Laurel Whitney

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Laurel Whitney is an up and coming contender in the climate change arena. Currently residing in New York City, she is an adjunct professor in the Environmental Studies department at Pace University, where she gets to depress aspiring freshman about how the world is riding a flaming rollercoaster towards ecological disaster. She also works as an environmental/climate change consultant, working on a diverse array of projects including documentary production, environmental education, activist organizing, and the occasional spout of journalism. She has lectured around the country, and will be published in an upcoming book called The Next Eco-Warriors.

Laurel takes the newfangled attack on scientific integrity quite personally as she doesn’t ever remember taking a class on How to Make Up and Manipulate Your Data 101 or How to Get Rich Off of Government Research Contracts 110 while attaining her multiple science degrees. She received her BS in marine science and chemistry from the University of South Carolina, where she researched Arctic biogeochemistry for several years. Realizing scientists had a knack for articulating but not captivating, she went on to study the many ways (well, failures) climate change is relayed to and perceived by the American public. She received her multidisciplinary MA in Climate and Society from Columbia University where she had the honor of working with and learning from many leading scientists at the International Research Institute of Climate and Society and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Since then, she’s focused on cultivating creative media projects that poke at the emboldening battle between multinationals, politicos, and the scientific community. Now she spends her days feeding her obsession to save the world and illuminate these crucial issues with an additional spoonful of comedy, satire, and logic. Past collaborators include Earthjustice, The Age of Stupid, The Yes Men, Rainforest Alliance, and hopefully many more to come.

House Climate Hearings: Old Dogs, Old Tricks

Hearings conducted today by the House Energy and Commerce committee showcased a battle of the scientists as members heard from a panel of both reputable climate researchers as well as some notable climate skeptics. Climate Progress listed the credentials of those who were called upon to weigh in on Committee Chair Fred Upton’s (R-MI) HR 910 - the bill that if passed on Thursday, will not only strip the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases now and in the future, but will also completely obliterate its Supreme-Court-endorsed endangerment finding. Recall back in December of 2009, the EPA officially declared that emissions of greenhouse gases effectively “endanger public health or welfare”, and therefore fall under the Clean Air Act allowing them to potentially be regulated by the EPA.

Yet the hearing made no progress on discussing the EPA’s role on regulation; it only proved that politicians are running on hamster wheels to nowhere. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) repeated the “no consensus amongst scientists” mantra (bet he didn’t read the memo in front of him signed by 2,505 endorsers of EPA’s Clean Air Act responsibilities either) and played the Republican’s favorite hit tune, ClimateGate. Poor Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) lamented lying awake at night worrying about such subjects as sunspots (are we still on sunspots?) and warming on Mars, while Rep. Ed Whitefield (R-KY) robotically reiterated “we don’t know the answer [as to why the planet is warming]” (no, really we do!). Over several hours, there was also the usual IPCC-bashing, debating the costs of inaction versus action, blaming land-use change corrupting temperature records, cautioning jobs at stake, warning of crushing developing-world economies, and seemingly every other denier excuse in the book (even DDT!). If this were a drinking game, players would likely be en route to get their stomach pumped after three hours of broken record climate denier logic.

Tim DeChristopher stands tall despite guilty verdict

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” Henry David Thoreau on Civil Disobedience

A collective gasp was heard late afternoon yesterday as Tim DeChristopher was found guilty after only 5 hours of jury deliberation. Officially charged with one count of False Statement and one count of violating the Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, suddenly everyone was left thinking- did they convict the real criminal?

Much of the last two days of trial had focused on DeChristopher’s intent when bidding for BLM land leases. Prosecutor John Hubert argued that DeChristopher intentionally “disrupted, derailed, and sabotaged” the auction. However, defense attorney Ron Yengich painted a different picture:

“He wanted to raise a red flag,” he said. “He wanted to make a statement. That’s what he wanted to do. His desire was not to thwart the auction. … He wanted people to think about the consequences that the auction was bringing to bear on other people. But it was never his intention to harm anyone.”

Maybe if Tim had run into the auction using his paddle to feverishly whack participants to prevent them from bidding, then that could be seen harmful.

But let’s put this into context:

Tim DeChristopher Trial Commences in Salt Lake City

Today in Salt Lake City, climate activist Tim DeChristopher (aka Bidder 70) finally gets his day in court after waiting almost 2 years since his original indictment for disrupting an illegal auction of oil and gas leases that would have opened pristine public lands in Utah to drilling. The district attorney has delayed the trial as many as 6 times as the government hoped DeChristopher would succumb to a plea bargain, but DeChristopher’s legal team has stood firm in demanding a public trial by a jury of his peers so that the public might hear the truth about the original BLM auction, which was a last-minute parting gift to the oil and gas industry from outgoing President George W. Bush.

Back in December 2008, DeChristopher showed up at a controversial oil and gas auction in Utah that was offering leases to companies to drill on environmentally-sensitive public lands, including Nine Mile Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument. An economics student at the time, DeChristopher was troubled by the Bush Administration’s efforts to skirt around required environmental assessments, essentially making the auction illegal in the first place.