Fires, Pipelines & Hemp: Fight for climate justice intensifies, new research points to solutions?

News from the epicenter of the Climate Justice movement

Branch Out continues to fund wildfire relief as massive Dixie Fire threatens thousands

Earlier this summer, we joined our partners on the ground in Oregon in wildfire relief by serving food for firefighters and taking in a litter of puppies whose house was burned down in the fire. 

At the time, the Bootleg Fire in Central Oregon was the largest in the United States, and its smoke daily blanketed the Sagebrush garden we were tending to sequester carbon.

Map of the Dixie Fire. At the time of publication, the fire has burned more than 600,000 acres in Northern California where it currently threatens the town of Susanville, home of about 18,000 people.

Now, the Dixie Fire in Northern California has overtaken the Bootleg Fire as the largest. Our partners in Oregon, through the Vanhorn Foundation, have once again seized the opportunity to provide relief, and have joined with a half-dozen other nonprofits to provide food, supplies, and other support for fire evacuees and survivors.

We have continued to support these efforts through direct funding of their wildfire relief, yet our expenses are outpacing the donations we have received. Any support for a one-time donation through our gofundme or a Patreon subscription will enable us to expand our varied climate justice work, which includes wildfire relief, carbon sequestration, and cutting-edge journalism.

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Police unleash pepper spray, rubber bullets on nonviolent Indigenous water protectors protesting on treaty lands

Indigenous Water Defenders, at the collective encampments resisting Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, have faced escalating violence over the past week and previous weekend. The violence was at the hands of the police who come from multiple counties and various police agencies, and they all have one thing in common: the money supplied to them by Enbridge.

Enbridge has put $1.7 million in their ‘Public Safety Escrow Fund,’ which is their piggy bank to incentivize and motivate the hodgepodge of police agencies to repress and inflict ever perpetuating violence unto Indigenous Water Protectors, in the name of protecting their corporate property.

During a Democracy Now! Interview following her release from jail, Tara Houska, described how “the level of brutality that was unleashed on us was very extreme. People were shot in their faces, in their bodies, in their upper torsos.” She continued, describing the police arresting water protectors, “throwing people face down in the dirt, and being extremely violent in a situation in which we were outnumbered by police at least two to one.”

This scene happened on Friday, July 30th, during a peaceful protest at the Drill Pad on the Red River. Further arrests occurred across the encampments, with Water Protectors facing varying levels of violence at the hands of police. In addition to the violence, many Water Protectors are facing exorbitant bail costs. The camps are asking for donations to support the Water Protectors’ bail fund to ensure that they are not forced to sit in jail awaiting judgment for the “crime” of attempting to stop a destructive fossil fuel project from crossing their own land and water.

But arrests and violence are not the only events occurring. An action was filed in the Tribal Court of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, by Manoomin (Wild rice), the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and several tribal members, to prevent Enbridge from diverting five billion gallons of water to construct Line 3. 

The argument was that the construction of Line 3 was a violation of the Wild Rice’s rights to “clean water and freshwater habitat, the right to a natural environment free from industrial pollution, the right to a healthy, stable climate free from human-caused climate change impacts, the right to be free from patenting, the right to be free from contamination by genetically engineered organisms. “

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources approved a dewatering permit greenlighting Enbridge to dewater 5 billion gallons of water from the Mississippi for the construction of Line 3. 

The blatant favoring of multinational corporate private property over the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations is the same history of settler colonialism and genocide Turtle Island over. The sanctity and protection of private property reign supreme and the police are the foot soldiers for this reality. While the violent attack on Water Protectors should be condemned it would be false to view this as a unique event. This is the standard policy and operating procedure of the state, police, and corporation in their joint quest of protecting private property, even when it not only violates Indigenous nations’ treaty right, but also when it pushes the world closer to a worst-case scenario climate collapse.


Hemp Supercapacitors and the future of carbon-negative energy storage

New research shows that hemp supercapacitors have the potential to fight climate change by improving how we store renewable energy, while also sequestering carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil and hemp biomass.

As the world continues to expel 33.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, scientists are searching for carbon-neutral and carbon-negative sources of renewable energy and energy storage. In order to avert climate collapse, we need to rapidly develop energy infrastructure that runs on renewable energy sources. And to make renewable energy successful on a global scale, we also need energy storage that is environmentally sustainable. 

Lithium-ion batteries have become the standard for consumer electronics and electric vehicles because they pack the most energy storage into the smallest amount of space, but lithium mining still pollutes during extraction, importation, and purification. Lithium-ion batteries also have a finite lifespan of a maximum of 1,000 discharges, contributing to the rapidly rising annual disposal of 53 million tons of electronic waste worldwide. 

Furthermore, Lithium and other rare metals used to make lithium-ion batteries are not renewable resources. The massive increase in demand being created for mass adoption of lithium-based electrification in transit would likely ensure that the necessary mineral reserves run out well before the end of the century. To make matters worse, the mining process involved in attaining these minerals not only involves further pollution but also in some cases forced child labor.

The additional carbon emitted during the lithium battery production process also undermines their potential to provide the rapid reduction of greenhouse gases which is necessary to prevent runaway warming. In a 2019 study, scientists evaluated these emissions and estimated that a standard lithium-ion battery-powered electric car offers no climate benefit over a diesel car for the average European driver until seven years of use.

With scientists warning that we now have less than a decade to cut our global carbon emissions by at least 50%, finding an alternative to relying on lithium-ion batteries to defossilize the transit sector is an absolute necessity.

For all the benefits that electric vehicles can offer, serious political and technological problems involving energy storage remain in the way of a just transition to electrified transit on a large scale. In light of these challenges, it is all the more significant that promising new research is showing that the call for efficient, ethical, and inexpensive energy storage and delivery systems as an alternative to Lithium-Ion batteries may be answered by an unlikely contender: hemp supercapacitors. 

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