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‘Stop the dirty deal’: activists attack Schumer and Manchin over pipeline plan

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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Climate protesters call provision in US debt ceiling bill to expedite controversial project in Virginia and West Virginia a ‘betrayal’Climate activists have stepped up protests over the inclusion of a provision to speed up a controversial gas pipeline’s completion in the deal to raise the debt ceiling as Congress prepares to vote on Wednesday, aiming criticism at Democrats Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin.The pipeline project has long been championed by Manchin, the West Virginia senator who was the top recipient of fossil fuel industry contributions during the 2022 election cycle. Continue reading...

Climate protesters call provision in US debt ceiling bill to expedite controversial project in Virginia and West Virginia a ‘betrayal’Climate activists have stepped up protests over the inclusion of a provision to speed up a controversial gas pipeline’s completion in the deal to raise the debt ceiling as Congress prepares to vote on Wednesday, aiming criticism at Democrats Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin.The pipeline project has long been championed by Manchin, the West Virginia senator who was the top recipient of fossil fuel industry contributions during the 2022 election cycle. Continue reading...

Climate protesters call provision in US debt ceiling bill to expedite controversial project in Virginia and West Virginia a ‘betrayal’

Climate activists have stepped up protests over the inclusion of a provision to speed up a controversial gas pipeline’s completion in the deal to raise the debt ceiling as Congress prepares to vote on Wednesday, aiming criticism at Democrats Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin.

The pipeline project has long been championed by Manchin, the West Virginia senator who was the top recipient of fossil fuel industry contributions during the 2022 election cycle.

Continue reading...
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Apple has an AirPod repair problem

