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California drought leads to a black market for water

Grist.org - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 20:59

The drought in California is bad — so very bad, in fact, that it’s created an illegal gold rush: Poachers are siphoning off fresh water with plans to sell it to the highest bidder.

If that sounds apocalyptic, it kind of is. While the State Water Resources Control Board has 22 employees tasked with investigating such crimes — “illegal diversions,” they’re called — there’s yet to be a concerted statewide effort to track (let alone control and punish) water theft. In some rural areas, wells are running completely dry; local law enforcement thinks the desperation drives theft, and they’re scrambling to keep up. Reports the National Journal:

Officials complain that the penalty for getting caught may not be sufficiently strict: Mendocino County counts water theft as a misdemeanor. County Supervisor Carre Brown considers that a slap on the wrist. “To me this is like looting during a disaster. It should be a felony,” Brown said. …

“This is something that’s very hard to pin down. If you don’t catch someone in the act, how do you prove they did it?” Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said.

While there are fines in place for wasting water in California (overwatering lawns, say), there’s no great solution yet for this kind of opportunism — or desperation. In a record-breaking drought, California can’t afford lush gardens or leaky pipes, but folks are stealing thousands of gallons of water from schools, clinics, and fire hydrants. In Modesto, one man was caught stealing canal water for his miniature ponies.

Water is the new oil — and when the world’s largest companies are starting to worry about global water shortages, it’s especially scary. We’re one step closer to The Road Warrior, people.

Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy
Categories: Environment

We’ve never seen so many climate hawks happy at one time

Grist.org - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 20:28

The big new climate deal between the U.S. and China gave usually-somber climate hawks reason to feel optimistic — for a few hours, at least. Here’s how their celebrations translated to the Twittersphere.

For 1st time I truly have hope on curbing #emissions as Obam, Xi pledge limits on #climatechange bbc.co.uk/news/world-asi…

M Sanjayan (@msanjayan) November 12, 2014

The China-U.S. climate pact is a big deal: nowhere near ambitious enough but movements exist to push for more and better. 1/3

Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) November 12, 2014

"An enormously positive new dynamic" My take on landmark US-China #Climate Deal bit.ly/1szXZoY @EnvDefenseFund

Fred Krupp (@FredKrupp) November 12, 2014

US & China have made an important commitment to fight #ClimateChange - cities & businesses can help them get there. mikebloom.bg/1GOFjfW

Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) November 12, 2014

First reaction to US China climate news: We should do more of these big protest-type things, they seem useful.

Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) November 12, 2014

By working together, Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping are opening a new chapter in global climate negotiations: ow.ly/E9der

Al Gore (@algore) November 12, 2014

The right’s "China will never do anything on climate" line is being disappeared down the memory hole, as we speak.

David Roberts (@drgrist) November 12, 2014

U.S. and China Reach Deal on Climate Change in Secret Talks. Details matter but this could be huge. nytimes.com/2014/11/12/wor…

Michael Brune (@bruneski) November 12, 2014


Sure, there’s also lots of chatter about the deal’s serious shortcomings. But activist RL Miller puts the moment in perspective:

non-climate progressive friends, the US-China news is a really BFD. Time for celebration, not sniping (except at Repubs who deserve it).

RL Miller (@RL_Miller) November 12, 2014


And speaking of sniping …

McConnell to POTUS: "Stop the War on Coal!" POTUS: "How 'bout I start the Chinese War on Coal?" McConnell: (turtle shell explodes)

RL Miller (@RL_Miller) November 12, 2014
Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy
Categories: Environment

Bikes created 655,000 jobs in Europe

Grist.org - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 19:13

If you’re a cyclist, you’ve probably already mastered the pedaling-while-patting-self-on-back move: You’re circumventing more carbon-intensive forms of transportation, getting some healthy cardio into your daily commute, and generally making your city a more pleasant and picturesque place — I mean, have you seen Amsterdam?

But here’s one more item to add to your good cycling karma list: The bicycle industry is creating a whole bunch of new jobs. Specifically, in Europe, bike manufacturing, tourism, retail, infrastructure, and services provide jobs for 655,000 people. For comparison, that’s way more than Europe’s 615,000 jobs in mining and quarrying, or 350,000 jobs in the entire steel sector. Not bad for a hippie hobby, right?

According to the study which pulled together these numbers, commissioned by the European Cyclists’ Federation, this already staggering figure could reach a million jobs by 2020. That’s a bigger potential for growth than the automotive industry can boast — proving that, yet again, bike beats car. More from The Guardian:

Surprisingly, the lion’s share of jobs in the new free-wheeling economy are in bicycle tourism — including accommodation and restaurants — which employs 524,000 people, compared to 80,000 in retail, the next highest sub-sector.

And, OK you’re right, there’s even more:

The study also signals some unexpected knock-on benefits that bikes can have for local businesses. Cycling “contributes probably more to the local economy than the use of other transport modes,” because “cyclists go more to local shops, restaurants, cafes than users of other transport modes,” the paper says.

We could probably go on, but E.U. cyclists have already been patted on the back 655,000 times by now.

Filed under: Business & Technology, Living
Categories: Environment