Curtain Raiser

Keep the Pressure On, Colltalers

Thousands in the U.S. took the streets to defend women’s reproductive rights. Crowds were also loud in Milan, Italy, where youth activists marched ahead of the U.N. Climate Change summit starting on Oct. 31, and massive across Brazil, protesting President Bolsonaro’s anti-environment policies.
The week’s heartbreak was the totally predictable delisting of 23 species from the endangered status because they’re all but extinct. And of course, the devastation of Covid as 700,000 Americans perished from the virus, and much of the world still remains unvaccinated. But tiny Mercury is rising.
Let’s start with Venezuela which has cut six zeroes of the bolivar so to fight the year-on-year inflation of 1,743%. OPEC’s only Latin American nation member has been battling severe economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. in the past that the Biden administration doesn’t seem too keen on lifting.
Texas, not known for sensible environmental regulations, is now halting new permits for wastewater injection wells, a destructive procedure used in fracking. The relatively surprising decision by the state’s regulator comes after a wave of earthquakes were linked to the practice. Colorado, Oklahoma, and Delaware have also reported fracking-caused quakes recently. By the way, banning fracking was once one of President Biden’s campaign promises.
In Australia, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people will take ownership of the world heritage-listed Daintree tropical rainforest, as Indigenous owners and the Queensland government reached a historic agreement, the Guardian reports. Nearly 400,000 acres will be handed back to the nations.
In Brazil, a federal court has indicted the federal government, Minas Gerais state, and the country’s indigenous affairs agency, Funai, for human rights violations against the Krenak people at a concentration camp set up during the military dictatorship that ruled the country between 1964 and 1985. And Mexican President López Obrador has offered an official apology to the Yaqui people for crimes committed by dictator Porfirio Diaz’s 1884-1911 rule.
In Siberia, the unexpected focus of climate emergency news lately, recent gas explosions in the permafrost pose serious risks to Arctic communities and bodes poorly for the state of global warming. As pools of methane reach critical mass and explode, giant craters open up releasing the gas that’s more pollutant than carbon dioxide straight into the atmosphere. 17 such craters have already been found but their environmental impact is unknown.
In New York, a federal judge sentenced human rights lawyer Steven Donziger to six months in jail for “contempt,” despite his over two years of house arrest, all related to a lawsuit he filed against Chevron. In 2011, an Ecuadorian court found that the oil giant illegally dumped some 16 billion deadly oil waste on the Amazon forest and ordered it to pay Indigenous farmers $9.5 billion. But Chevron has refused to pay and went after Donziger instead.
Since Texas effectively banned abortion, with no rape or incest exceptions, let alone the sole will of a woman, women all over decided to fight back. Last Saturday, thousands across America showed up to reaffirm their support for reproductive rights and Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on abortion that’s now under right-wing attack. We may need a few more of such shows of force before the year is out and even more in the next. With six justices likely to vote next year to reverse R v W, only a continuous, consistent, and passionate protest movement may prevent that from happening.
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmentalist, was in Milan marching with other activists in preparation for the COP26, the U.N.-promoted Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. “They have now 30 years of blah, blah, blah. And where has this led us?” asked Thunberg who’s making a career of unmasking demagogues. Problem is that except for Thunberg and a few others, youth’s been kept alienated from the powers-that-be’s decision process.
Presidential elections will be held in Brazil a year from now and unless something very serious happens, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will return to power. Thousands rallied over the weekend and have been calling for Bolsonaro’s impeachment as the ex-Army captain has conducted one of the most catastrophic administrations in generations, failing at pretty much every important development under his watch while blaming others.
Naturally, Covid played a role in the debacle but even before he dismissed it as a “little flu,” he was already engaged in opening up the Amazon forest to miners, oil producers, cattle owners, and other projects. And to prove he didn’t particularly care for Native Brazilians, he let the virus run rampant.
The Ivory-billed woodpecker, the Bachman warbler, the Little Mariana fruit bat, eight species of mussels, the Kauai nukupuu, the Molocai creeper, and other eight formerly endangered species are now officially extinct. The disappearing acts are part of what it’s been considered the sixth mass extinction faced by Earth but thanks to our particular era, the group is but a sample of how climate disruption has accelerated die-offs and unrecoverable losses.
“Completely avoidable.” That’s how John Brownstein, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, called the massive death toll by Covid. Despite the speed in vaccine development and proven efficacy, more Americans now have died of the disease than the country’s 675,000 deaths by the influenza epidemic, over a century ago. Sadly, no matter how many unvaccinated people succumb to the virus, the influencers of malignancy, some actually secretly vaccinated, will continue to berate their followers into not receiving the shots. Will there ever be a day of reckoning for these rascals?
Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo was the Italian scientist that developed the gravity-assisted maneuver that allows spacecraft to fly by planets. So it’s fitting the European Space (ESA) and Japan’s agency jointly launched a satellite named after him to visit Mercury, the planet he created the technique for. Its rugged, crater-covered surface has already hit Bepi’s sensors but it’s still ways to go: orbit around the solar system’s smallest planet is set for 2025.
“So this is why, no matter where I fly,/red-cloaked, blue-hosed, across the yellow sky,/I feel no thrill in chasing thugs and thieves.” That’s Superman’s true feelings as shared in 1942 by the great Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov with his son, a Kal-El fan. The poem was famously rejected by the New Yorker. But in perspective, it’s on target, especially when the Man of Steel longs “to be a normal guy instead.” Don’t we all? Take care. WC

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