Paige Vickers / Vox California’s new Right to Repair Act can’t magically make Apple’s popular earbuds good for the environment. On September 12, California’s State Assembly approved the Right to Repair Act. Once it’s signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, makers of consumer electronics will be required to provide independent shops in the state with tools, spare parts, and manuals needed to fix the gadgets that they sell. Advocates of Right to Repair, which included dozens of repair stores across the state, local officials, and environmental groups, hailed the move as a victory, the culmination of a years-long battle to force tech companies to allow regular people to easily repair their own devices. Even Apple, which had opposed the legislation for years, had a change of heart and officially supported Right to Repair in California at the end of August. The world’s richest maker of consumer electronics would finally be forced to make repair materials available for every shiny phone, tablet, laptop, and smartwatch it sells. But some activists had a question: What does this mean for AirPods? “If products have batteries, they should be easy to swap or easy to remove so that consumers and recyclers can separate them,” said Kyle Wiens, the CEO of product repair blog and parts retailer iFixit. “You just don’t see that with AirPod design.” For years, Apple has made its commitment to the environment part of its powerful marketing machine. It has shown off robots capable of disassembling over a million iPhones in a year, and increasingly uses recycled materials to build most of its flagship devices. It claims that its spaceship-like Cupertino headquarters, whose gigantic circular roof is covered with hundreds of solar panels, is powered by renewable energy, and is spending millions to save mangroves and savannas in India and Kenya. At its September 12 event, where it launched a $1,200 titanium phone and a watch that isn’t too different from last year’s model beyond a brand-new “carbon neutral” logo on its plastic-free packaging, Apple reiterated its plans to go entirely carbon neutral by 2030 in a deeply polarizing skit starring Octavia Spencer as “Mother Nature.” And yet, Apple sells tens of millions of AirPods each year, a product that critics have long pointed out is harmful for the environment. Every single sleek earbud is a dense bundle of rare earth metals glued together in a hard plastic shell. Each one also contains a tiny lithium-ion battery that degrades over time like all batteries do, which means that eventually, all AirPods stop holding enough charge to be usable, sometimes in as little as 18 months. That’s where the problem lies: Unlike iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and MacBooks, which can be opened up and have failing batteries swapped relatively easily, AirPods aren’t really designed up be cracked apart by you, repair shops, or recycling companies without destroying their shells in the process, or shedding blood trying to cut them open. “It’s in the ‘insanely difficult’ category,” Wiens told Vox, “which is why you don’t have too many repair shops in the US trying to do this.”This lack of repairability of AirPods raises an important issue: What does the Right to Repair law mean for a product that isn’t designed to be repaired?“AirPods are too difficult to fix — that is clear,” said Jenn Engstrom, state director at CALPIRG, a California consumer rights nonprofit that has been pushing the state to implement Right to Repair legislation for years. “Right to Repair reforms ensure that you can’t make repairs proprietary. But for some devices, the design gets in the way even if you can access parts and manuals. We believe Right to Repair sets a basic expectation that a product should be fixable. But yeah, we can only repair what is repairable.”Apple did not respond to multiple requests for comment.In 2022, Apple launched its own Self Service Repair program. For a chunk of change and a whole lot of trouble, the company provides manuals, sells parts, and rents out official equipment to let people repair iPhones, Macs, and Apple displays. But when Right to Repair becomes law in California, the company will be required to provide it for all products it sells. The problem is that AirPods aren’t designed to be repaired at all. “AirPods are an environmental catastrophe,” Wiens said. “They’re a product that I don’t think should exist in their current state. They’re almost impossible to recycle economically.” Hollie Adams / Bloomberg via Getty Images Due to their lithium-ion batteries, AirPods can stop working after just 18 months, and there’s no easy way to fix them. Apple released AirPods in 2016, the same year it removed the headphone jack on iPhones, spawning an entire industry of truly wireless earbuds with tiny charging cases. At first, AirPods were the butt of jokes. Some people thought wearing a pair in public was a flex. The Guardian said that AirPods were “like a tampon without a string.” Then, they were everywhere. As a feat of engineering, AirPods are, indeed, impressive. Each one packs in a sophisticated processor, microphones, drivers, optical sensors, and a motion accelerometer to detect when it’s in or out of your ear in a space less than 2 inches long. All these tiny components are jammed together and sealed inside sleek plastic casing designed to look smooth and seamless, making AirPods damn near impossible to open. But a key reason that makes AirPods disposable is what powers them. Thanks to chemical reactions that take place when you charge and discharge them, the lithium-ion batteries that power AirPods and other modern electronics hold less and less charge over time. The ones in AirPods are also tiny, which means that while a new one might run for up to six hours on a single charge when