Tea Party Introduces ‘Wacky’ And ‘Ludicrous’ Conspiracy Bill To Shut Down Arizona Energy Efficiency Programs
Citing conspiracy theories about “a one-world order,” the Arizona Tea Party is attempting to slip a bill through the legislature that could strip programs designed to help residents in the state become more energy efficient.
The bill’s sponsor, Arizona State Senator Judy Burges, says her goal is to wipe out any environmental program administered or funded by the government to prevent “social engineering … including where we live, what we eat.”
Burges’ bill, Senate Bill 1507, is based upon an unfounded conspiracy theory about “Agenda 21,” a non-binding international plan for environmentally-sustainable development crafted by the United Nations. The plan was adopted in 1992 by 178 countries, including the United States under the George H.W. Bush administration.
Burges and other members of the Tea Party believe that clean energy programs in Arizona are a plot by the United Nations to create a single world government in order to control people’s lives. AZ Central reported on SB 1507:
The bill would bar the state and Arizona counties and cities “from adopting or implementing the United Nations Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.”
Under the provisions of Burges’ bill, the state, counties and cities could not accept funds from, spend funds from or give funds to “certain non-governmental organizations,” including non-profit groups and contractors, for any of the declaration’s initiatives.
Wes Harris, a Phoenix resident and tea-party member, also testified with Burges, repeating theories about the declaration that have been floated among conservative organizations such as the John Birch Society, which refer to the declaration as “Agenda 21.”
Harris claimed the declaration “is an attempt to implement a one-world order. It’s been going on for 20 years. It has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate. It has been snuck around the back door by the Clinton administration.”
The Arizona conspiracy bill has already moved through the Senate, through a House committee, and is now set for discussion on the House floor. If passed by the House, the bill could block state and municipal programs that help home and business owners invest in energy efficiency improvements.
Chad Campbell, the Democratic House Minority Leader called the legislation “the most ludicrous … I’ve seen in six years…. You could pretty much shut down any form of government sustainability” program.
An onlooker with the Sierra Club called it “wacky.”
The bill was crafted through a “strike-everything” amendment, which allows a legislator to re-write an existing law with limited scrutiny. Burges has substituted language in an unemployment bill with the Agenda 21 wording that would severely limit Arizona’s ability to adopt efficiency and clean energy programs.
This isn’t the first conspiracy theory Judy Burges has been involved in. She is also a fierce “birther” who questions President Obama’s citizenship, despite being presented with a certificate of live birth.
Her previous attempts to pass legislation demanding Obama’s long form birth certificate have failed. But this latest conspiracy-laden bill actually has momentum in the Arizona legislature — threatening to derail the state’s valuable clean energy programs in the process.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) announced yesterday that he will “probably” sign a bill that attacks the teaching of “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” by giving broad new legal immunities to teachers who question evolution and other widely accepted scientific theories. Under the bill, which passed the state legislature last month:
Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
Although the bill is written to seem benign, as it neither specifically authorizes the teaching of creationism nor permits teachers to do more than criticize scientific theories “in an objective matter,” the practical impact of this bill will be to intimidate all but the heartiest of school administrators against disciplining teachers who preach the most outlandish junk science in their classrooms. Because the bill provides little guidance as to what constitutes an “objective” criticism of a scientific theory, any principal who reigns in teachers who force creationism or Pastafarianism upon their students risks finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
In reality, of course, there are few, if any, “objectively” valid objections to the theory of evolution (or, for that matter, to global warming). Rather, as Travis Waldron explained when this bill passed a legislative committee nearly a year ago, “Scientists have reached a consensus that evolution is ‘one of the most robust and widely accepted principles of modern science,’ and as such, it is ‘a core element in science education.’”
What’s a lover of burgers to do?
“People should eat less meat, but better meat,” says Nicolette Hahn Niman, a woman of many talents whose email signature reads: Rancher Lawyer Author Mother.
That makes a lot of sense to me.
I met Nicolette Hahn Niman last week in Houston at an “Energy Summit” put together by Shell to talk about the interdependence of energy, food and water. Business people, academics, entrepreneurs and environmentalists talked about what needs to be done make the world more sustainable by 2050. [Disclosure: I was paid by Shell to moderate.]
Nicolette had quite a story to share. It begins in 2000 when she was an environmental lawyer and a vegetarian living in Manhattan and working for Robert Kennedy Jr., the president of the Waterkeeper Alliance. He asked her to investigate pollution problems caused by the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) where most cows, pigs and chickens are raised. Then, as now, most of the water pollution in the US is caused by agriculture. But she resisted at first. “It didn’t sound very appealing, to spend all my time working on manure,” she recalls.
