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Cinema Verde Presents: Shaba
Cinema Verde Presents: Shaba

Now Playing | In the mountains of northern Kenya, a Samburu community is doing something that has never been done before. They’ve built a sanctuary for orphaned elephants to try to rehabilitate them back to the wild. The project is not just changing local attitudes about elephants, it's changing attitudes about women too because the secret to Reteti’s success is all because of the special bond between a group of local women keepers and one special elephant named Shaba. Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is the first-ever indigenous community-owned and run sanctuary in all of Africa, where rescued orphaned elephants are looked after by local keepers from the Samburu community. They are rehabilitated and raised and then reintroduced back into the wild. The sanctuary is empowering young Samburu women to be the first-ever indigenous women elephant keepers in all of Africa. At first, the community didn’t think there was a place for women in the workplace. Now, the success of these women elephant keepers is unlocking new possibilities and setting a powerful example for young girls, hoping to pursue their dreams. What’s happening there, without fanfare, is nothing less than the beginnings of a transformation in the way the Samburu people relate to wild animals. This oasis where orphans grow up, learning to be wild so that one day they can rejoin their herds, is as much about people as it is about elephants. This is a personal story about a group of women and an elephant named Shaba who changed each other's lives. This film is a powerful reminder that we are a part of a complex world created over millions of years, and the survival of all species is intertwined with our own. Reteti began in partnership with Conservation International who provided critical operational support and work to scale the Reteti community-centered model to create lasting impacts worldwide.

GoGreenNation News: A guide to environmental health in southwestern Pennsylvania
GoGreenNation News: A guide to environmental health in southwestern Pennsylvania

Our zip codes are more important than our genetic codes in predicting our overall health and lifespans. Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania face unique environmental health challenges. This guide explores those challenges and how you can help address them. What is environmental health? Environmental health is the relationship between human health and our environment. The field of environmental health is a branch of public health that looks at the health effects of everything from air pollution and water contamination to toxic chemicals in consumer products and climate change. These issues impact the health, wellbeing and longevity of people who live in some places more than others — including Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania. Why is environmental health important in Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania? Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania have long been home to extractive and manufacturing industries that substantially impact the environment and human health. Long ago the region was home to the lumber industry, then some of the world’s first oil wells and coal mining, then steel mills, and now natural gas extraction and petrochemical plants. Many cities, towns and neighborhoods throughout southwestern Pennsylvania were populated and built around these industries, so local politics historically have been led or heavily influenced by industry insiders. This resulted in policies that prioritize industrial growth, often at the expense of the environment and human health. The effects of these practices and policies still linger today. The region also features unique topography with plentiful mountains and valleys that influence the way pollutants move through the environment (or don’t) and who is most impacted by them. What this guide will cover Air pollution in Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania Health impacts

GoGreenNation News: The road to climate hell is paved with concrete
GoGreenNation News: The road to climate hell is paved with concrete

