Tim McDonnell joined the Climate Desk after stints at Mother Jones and Sierra magazine, where he nurtured his interest in environmental journalism. Originally from Tucson, Tim loves tortillas and epic walks.
On October 3rd, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will face off in the first of three debates, this one on domestic policy. It could be a chance for Romney to regain lost ground after his week from hell, but for a few environmental groups the focus is less on the candidates and more on the moderator, PBS's Jim Lehrer. The question: Will he ask about climate change?
Just after the debate moderators were announced, the League of Conservation Voters began collecting signatures—60,000 so far—to petition Lehrer, a veteran presidential debate moderator, to ask the candidates how they plan to deal with the climate crisis. Other groups have since folllowed suit, including the Environmental Defense Fund and Al Gore's Climate Reality Project. They plan to officially deliver the petitions to Lehrer next week, LCV spokesman Mike Palamuso said.
"Even if the candidates were endorsing climate action at every campaign stop, there's such a bigger audience for the debates that we want to make sure this is part of the conversation," he said.
The odds aren't particularly good: On Wednesday Lehrer announced the broad topics he would bring up in the debate, none of which address the environment directly. And just this week PBS's NewsHour program, which Lehrer edits, came under fire for "balancing" a segment on climate change with a diatribe from Heartland Institute-connected meterologist and climate change skeptic Anthony Watts.
But hey, anything is possible. PBS spokeswoman Anne Bell wouldn't comment on Lehrer's plans, in part because she doesn't know them: Tweaks are often being made right up until the red light turns on. Still, he's always open to suggestions, she said.
"He takes in tons of information, and as for how he processes it out, that's his own magic formula."
Caroline Cannon, an Inupiat from the Alaskan village of Point Hope, fears oil companies aren't prepared for the challenges of the Arctic.
Caroline Cannon recalls walking onto the frozen Chukchi Sea with other women of her hometown of Point Hope, Alaska, and cooking hot lunches for the men out hunting at the ice's edge for whales, seals, and walrus. It was a long-time tradition in this remote Inupiat village of 700 on the North Slope at the northwestern edge of the state. But the tradition came to an end three years ago, when the increasingly thin ice became too dangerous to traverse on foot.
"It's a different thing when you have to cook in the village and transport the meals out into the ocean," says Cannon, who won the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize for her work opposing oil exploration in the Arctic. "We knew something was happening with climate change, but now it's critical that we take it to heart."
Just days after ice cover in the Arctic reached the lowest level ever recorded, Cannon flew to Manhattan this week to speak at a Greenpeace-hosted panel on why Arctic ice is disappearing at an astonishing rate, and what international governments ought to do about it. Also on hand were a few of the usual climate-beat suspects: NASA scientist James Hansen, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, TIME environment editor Bryan Walsh, and Greenpeace International Director Kumi Naidoo, who was among those who boarded and temporarily shut down a Russian oil rig in the Arctic last month.
Many of the panelists, audience members, and reporters present were familiar to one another, and chatted chummily over coffee and mini-muffins at a mid-morning cocktail party before the panel. It was a telling scene in light of later panel discussion on how the world of climate-change activism is too insular, creating what Hansen called a disconnect between "what scientists understand and what the public knows."
Cannon was the exception, likely the only person in the room who's gone mano-a-mano on her own home turf with disappearing permafrost and rising sea levels. Her main beef was with oil companies ready to exploit vast Arctic oil reserves before being adquately prepared to handle a potential spill. She pointed to the fact that Shell closed its new Arctic shop early for the winter after less than a month of drilling as evidence that the company doesn't yet have the infrastructure in place to cope with the high seas, shifting icebergs, and brutal winds of the Arctic.
On the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein rallies the troops at "Storm Wall Street."Tim McDonnell/Mother Jones
Here's one thing Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have in common: They don't have to battle for attention with a squad of dancing jellyfish puppets. Jill Stein did, and won. The Green Party presidential candidate spent yesterday morning in Manhattan's Financial District with the environmental contingent of Occupy Wall Street, dodging cops, patiently waiting out street theater performances, and shouting hoarsely into the People's Mic.
"Wall Street has put our climate in crisis," Stein yelled, to an ample wiggling of spirit fingers. "It's up to us to lead the way on the economy and the climate."
Occupy Wall Street has long eschewed party politics, which makes the appearance of this long-shot presidential contender slightly discordant. But to see Stein, for whom environmental issues are a campaign centerpiece, marks an apex in what Occupy's environmental organizers call a yearlong struggle to bring climate change to the forefront of the movement.
Stein, 62, is a Harvard-educated physician who first entered politics ten years ago as a Green-Rainbow Party candidate for Massachusetts governor, after years of public health activism. Despite her greatest electoral success being a seat on the Lexington, Mass., Town Meeting in 2005 and 2008, Stein will go head to head with Obama and Romney in at least 38 states this November, making her a contender for the votes of environmentally conscious Occupiers nationwide who are dissatisfied with both mainstream parties' mollifying of the fossil fuel industry.
Stein isn't naïve about her chances for the White House. But she's running anyway, because in her mind both parties are tarred by the same brush.
"Without our voices there is no public interest, it's just corporate spin campaigns competing with each other for more corporate dollars."
Twelve months after they slept, ate, and occasionally got arrested with the demonstrators, our team of journalists has returned to Lower Manhattan to follow #s17 protesters observing the birthday of Occupy Wall Street. Below is our Storify of MJ street reporting, plus updates from our friends and colleagues across the internets (please be patient: The Storify may take a few seconds to load):
SEIADespite claims from a certain Republican vice-presidential candidate that the failure of Solyndra was a sign of a "make-believe market" for solar power, and grumblings from Republican congressmen and Mitt Romney about the merits of investment in solar power technology, a new report today indicates that many of the country's biggest companies are still committed to bringing more sunlight into their energy portfolios.
Walmart uses more solar power than any other US company, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. All told, the twenty companies on the list had 279,122 kilowatts of solar installed by mid-2012, accounting for roughly twelve percent of America's total solar capacity.