A roundup of news, views and ideas from the main stream press and the blogosphere.  Click on the headline link to see the full article.

Pope Francis’ Historic Address To Congress Covered A Lot of Issues. We Broke It Down For You.

Jack Jenkins, Think Progress
Pope Francis spoke before a joint session of Congress Thursday morning, delivering a historic and sweeping address that offered an unequivocally moral — and deeply religious — discussion of a litany of issues, both foreign and domestic.

Francis, an Argentinian who noted with pride that he is also a “son of this great continent,” challenged lawmakers in attendance to take their role as public servants seriously, and to remember the needs of citizens most at risk.

“Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation,” he said. “A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.”…

Forget ‘developing’ poor countries, it’s time to ‘de-develop’ rich countries

Jason Hickel, The Guardian
This week, heads of state are gathering in New York to sign the UN’s new sustainable development goals (SDGs). The main objective is to eradicate poverty by 2030. Beyoncé, One Direction and Malala are on board. It’s set to be a monumental international celebration. Given all the fanfare, one might think the SDGs are about to offer a fresh plan for how to save the world, but beneath all the hype, it’s business as usual. The main strategy for eradicating poverty is the same: growth.

Growth has been the main object of development for the past 70 years, despite the fact that it’s not working. Since 1980, the global economy has grown by 380%, but the number of people living in poverty on less than $5 (£3.20) a day has increased by more than 1.1 billion. That’s 17 times the population of Britain. So much for the trickle-down effect.

Orthodox economists insist that all we need is yet more growth. More progressive types tell us that we need to shift some of the yields of growth from the richer segments of the population to the poorer ones, evening things out a bit. Neither approach is adequate. Why? Because even at current levels of average global consumption, we’re overshooting our planet’s bio-capacity by more than 50% each year.

In other words, growth isn’t an option any more – we’ve already grown too much. Scientists are now telling us that we’re blowing past planetary boundaries at breakneck speed. And the hard truth is that this global crisis is due almost entirely to overconsumption in rich countries…

Hillary Clinton’s opposition to the Keystone XL is a huge victory for climate activists

David Roberts, Vox
At a caucus even in Iowa today, Hillary Clinton finally came out in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada down to the Gulf Coast.

Clinton’s shift is a testimony to the extraordinary work done by the climate movement since the defeat of the cap-and-trade bill in 2010. Using Keystone XL as a linchpin issue, the movement expanded, putting thousands of marchers in the streets, pulling a few billionaires onto their side, and generating over $2.6 trillion in fossil-fuel divestment.

Clinton has been dodging this issue for years. Climate activists have been pressuring Clinton for years to take a stand on the pipeline. Until now, she has dodged the issue, citing her work as Secretary of State, clearly hoping to run out the clock until the administration made some kind of final decision…

Jose’s interview – URUGUAY – #HUMAN

Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Human – The Movie
José Mujica, nicknamed Pepe Mujica, was President of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015. A former Tupamaros freedom fighter in the 60s and the 70s, he was detained, like a hostage by the dictatorship between 1973 and 1985. He advocates a philosophy of life focused on sobriety: learn to live with what is necessary and fairest.

HUMAN is a collection of stories about and images of our world, offering an immersion to the core of what it means to be human. Through these stories full of love and happiness, as well as hatred and violence, HUMAN brings us face to face with the Other, making us reflect on our lives. From stories of everyday experiences to accounts of the most unbelievable lives, these poignant encounters share a rare sincerity and underline who we are – our darker side, but also what is most noble in us, and what is universal. Our Earth is shown at its most sublime through never-before-seen aerial images accompanied by soaring music, resulting in an ode to the beauty of the world, providing a moment to draw breath and for introspection.

HUMAN is a politically engaged work which allows us to embrace the human condition and to reflect on the meaning of our existence.


Smoke and Mirrors

George Monbiot, Monbiot.com
In London, the latest figures suggest, it now kills more people than smoking. Worldwide, a new study estimates, it causes more deaths than malaria and HIV-Aids together. I’m talking about the neglected health crisis of this age, that we seldom discuss or even acknowledge. Air pollution.