But as she dug into the problem (not literally), Hahn was revolted by what she found on so-called factory farms. Crowding animals together, feeding them antiobiotics so they don’t get sick, storing their waste in giant lagoons, cutting down forests to grow crops to feed them, creating stenches that bother neighbors, making workers sick — none of it make sense to her. Industrial farms, she thought, bore no resemblance to the farms near where she grew up in western Michigan.
But what was the alternative? She went looking and found a better way-as well as, unexpectedly, romance.
Today, Nicolette and her hippie-turned-rancher husband, Bill Niman, raise cattle and heritage turkeys at BN Ranch in Bolinas, CA. (Bill Niman is no longer associated with Niman Ranch, a well known network of ranches that sold humanely-raised cattle and beef to customers ranging from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse to Chipotle.) They were married in 2003, and they have a three-year-0ld son. Nicolette is the author of Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms, a book about her crusade against factory farms and life with Niman. (You can read the opening chapter here.) And, yes, she remains a vegetarian, although she hastens to tell me that she has no “philosophical opposition” to meat, which is probably good for marital harmony.
“By the time I married Bill, I’d been a vegetarian for almost 20 years,” she says, and so she’s lost her desire for meat.
Still, Nicolette has a nuanced (albeit self-serving) way of thinking about meat. For health and environmental reasons, she says, Americans eat too much meat. She can’t abide the sloganeering – Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner — that comes from industry trade groups. And yet she is equally put off by those who equate eating meet with driving a Hummer. (See her op-ed, The Carnivore’s Dilemma, which ran in 2009 in The New York Times.)
“There’s been this idea that if you’re concerned about climate change, if you’re concerned about the environment, you should take meat out of your diet,” she says. “That’s an oversimplification. There are bad ways to raise beef, and good ways to raise beef.”
BN Ranch, she explained to me, lets its cattle feed on grass and uses almost no mechanized machinery. Their manure, instead of being waste, fertilizes the soil. “Animals,” she has written, ” can increase soil fertility, contribute to pest and weed control, and convert vegetation that’s inedible to humans, and growing on marginal, uncultivated land, into food.
The trouble with this approach is that it costs more than industrialized cattle-raising. Factory farms, like most other factories, are created because they are more efficient than artisanal production.
Quoting Michael Pollan, Nicolette says we all may need to pay more for better food. “You can either pay your grocer now or you can pay your doctor later,” she says. If more expensive meat means less meat, that may be good for us over time. “The health problems linked to beef are about overconsumption, not consumption per se,” she points out.
For those of us who can afford as much meat as we want, paying more for better beef and eating less of it makes sense. But can the grass-fed, earth-friendly approach to raising cattle scale up to satisfy the rising global demand for meat? That seems unlikely. (For an entirely different look at the issue, see my 2011 blogpost: How to “green” a hamburger.) Meantime, the best way to curb demand for meat is to insure that its price reflects its full cost–by pricing in externalities like greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution, and eliminating the government grain subsidies that make a 99 cent hamburger possible. Meatless Mondays won’t hurt, either.
Bacardi have announced that they have reduced water usage by 50% over the past five years according to its latest CSR report; which also reveals significant milestones in energy efficiency and waste reduction.
The drinks brand claims to have saved 1,630m litres of water across its global production processes since setting environmental targets five years ago, through a combination of operational discipline, conservation measures, and the use of water efficient equipment and recycling systems.
In fiscal terms, 2011 saw a 4% reduction in water usage while water efficiency improved by 9%. Overall, water efficiency has risen by 35% for the company over the past five years, beating its 15% reduction target.
Going forward, Bacardi is looking to further minimise the impact of its discharges and effluents by improving the quality of its wastewater and reusing it in irrigation or fertiliser applications. Currently, 20% of its wastewater is redeployed in this way.
The company has also made significant inroads in terms of energy efficiency and now uses 29% less energy than it did five years ago, with year-on-year efficiency improvements of 7% – surpassing its 12% target.
Since 2006, Bacardi has increased the use of renewable fuels, mainly biogas, from 10% to 17%. Its total primary energy use for fuel and electricity is now made up of 16% renewable sources, up from 7% over the past five years.
Reductions have also taken place in terms of waste. A 12.5% reduction in non-hazardous waste was achieved in 2011 (133,320 tonnes) compared to 2010 (152,528 tonnes). Hazardous waste, much of which originates from the alcohol, was also down 15.9% in 2011 (37 tonnes) compared to 2010 (44 tonnes).
The company is also focusing on developing more sustainable packaging through a number of ‘right-weighting’ projects. So far these efforts have resulted in packaging reductions of 17,000 tonnes since 2008, equivalent to a 6% cut in total packaging weight on a like-for-like basis.