new, they might last for less than 60 minutes after a couple of years of heavy use. Apple didn’t provide a way to recycle a pair of AirPods when they were first released. Eventually, the company let people swap out a dying AirPod for a new one — for $49 a piece — if they were out of warranty, and then sent the old AirPods to one of the handful of recyclers it partners with. Apple also lets you mail in a pair of AirPods to recycle responsibly instead of tossing them into the trash. In 2019, however, after a viral, 4,000-word Vice essay called the wireless earbuds a “tragedy,” the notoriously secretive Apple pulled back the curtain on the AirPods recycling process. Wistron GreenTech, a Texas-based subsidiary of Taiwanese manufacturing giant Wistron that Apple hired to recycle AirPods, later told tech publication OneZero that AirPods couldn’t be opened by any kind of automated system. Instead, each device had to be manually pried apart by a worker with pliers and jigs. And because it cost more to open up a pair of AirPods than the value of the material extracted from it, Apple paid Wistron — and, presumably, its other recycling partners — a fee to cover the difference. “It is not easy to fully repair broken AirPods, but we are able to reuse components for other units,” Rob Greening, a spokesperson for Decluttr, an online platform that lets people trade in old devices for cash or gift cards, told Vox. When AirPods launched, iFixit gave them a repairability score of zero out of 10, noting that accessing any component was impossible without destroying the AirPods’ outer casing. At iFixit, Wiens said he bans employees from using AirPods at work. The company also has a workplace perk, he said, where it buys employees any headphones they want as long as they meet iFixit’s repairability criteria — which AirPods don’t. Because Apple claims to “replace your AirPods battery for a service fee,” Wiens thinks that AirPods should be subject to California’s Right to Repair law, too. But because the earphones are not designed to be opened up, it’s unclear how.“I’d sure like to see Apple’s recommended process for doing it,” Wiens said. “There is some possibility that Apple is smarter than everyone and has some secret way to do it, but we haven’t figured it out yet.” David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images With much fanfare, Apple announced its first carbon-neutral product, the latest Apple Watch, at an event on September 12. AirPods are likely just a fraction of the 6.9 million tons of e-waste that the US generates each year. But they are symbolic of the larger environmental problems that products of their category cause. In a 2022 paper called “AirPods and the Earth,” Sy Taffel, a lecturer at New Zealand’s Massey University whose research focuses on digital technology and the environment, argued that any right to repair legislation should prohibit the production of irreparable digital devices such as AirPods, as the right to repair an irreparable device is effectively meaningless.“You can’t pop in a new battery in an old AirPod the same way you can pop in a new battery into an old iPhone,” Taffel told Vox. “So even getting a replacement from Apple doesn’t really ameliorate any of the environmental harms these things cause. It just means that as a consumer, you end up paying a bit less money than if you were going to buy a completely new set.”Earlier this year, the European Parliament approved new rules that mandate consumer devices such as smartphones, tablets, and cameras to have batteries that users must be able to remove and replace easily. Taffel said that he would like lawmakers to lay down similar rules for wireless earphones including AirPods. “There’s a reason the sustainability mantra is repair, reuse, reduce, recycle,” he said. “Recycling always comes last because recycling stuff takes a lot of energy. It’s not always feasible.”Just over a decade ago, the primary battery-powered devices most people had were smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Today, we have smart watches, wireless headphones, smart speakers, e-readers, and VR headsets. Next year, Apple will release its own pair of high-end VR glasses called the Vision Pro. “The market capitalization of tech companies is partly based on the idea that they will continue to create new categories of digital devices that will be considered popular and will be widely sold,” Taffel said.Unlike a pair of wired headphones that you could potentially use for decades, the pair of AirPods you buy today will run out of steam sometime in the next couple of years. At that rate, you will have bought half a dozen pairs of AirPods, tossing your old ones in the drawer, or in the trash. Or maybe you’ll have sent them in for recycling, forcing recycling companies to expend even more energy in the process. “From an environmental perspective, we need to be doing less and less and less,” Taffel said. “But tech’s model is one of constant growth. There’s always more and more and more. Both these things are completely incompatible.”All of this is the opposite of Apple’s increased emphasis on being environmentally responsible. Hanging on to your existing devices for as long as possible is one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint. But it’s also bad for Apple’s bottom line. Already, the company’s latest iPhones, which went on sale today, are backordered.In Apple’s controversial skit, CEO Tim Cook promises “Mother Nature” that all Apple devices will have “a net zero climate impact” by 2030. “All of them?” she asks. “All of them,” Cook says. “They better.”“They will.” The two stare at each other for a long moment. And when the tension reaches a crescendo, Mother Nature breaks it with a cheerful “Okay! Good! See you next year.” Not once does anyone mention AirPods.