If you’re reading this, chances are you are now either touching concrete or touching something that is touching concrete. By weight, the material makes up 46 percent of everything humans manufacture. But for most of us concrete remains hidden in plain sight: We live and work in it, step on it and drive on it, but we walk through the concrete world the way a city kid first walks through a forest. We see shape and color but don’t think much how it all connects. Where there are people, concrete is nearly omnipresent. Where there are few or no people, concrete’s impact is also pervasive, because together concrete and cement are the world’s number two emitters of atmospheric carbon, the most prevalent greenhouse gas. Most estimates count emissions from the materials as 6 to 8 percent of the world total, though some estimates are up to twice that. The huge scale of production plays a big role. Global Cement, a monthly report that’s one of the sector’s bibles, estimates that the world produces enough concrete and cement to build a city the size of Paris every week–about 33 billion tons a year. Population growth drives some of the huge volume, but a bigger driver is that modern life continually demands more concrete per person. In 1980, the per capita use of concrete was one-third of what it is today, and the U.N. expects that increased urbanization and population will drive enough construction to double the world’s collective floor space by 2060. Every manufactured ton of concrete produces .93 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Concrete may help fireproof us from combustible forests and provide a bulwark against rising seas but its climate effects also stir wildfires and melting ice caps, trapping us in a vicious circle: The best material for resilience necessitates more resilience against its effects. At the recently concluded COP27 climate negations, affluent countries were pressed to provide $100 billion a year to help poorer countries adapt to wreckage from climate change. Should the funds flow, expect thousands of miles of new concrete sea walls and other concrete bulwarks to rise in threatened zones. An aerial view of the Jayne Byrne interchange under construction. [Photo: Nisian Hughes/Getty Images] One of Chicago’s most productive concrete yards sits on South Lumber Street less than six miles from where I live. It’s the ready mix batch plant where the Ozinga Bros. combine mountains of raw material to make the finished roads and buildings that climb around the center of the city and fill the iconic high-rise skyline that’s visible in the distance. The city’s recent super-tall building boom has pushed the company’s concrete literally into the clouds. I see the plant almost daily as I drive along the elevated stretch of I-55 that circles it. It feeds into the Jane Byrne interchange, a concrete monster that connects four major highways and demands drivers use every synapse to merge safely. This means that every time I drive it, I risk starring as the next collision on Waze.  But I can’t resist looking down at the Ozinga plant. It’s most bewitching in the predawn twilight–those luminous white towers, full of sand, gravel and cement, the platoon of 40 or so big, red- striped, spinning barreled concrete mixer trucks lined up like circus elephants.  It’s mesmerizing–a Margaret Bourke-White photo come to life. On this day in mid-November I’m heading down to the plant. I will see the road from underneath. A nine-year, $800-million rehab of the highway is supposed to wrap up 10 days from now and the rush to finish will send nearly every truck in the yard to the job site to pour the rough equivalent of one square mile of road. That’s a close equivalent to 250 foundations for single-family homes. I meet the first shift at 6 a.m. Men are hanging around the break room. The work’s been called off for now because there’s rain and sleet. The ice makes big trucks slip and the rain weakens the concrete. The drivers wait and share stories, like the one about a job when the ground collapsed under a truck. Andre Calhoun, one of the plant managers, uses the down time to show me inside the towers where the raw materials are mixed and the hanging hoppers that discharge mixed concrete into the barrels of trucks that pull under them. The plant runs 24 hours a day. Mechanics are always on duty to keep the conveyors, spinning bins and dosers from succumbing to the wrecking power of the sand, rock and water that run through them. The gray river of wet concrete rarely stops moving. The plant also backs up to the South Branch of the Chicago River. In the nineteenth century, nearly every forest in the Midwest was cut down to build Chicago, and the wood came raw and milled by barge into the city. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire ended the wooden era as the city rebuilt using sturdier materials. The Ozinga Concrete factory. [Photo: stevegeer/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus] Now cement, rock and sand unload from the river into bins off Lumber Street. The Ozinga operation in Chicago’s Chinatown is one America’s highest producing city plants. It is also headquarters for a dozen or so dispatchers with headsets who stare at large monitors and route the company’s trucks through the often-choked urban maze. A wall of screens gives the dispatch center a war room feel, though the dispatchers are quiet, composed, and focused, even when squabbling with drivers who don’t like their routes. Andre walks me to the dock and shows me a line of covered barges. The cover is a giveaway. It’s cement, the key ingredient in concrete that glues the mass together. It cannot get wet before it’s