Heart attacks, strokes, asthma, lung and bladder cancers, low birth weight, low verbal IQ, poor memory and attention among children, faster cognitive decline in older people and – recent studies suggest – a link with the earlier onset of dementia: all these are among the impacts of a problem that, many still believe, we solved decades ago. The smokestacks may have moved to China, but other sources, whose fumes are less visible, have taken their place. Among the worst are diesel engines, sold, even today, as the eco-friendly option, on the grounds that their greenhouse gas emissions tend to be lower than those of petrol engines. You begin to wonder whether any such claims can still be trusted.

Volkswagen’s rigging of its pollution tests is an assault on our lungs, our hearts, our brains. It is a classic example of externalisation: the dumping of costs that businesses should carry onto other people. The air that should have been filtered by its engines is filtered by our lungs instead. We have become the scrubbing devices it failed to install…

Paradoxically, the Volkswagen scandal may succeed where all else has failed, by obliging the government to take the only action that will make a difference: legislating for a great reduction in the use of diesel engines. By the time this article is published, we might know whether the company’s scam has been perpetrated in Europe as well as North America: new revelations are dripping by the hour. But whether or not this particular deception was deployed here, plenty of others have been…

The lenders are the real winners in Greece – Alexis Tsipras has been set up to fail

Yanis Varoufakis, The Guardian
Alexis Tsipras has snatched resounding victory from the jaws of July’s humiliating surrender to the troika of Greece’s lenders. Defying opposition parties, opinion pollsters and critics within his ranks (including this writer), he held on to government with a reduced, albeit workable, majority. The question is whether he can combine remaining in office with being in power.

The greatest losers were smaller parties occupying the extremes of the debate following the referendum. Popular Unity failed stunningly to exploit the grief felt by a majority of “No” voters following Tsipras’s U-turn in favour of a deal that curtailed national sovereignty further and boosted already vicious levels of austerity. Potami, a party positioning itself as the troika’s reformist darling, also failed to rally the smaller “Yes” vote. With the all-conquering Tsipras now firmly on board with the troika’s programme, new-fangled, pro-troika parties had nothing to offer.

The greatest winner is the troika itself. During the past five years, troika-authored bills made it through parliament on ultra-slim majorities, giving their authors sleepless nights. Now, the bills necessary to prop up the third bailout will pass with comfortable majorities, as Syriza is committed to them. Almost every opposition MP (with the exception of the communists of KKE and the Nazis of Golden Dawn) is also on board…

EU refugees deal barely scratches surface of a crisis still in its infancy

Ian Traynor, The Guardian
Following a bruising fight this week to agree a new quotas regime sharing 120,000 refugees across Europe, EU policymakers say that by Christmas member states will be embroiled in much bigger battles over how to distribute up to a million newcomers.

The signals emerging from two days of summitry in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday and days of non-stop negotiations behind the scenes suggest that the EU’s biggest refugee crisis is but in its infancy, and that Europe’s agony has barely begun…

"The Party is Over For Tight Oil but Raymond James Says, “Party On, Dude!”

Art Berman, Petroleum Truth Report
The party is over for tight oil.

Despite brash statements by U.S. producers and misleading analysis by Raymond James, low oil prices are killing tight oil companies. Reports this week from IEA and EIA paint a bleak picture for oil prices as the world production surplus continues.

EIA said that U.S. production will fall by 1 million barrels per day over the next year and that,

“expected crude oil production declines from May 2015 through mid-2016 are largely attributable to unattractive economic returns.”

IEA made the point more strongly.

“..the latest price rout could stop US growth in its tracks.”

In other words, outside of the very best areas of the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Permian, the tight oil party is over because companies will lose money at forecasted oil prices for the next year.