Libya’s Unnatural Disaster

What a deluged town reveals about a broken country

Footage and eyewitness accounts have conveyed harrowing scenes from the storm-struck Libyan town of Derna: overflowing morgues and mass burials, rescuers digging through mud with their bare hands to recover bodies, a corpse hanging from a streetlight, the cries of trapped children. Two aging dams to Derna’s south collapsed under the pressure of Storm Daniel, sending an estimated 30 million cubic meters of water down a river valley that runs through the city’s center and erasing entire neighborhoods. Some 11,300 people are currently believed dead—a number that could double in the days ahead. An estimated 38,000 residents have been displaced.      Libya has seen no shortage of suffering and misery since the 2011 revolution that toppled its longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi. Yet Storm Daniel promises to be a singular event. Already, Libyan commentators inside the country and out are pointing to the apocalyptic loss of life in Derna as the product not simply of a natural disaster, but of Libya’s divided and ineffectual governance. The west of the country is run by the internationally recognized Government of National Unity; the east, including Derna, falls under the rule of the renegade strongman Khalifa Haftar.   [Read: Photos from Libya’s devastating floods]Derna has become an emblem of ills that afflict many of Libya’s 7 million inhabitants: infrastructural decay, economic neglect, unpreparedness for global warming. But to understand the scale of its destruction requires seeing the city in its particularity—as a stronghold of opposition to Haftar’s violent consolidation of power in eastern Libya, and before that, a hub of intellectualism and dissent. Derna’s suffering is not entirely an accident. Though for that matter, neither is Libya’s.Founded on the ruins of the Greek city of Darnis, Derna has always been a place apart in Libya, distinguished by its cosmopolitanism, creative ferment, and fierce independence. It sits along the Mediterranean coast, at the base of the aptly named Jabal Akhdar, or Green Mountains, which constitute Libya’s wettest region and account for anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of its plant species. A port city of 100,000, Derna is famous for its gardens, river-fed canals, night-flowering jasmine, and delicious bananas and pomegranates.Muslim Andalusians fleeing persecution in Spain helped build the city in the 16th century, leaving their imprint on the designs of mosques and ornamental doors in its old quarter. Waves of other settlers would make their way there across the Mediterranean. By the early 20th century, Derna had become a font of literary output and nationalist agitation. Poets and playwrights gathered in a weekly cultural salon called the Omar Mukhtar Association to rail against colonial rule across the region, and after 1951, against the Libyan monarchy.An officers’ coup ousted that monarchy in 1969, and the country’s new ruler—Colonel Muammar Qaddafi—naturally took a wary view of the coastal city’s troublemaking potential. By the 1980s, he had made Derna a place of despair, its arts scene eviscerated, its prosperous traders dispossessed, its youth crushed by unemployment. Many of Derna’s young men joined the Islamist insurgency against Qaddafi that spread through the Green Mountains in the 1990s. The dictator responded by shutting down the region’s water service and detaining, torturing, and executing oppositionists. By the mid-2000s, the city’s rage was channeled outward, as hundreds of young men flocked from Derna to Iraq to fight the American military occupation. The U.S. military captured documents attesting to the militancy of these recruits, also revealed in a U.S. diplomat’s 2006 cable titled “Die Hard in Derna.”[Read: How Qaddafi fooled Libya and the world]In the years after  Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, Derna became the site of violent infighting among Islamists, including a radical faction that sought to make the city an outpost of the Islamic State. Haftar, a Qaddafi-era general and defector, began his military campaign under the guise of eliminating jihadist militias and restoring security. But his sweep was actually a bid for national power, and Derna’s fighters were among its staunchest opponents. He was determined to subdue the city. With remorseless, siege-like tactics and substantial foreign assistance, including air strikes and special-operations forces from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and several Western countries, he did so in 2018, though at the cost of destroying swaths of the city and displacing thousands.In the years since, Haftar has kept Derna under a virtual military lockdown, ruled by an ineffective puppet municipality and deprived of reconstruction funds, human services, and, crucially, attention to its decaying infrastructure, including the two dams that collapsed during Storm Daniel. Studies and experts had long warned that the dams were in dire need of repair.Derna’s officials and Haftar’s military authority reportedly issued contradictory instructions as the storm approached: Some advised an evacuation and others ordered a curfew. The confusion suggests a lack of coordination within the eastern government, which, a Libyan climate scientist told me this week, habitually paid little attention to expertise. Haftar will exert tight control over relief and reconstruction efforts in the weeks ahead, funneling contracts to companies run by cronies and family members.Having obstructed Haftar’s ambitions, Derna has become a particular target for repression. But Haftar’s style of rule—kleptocratic, authoritarian, extractive—has made for poor stewardship of eastern Libya’s infrastructure and natural environment, leaving other communities vulnerable to climate-induced extreme weather events as well.Haftar’s militia controls a body called the Military Investment Authority, which is essentially a profit-making enterprise for the Haftar family. The authority has taken control of eastern Libya’s agriculture, energy, and construction, with dire consequences for the environment. Climate activists from the east have told me that under Haftar’s watch, the deforestation of the Green Mountains has accelerated. Elites and militias have cut down trees to build vacation residences and businesses, and to sell the wood as charcoal. Urban development and new settlements have expanded into once-forested areas to accommodate people displaced by war.The absence of tree cover, other human-induced transformations to the Green Mountains, and irregular patterns of rainfall caused by climate change are worsening the damage that floods can wreak. Those that hit the eastern city of Al-Bayda in late 2020 displaced thousands of people. And without the cooling effect of the mountains’ sizable forests, the average mean temperature in the area has risen, which in turn raises the risk of wildfires among the trees that remain. Already, soaring heat waves set forests aflame near the towns of Shahat and Al-Bayda, in 2013 and 2021 respectively.In most countries, civil society and other grassroots actors can help address such ecological concerns. But in Haftar-ruled east Libya, climate and environmental activists face an extremely repressive security machinery that either stifles their involvement or confines it to politically safe initiatives, such as tree planting.  “Young people are willing, but they are afraid,” an official from the region told me candidly in July. “There is no state support.” A member of a climate-volunteer group in the east told me this week by phone that Haftar’s government had blocked their group’s attempt to obtain weather-monitoring equipment from abroad, citing “security concerns.”I’ve heard variations on this theme time and time again during my research in Libya—an arid, oil-dependent country that is among the world’s most vulnerable to the shocks of climate change, including floods and rising sea levels, but also soaring temperatures, declining rainfall, extended droughts, and sandstorms of increasing frequency, duration, and intensity.  According to one reputable survey in which higher numbers correlate with greater climate vulnerability,  Libya ranks 126th out of 182 states, just after Iraq, in the lower-middle tier. Despite the recent inundation of Derna and the east, water scarcity poses the gravest climate-related risk to the majority of its inhabitants: Libya ranks among the top six most water-stressed countries in the world, with 80 percent of its potable-water supply drawn from non-replenishable fossil aquifers by means of a deteriorating network of pipes and reservoirs. And yet Libya has done little to address its climate vulnerabilities.[Read: We’re heading straight for a demi-Armageddon]The country’s political rivalries, corruption, and militia-ruled patronage system have stymied its response. The eastern and western camps engage in only modest exchanges of climate-related information and technology. Even within the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, the ministry of the environment and a climate authority within the prime minister’s office have been jockeying for control of the climate file. (They reached a modest modus vivendi in recent months, some insiders told me this summer.)Derna’s plight is so extreme that perhaps—so activists and commentators hope—it will not be ignored, as countless other Libyan calamities have been, but may instead lead to lasting and positive change. Derna holds a lesson for Libya’s elites, if they are listening, about the costs of division and self-aggrandizement. Momentum toward such recognition, however tragic its origins, would be in keeping with the city’s storied and sometimes controversial role as beacon of dissent.  “It’s a revolutionary city,” a climate scientist with family roots there told me this week.

