InvestigateWest will be covering climate talks in Copenhagen; WTO-style street protests expected

 By Alexander Kelly

Ten years after Seattle witnessed the largest anti-corporate globalization action the United States has seen, protesters will take to the streets of Copenhagen in a week to oppose the global capitalization of the struggle against climate change.

The delegates attending the upcoming high-stakes negotiations are expected to entertain mostly market-based solutions to climate change, which critics say improperly treat carbon as a commodity to be traded among the world’s largest polluters.

Plenty of activists aren’t buying it, and like their predecessors at the WTO rallies in ‘99, they’re ready to let world leaders know.

Nor are they buying the rhetoric spouted at Singapore’s recent international economic summit, where the official goal of the Copenhagen meetings was reduced from the development of a “legally binding treaty” to a “political” one. The announcement has activist groups like Bill McKibben’s and members of the Climate Justice Action network in an uproar, with street-side frustrations on the rise as the will to tackle climate change seemingly takes a political nosedive.

As tens of thousands of protesters from the world over converge on December’s climate talks, so will InvestigateWest.

On the eve of Seattle's WTO 10th anniversary, rioting breaks out at WTO in Geneva

Just days before the 10th anniversary of N30, the biggest day of rioting at the 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle, protesters went on a rampage overnight in Geneva at the latest WTO meeting.

Cars were set on fire and police said perhaps 200 of the 3,000 protesters were intent on violence. Authorities responded with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets.

Watch this space next week, as InvestigateWest will have an exciting and related announcement.

 -- Robert McClure

Rita Hibbard's picture

Should we worry as swine flu fills emergency rooms with a vaccine in short supply?

rita_hibbardwebHow much of a problem is swine flu shaping up to be? Don't blame me if my head is spinning. Seems like I've been advised to be very worried -- like when the White House council of science advisers warned it could kill  30,000 to 90,000 Americans -- and then, maybe not so much. Symptoms are mild. Runs its course in three to five days. Wash your hands and you won't get it anyway. Like that.

This week the flu is filling emergency rooms in Spokane in Washington state, while around the West, parents and others seeking the vaccine line up, often futilely, waiting for a vaccine that is in extremely short supply.

The vaccine simply isn’t being produced in sufficient quantities due to production problems, reports the Associated Press. Only 13 million doses have been delivered, compared to the 12o million doses originally promised. Okay, I'm a little worried.

"As nervous Americans clamor for the vaccine, production is running several weeks behind schedule, and health officials blame the pressure on pharmaceutical companies to crank it out along with the ordinary flu vaccine, and a slow and antiquated process that relies on millions of chicken eggs.

In Spokane, where officials expected to have about 58,000 doses of swine flu vaccine by now, just 12,700 doses have been delivered.

Rita Hibbard's picture

San Jose does the right thing; can Big Chemical stay out of it?

Congratulations to the citizens of San Jose for having a city council with the vision to become the largest city in the nation to ban most paper and plastic shopping bags. Not only did the the city take those steps last night, but they brought along other cities in the county with them, the San Jose Mercury reports this morning.

Let's hope now that the history doesn't repeat itself like it did in Seattle recently, where the American Chemistry Council, the lobbying arm of the plastics industry, spent $1.4 million to first put on the ballot a measure to require voter approval, and then defeat the ballot measure that would have imposed a 20-cent per disposal bag tax. The money was used, frankly, to buy a campaign to confuse and scare voters. The opposition, vastly outgunned, spent only $80,000 to try to get the referendum passed. (By comparison, all eight candidates for mayor on the same Seattle ballot spent a combined $1 million. So in the city's context, it was big money, and contributors included Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil and plastic bag manufacturers.)

The plastics industry has aggressively challenged bans elsewhere in court, including Oakland, where a ban was put on hold after the plastics industry filed a lawsuit challenging the city's ban on plastic bags.

Will that replay itself in San Jose?

The American Chemistry Council has not been silent.

Luring salmon back to Seattle, Portland... and Paris! Yes, salmon are found to be in Seine

Joshua McNichols just produced an interesting story for Oregon Public Broadcasting about how scientists in Seattle, and business owners and others in Portland, are trying to lure salmon back to the city.

In Seattle, researchers are experimenting with roughening the surface of seawalls, creating nooks and crannies to encourage the growth of plants that help shelter tiny critters that feed young salmon. Those salmon pause at Seattle's waterfront while making the transition from fresh water to the Pacific Ocean.

In Portland, Mayor Sam Adams is pushing for a lower-tech solution: Planting trees and other vegetation at the waterfront. It's a strategy that's been tried with success in Seattle.

Making the transition zone through cities like Portland and Seattle safe for salmon is  important work, says salmon expert Jim Lichatowich. He points out that the fish must pass through a series of well-functioning habitats to optimize the number that ultimately make it to the Pacific, and then return:

If you have three of those habitats that are degraded, and if through heroic efforts you fix two of those links, the chain's still broken. And it's really an important metaphor because it helps explain how we could spend so much money on salmon recovery efforts and get so little out of it.

(If you haven't read Lichatowich's Salmon Without Rivers, I suggest you do yourself the favor. Fascinating stuff.)

Out in the countryside, meanwhile, the Bonneville Power Administration is using one of its helicopters to fly over streams and measure their temperature by way of a thermal imaging camera, Tom Banse reports for KUOW.

As homeless tolls rise, so does the need for a solution

Nine bodies of homeless men have been found outdoors in and around Anchorage since May of this year, with the latest discovered this weekend, reports Kyle Hopkins in one of a series of stories in the Anchorage Daily News. The most recent man had been dead for several days before discovery. Police report no signs of foul play, but don't yet know his cause of death.

Four of the previous deaths were alcohol-related, but no other links between all the bodies are apparent. Four of the men were Native Alaskans, spurring talk that the deaths were racially-motivated killings, but so far no evidence has been released to back this up. One man was robbed and beaten to death in Centennial Park by two 18-year-olds who stole a duffel bag, $7 and beer. They have been charged with second-degree murder. Police say at least one of the teenagers was living at a camp in the park as well.

The cluster of deaths highlights a growing problem. Following recession and “gentrification” of downtown Anchorage, the number of homeless people in the city increased 35 percent from last year to almost 3000. Only about 13 percent are substance abusers or chronic inebriates. And with shelters overflowing, the question now is, where are these people going to go?

The police say they would like to get homeless people out of camps and into a centralized location, perhaps a tent city, similar to what Seattle did with their “housing first” plan where they set people up with housing without requiring them to halt substance abuse first.

Seattle shopping-bag tax attracts $500 K in opposition

The American Chemistry Council has given $500,000 to a campaign to convince Seattle residents to vote down a 20-cent-a-bag tax on grocery bags, Mark Ramirez of the Seattle Times reports. The tax is intended to encourage shoppers to bring their own, non-disposeable bags to save landfill space and reduce the use of resources, particularly petroleum to make plastic bags.