used. Andre tells me that each barge carries that same amount as 80 trucks, so the line of barges equals a few hundred trucks of material. I shake my head at the volumes. These barges, he says, came up the Mississippi from Holcim, the big Swiss materials company that is a large producer in the American Midwest and may be the world’s largest cement producer (it’s hard to know because the production stats on Chinese companies are hard to verify). On other days, cement comes from China or Turkey. Most of the rock and sand is mined close to Chicago, and also comes into the city by barge. You can see those materials down the way, where a bucket unloader is grabbing loads and moving them to piles in the yard. The region’s system is a kind of materials superhighway, and just as with cars, it starts to look congested as you get close to downtown. I feel a bit overwhelmed. “You can feel the city taking shape here,” I say to Andre. “There’s all this material around us, but when you look up, there’s all the bridges, roads, waterways and buildings that begin somewhere like here.” He smiles. “A lot of people don’t see it that way,” he tells me. He says he mostly hears complaints about the noise of the trucks and the dust from the yards. You have to wonder, he says, if people know where their homes, offices and roads come from. I’ve always known where it comes from because as far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the stuff. My architect father let me tag along on his weekend inspections of his Chicago-area job sites, and our family tourism often ended up at some concrete masterpiece, like Mexico City’s Floating Gardens of Xochimilco, where our garlanded boat happened by the thin-shelled concrete masterpiece by Félix Candela, the Los Manantiales Restaurant, which sculpted the massive material into a slender, flower-like pavillion. In my early 20s, I lived in developing Asia. Why, I wondered, was the cement magnate in Indonesia the dictator Suharto’s best friend? (Because dictators almost always keep cement and concrete magnates close. They make dictators more rich and powerful, offer a trove of contracts, jobs to hand out to cronies.) Restaurante Los Manantiales, ca. 2016. [Photo: Dge/Wiki Commons] Later, while reporting on China–for my book China, Inc.–it struck me how deeply the Chinese Communist Party was committed to concrete. Its top leadership linked national development to grand concrete projects and concrete-heavy urbanization. The country went into overdrive on roads, dams, airports, endless high-rise housing estates, you name it. When the Party couldn’t earn legitimacy with Communist ideology it earned it with infrastructure, and the Chinese standard of living soared. Prior to the pandemic and the current construction slowdown in China, the country produced and used more than half of the concrete produced in the world. And when I wrote a book –Shock of Gray–about global demographic change, I dug deep into causes for the doubling of the human lifespan. I came to see concrete as the world’s greatest asset for public health. It’s the material that delivers clean water, removes dirty water and builds structures that eliminate insect-borne diseases. Parasites that breed in dirt floors, for example, the world’s second-most deadly danger to children under five. And now when I buy a stock or a bond, or pay my taxes, I see concrete there, too. Money in those is used to build. My new city sidewalk—financed with government debt–is in my retirement portfolio. How much of my financial life, I wonder, attaches to this tangible material. I’m working to figure that out, but my sense is that it’s everywhere there, too. The materials industries, and their publicly traded peers, have come under the intense pressure from large portfolio investors to prove they are committed to lowering their impact on climate. In other words, fulfilling the criteria driven by the E.S.G. (environmental, social, and governance) screens that are now applied to tens of trillions of dollars of capital in the hands of large investors, such as pension funds and institutional endowments. Facing public pressure and the reluctance of investors, Holcim has committed to cutting its carbon emissions by 90 percent by 2050 with smaller goals along the way. In other European countries and the U.S. hundreds of firms old and new are working to innovate in the construction sector. On my way out of the plant, I follow the Interstate southwest as the highway follows another waterway, an old canal. Next to the canal, over several miles are more construction materials yards. The mounds of rock rise and fall throughout the year, but today they rise as high as I’ve seen them. A backhoe on top of one of the mounds looks minuscule. Most of the miles are construction debris hauled out of Chicago from demo’d buildings and roads.  Some of it will get recycled, not as structural concrete, but as stone for gravel beds. I suspect most people traveling the busy road don’t see the mini mountain range, or ponder its origins. The built environment can seem so static. We see a new building in a familiar spot and say, “Where did that come from?”  We see an empty lot where a building we knew once stood and wonder how and when it was cleared. Concrete may seem inert, but it is the most traveled material of all. Once you see it in motion, the built world never stands still again. A former trader and member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Ted Fishman is the author of China, Inc and Shock of Gray.  His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire, and many other publications. His forthcoming book on concrete will be published by W.W. Norton.