Activists protest at huge oil and gas conference in Cape Town

“Gas and oil and nuclear don’t need to be in our energy mix”The post Activists protest at huge oil and gas conference in Cape Town appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

Activists protested against oil and gas development outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) on Wednesday, as the Southern African Oil and Gas Conference got underway.The protesters included members of Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI), the Climate Justice Charter Movement, Feed the Future for Life and Extinction Rebellion.About 80 protesters sang and danced outside the centre. Some wore chicken masks and held placards which read “Fossil fuels: Your chickens have come home to roost”.SAFCEI’s Lydia Petersen said they were protesting against the push by the South African government for the extraction of more oil and gas from the ocean. “Our stance as SAFCEI is that there are other options available which we should explore. Gas and oil and nuclear don’t need to be in our energy mix,” said Petersen.Jacqui Tooke, from Extinction Rebellion Cape Town, said: “We are saying to those decision-makers in the CTICC from the Southern Africa Oil and Gas Conference, that their decisions have consequences.”“Scientists are very clear that when we burn fossil fuels it releases carbon emissions which causes this climate change that gives us this extreme weather. We want to amplify the scientists’ alarm. We can’t keep carrying on with the obsession with oil and gas.”“So we are standing in solidarity with communities who are calling for our government to stop investing in fossil fuels, and to invest in socially-owned renewables so that we can transition away from oil and gas,” said Tooke.In their memorandum, the organisations demanded: a halt to new investments in oil, gas, nuclear and coal; that all governments withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel industries and redirect the money to socially-owned renewable energy transitions; that the United Nations establish an “End Fossil Fuel Treaty” to make sure fossil fuel corporations pay a carbon debt for the harm they have caused; that poor countries be compensated for a problem they did not create; and that the oil, coal and gas industries be shut down in the next ten years or sooner.One of the younger protesters, a Grade 11 learner from Mfuleni Technical Academy, Anelisa Maquba, said with the help of the Environmental Monitoring Group learners had been going around their communities to raise awareness about a cleaner and greener environment.ALSO READ: Companies are Rushing to Explore Offshore Oil and Gas on South Africa’s Coast“We do regular clean-ups. We complained about the lack of bins at our school which causes littering, now we have them. We now practice recycling as well. Us being here also shows that we are taking a stand against waste, pollution, oil and gas,” said Maquba.Published originally on Groundup | Mary-Anne GontsanaThe post Activists protest at huge oil and gas conference in Cape Town appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

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