Energy policy: Push renewables to spur carbon pricing

Gernot Wagner, Tomas Kåberger, Susanna Olai, Michael Oppenheimer, Katherine Rittenhouse & Thomas Sterner, Nature Journal
Putting a price on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to curb emissions must be the centrepiece of any comprehensive climate-change policy. We know it works: pricing carbon creates broad incentives to cut emissions. Yet the current price of carbon remains much too low relative to the hidden environmental, health and societal costs of burning a tonne of coal or a barrel of oil1. The global average price is below zero, once half a trillion dollars of fossil-fuel subsidies are factored in…

The current inadequacy of carbon pricing stems from a catch-22. Policymakers are more likely to price carbon appropriately if it is cheaper to move onto a low-carbon path. But reducing the cost of renewable energies requires investment, and thus a carbon price. In our view, the best hope of ending this logjam rests with tuning policies to drive down the cost of renewable power sources even further and faster than in the past five years. The cost of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) modules has fallen by 99% since 1978 and by 80% since 2008; installation costs for wind power have also dropped, and solar and wind capacity has grown2 (see ‘The rise of renewables’). Prices will continue to fall, but — without more help — the decrease will not be fast enough to make a dent in the climate problem….

What the leaders need to understand about Canada’s shifting economy

Jeff Rubin, Globe & Mail
As Canadians are becoming all too aware, the spectre of a recession, no matter the definition, looms large during an election campaign. Despite such prominence, the recent debate made it abundantly clear that none of the candidates understands why the economy stopped growing in the first half of the year and they have even less of an idea of how to foster future growth…

The roots of Canada’s economic problems (and thus any solutions) won’t be found in infrastructure spending, fiscal management or corporate taxes. Instead, the next government will have to contemplate what to do about a huge misallocation of capital that’s arguably unprecedented in the country’s history. Canada has put far too many of its eggs in the wrong basket – gambling on the massive development of a high-cost oil resource the rest of the world doesn’t need or want. Not long ago considered by the Harper government to be the engine of economic growth, oil sands production is no longer commercially viable in today’s glutted oil market. Tomorrow’s emissions constraints will make that even more true…

Texans Warn EPA Its New Rule to Reduce Methane Pollution Isn’t Tough Enough

Julie Dermansky, Desmog Blog
On September 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held public hearings in Dallas and Denver on its proposed rule to lower methane and associated pollution from oil and gas industry facilities. A third hearing will take place in Pittsburgh on September 27th.

Once finalized, the standards mandated by the EPA to control methane pollution will be a component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

For Texans, the hearing holds special significance because of HB40, a new law the state passed shortly after Denton, Texas, voted for the state’s first fracking ban. HB40 makes fracking bans illegal and threatens all local ordinances the oil and gas industry doesn’t like…

8,600 of LA’s Empty Lots Could Become Urban Gardens

Bianca Barragan, LA Curbed
Thousands of privately-owned, vacant lots in Los Angeles turned into thriving community gardens: it could happen under a new LA City Council motion that encourages landowners to lease out their underused land to people who want to grow food. The LA Times reports that, under the motion introduced yesterday, property owners would receive a nice property tax adjustment if they rent their land for a minimum of five years to either commercial or non-commercial farmers. There are a handful of criteria the lots must meet, but it’s estimated that there are 8,600 that might fit the bill. That’s a lot of potential gardens…

Noise From Car Traffic Is Slowly Killing Songbirds

Charlie Sorrell, Fast Co.Exist
Road noise is clearly a stressful experience for wildlife. But the din from traffic is actually causing songbirds physical harm, says a study out of Boise State University.

Many birds just avoid stopping near busy roads, but those that don’t may suffer from decreased "body condition." That is, they get thinner and more emaciated. And although the study only looked at birds, the same could be true of other animals.

Researchers built a half-mile "phantom road" along Idaho’s Lucky Peak. The virtual street used speakers to simulate the sounds made by a road. By eliminating air pollution and all other physical manifestations of a real road, the team, led by Jesse Barber, could study the effects of noise alone…

News clippings image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.