GoGreenNation News: A Company Behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline Is Showering Schumer With More Donations Than Manchin
GoGreenNation News: A Company Behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline Is Showering Schumer With More Donations Than Manchin

At the center of the ongoing debate over permitting reform—now encapsulated in Senator Joe Manchin’s Energy Independence and Security Act—lies a single unfinished piece of energy infrastructure: the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Stretching from northern West Virginia through to southern Virginia, the 300-plus mile-long project is slated to transport 2 billion cubic feet of fracked gas per day, much of that bound for export. Manchin’s bill would speed along the project’s construction, fast-tracking permits and redirecting extensive and ongoing court challenges against it. If completed, the pipeline is estimated to pour 26 coal plants worth of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Manchin’s enthusiasm for the project, which has faced fierce opposition along its route, is predictable. He’s long tried to promote his state’s fossil fuel industry and has accepted generous donations from backers of the pipeline. Gas pipeline companies have ratcheted up their spending on Manchin this year, from $20,000 in 2020 to $331,000 in 2022 so far. He’s the industry’s largest recipient of campaign funds overall. The deal to greenlight the Mountain Valley Pipeline, then, has been portrayed in the media as necessary and savvy bit of politicking to guarantee Manchin’s vote on the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who brokered the deal, may not have wanted to fast-track the Mountain Valley Pipeline, but it’s a small price to pay for the IRA’s climate policies.This is the dominant media narrative right now. But it doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Schumer, not Manchin, is the single largest recipient of donations from one of the pipeline’s backers this year, NextEra. Schumer has received four times as many donations from employees and the company’s PAC this year than Manchin has.The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a joint venture between EQM Midstream Partners, LP, NextEra Capital Holdings, Inc., Con Edison Transmission, Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream, LLC. By far the biggest spender in Washington has been NextEra, which owns a number of utilities and energy infrastructure projects around the country. Over the last year, Manchin has received $59,350 from NextEra, including $55,850 from individuals and $3,500 from the company’s PAC, according to campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Schumer has received $283,200, including $278,200 from individuals and $5,000 from the company’s PAC. ConEd has given Schumer $500 this year, and $2500 since the 2017-2018 campaign cycle. Over the same time period, Manchin’s campaign committees have received $15,500 from NextEra, while Schumer’s has gotten $10,000. Schumer’s office did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.NextEra has been Schumer’s second-largest donor this year overall, despite never having breached his top-five list of donors previously. The utility holding company, whose subsidiaries include Florida Power and Light and Gulf Power, hasn’t historically had a major footprint in New York. Earlier this year, NextEra Energy Transmission—the subsidiary backing the Mountain Valley Pipeline and with plenty to gain from the permitting reform package’s transmission-related elements—finished work on a transmission line through New York. Schumer’s campaign donations from NextEra this year are three times the amount he’s received from the company in total since joining the Senate in 2018. All but 12 of the 144 donations Friends of Schumer PAC received from NextEra employees between 2021 and 2022 have been $1,000 or more, according to the Federal Election Commission.The Mountain Valley Pipeline has accumulated more than 350 water quality violations and other environmental infractions since construction began in 2018. The permitting reform bill would go to remarkable lengths to protect the project from local and national scrutiny, mandating that any future legal challenges to either the pipeline or any of the bill’s provisions be brought in the D.C. District Court. It would mandate that judicial review panels more generally be compiled by random selection, seen as a potential reaction to the Mountain Valley Pipeline getting repeatedly rejected for permits by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Republicans have extensive ties to the project too, of course. West Virginia Senator Shelly Moore Capito, who has released her own, more radical permitting reform proposal, owns between $2,002 and $30,000 of NextEra stock, while her husband, Charles Capito, owns between $15,001 and $50,000. He sold off between $1,001 and $15,000 of that stock on May 26, as Roll Call reported. The majority (61 percent) of NextEra contributions this year, however, have flowed to Democrats. The company’s PAC has given $210,000 each to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, responsible for raising funds for Democratic Senate and House candidates, respectively. It gave the same amount to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and $170,000 to the DCCC’s GOP equivalent, the National Republican Congressional Committee. Manchin, the DCCC and DSCC did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.As my colleague Grace Segers reported last week, opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline hasn’t just come from climate progressives. Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine came out against the Energy Independence and Security Act just after text was released, miffed he wasn’t consulted on a deal that would see more gas flowing through his state. The broader fight around permitting reform has caused a sizable rift within the Democratic coalition, and an odd-bedfellows alliance of progressives wary of fossil fuel provisions and centrists disgusted by the process. Getting donations from fossil fuel interests, meanwhile, remains a thoroughly bipartisan enterprise.

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