secretary of the Interior. Watt could be a model for what Trump has in mind for appointments, including posts for the Interior, Energy, and the EPA. Watt was a lawyer who was on the side of those opposing regulations and conservation. He became known as the “anti-environmentalist.”

Not too long ago, Dick Cheney was behind getting fracking exempted from national environmental laws with a clause known as “The Halliburton Loophole?”

Today, energy companies have an outsized influence on American politics. It’s easy to make the connections: just follow the money. The Koch brothers have opposed regulations at every turn to make sure that their bottom line stays untouched? They have backed up their agenda with generous campaign contributions.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a staunch climate denier, has received in excess of 1.7 million dollars from gas and oil companies during the period of 1989 to 2015. Oklahoma has seen an upsurge in earthquakes (5,417 in 2014), attributed to the increase in fracking activity.

When Rachel Maddow broke the story that President-elect Donald Trump was widening his Secretary of State search to include both the former and present CEOs of Exxon Mobil, a shudder went through me. (So much for draining the swamp of special interests and the big money boys.) The possibility was clear that Trump was considering a mashup of corporate, big energy, and Wall Street interests. (Fossil fuels was one of the stocks to shoot up after the Trump win.)

ExxonMobil ranks as the top fracking company in the United States. Yet, Rex Tillerson made news when he didn’t want fracking in his backyard.

Now, he is a nominee-in-waiting.

Hauter calls for a “grassroots insurgency” to take place both in the United States and around the world.

The country is witnessing a true example of organic activism in the Standing Rock movement. Solidarity and support came from groups inclusive of religious leaders, war veterans, and anti-pipeline advocates.

On December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not move forward with granting a permit for the Dakota Access pipeline to drill under the Missouri River.

This example goes beyond serving as a template. It exemplifies the importance of demanding accountability, and stands as a reminder that what transpires is on each of us, as American citizens.

January 20th isn’t the end. It is, in fact, a new beginning….
To protect our communities, our children, and the future of the planet.

This article originally appeared on Moms Clean Air Force.

Tell Your Senators: Stand Up to Trump’s Climate Denial

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Dec 26, 2016 | No comment | Read More »

Bill de Blasio Holds Town Hall in Northwest Bronx

A diverse group of constituents from the Northwest Bronx met with Mayor Bill de Blasio...

Feb 23, 2017 | No comment | Read More »

Local Activism Pays Off

Individuals from all walks of life, who are concerned about the future of their children...

Dec 18, 2014 | No comment | Read More »

The Military Battles Climate Change

Ret. Adm. David Titley said,"The ocean, atmosphere and ice do not caucus, do not vote,...

Jul 27, 2014 | 1 comment | Read More »

EPA Adminstrator McCarthy Makes A “Moral Obligation To The Next Generation”

McCarthy, who doesn’t pull any punches, stated, “Climate change caused by carbon pollution is one...

Oct 11, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

IPCC Report: Man-Made Climate Change Is A Scientific Certainty

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report on September...

Oct 2, 2013 | No comment | Read More »

Small Businesses Support President Obama’s Climate Plan

After extreme weather incidents like Hurricane Sandy, 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen....

Jul 23, 2013 | No comment | Read More »