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Carbon and Environmental Racism



The North Coast is an information bubble. Nothing provides better evidence of the hermetic media realities of the region than forest and climate politics. For instance, over the past decade the California cap-and-trade program has massively transformed dynamics for regulating the fossil fuel and timber industries in the state, and beyond. Yet there is a tremendous lack of understanding in Northern California of the controversies, mechanics and history of carbon markets.

The information bubble around carbon trading is starting to pop. One example is the recent coverage by Pew Charitable Trusts exploring the environmental racism embedded in carbon trading ("Landmark Climate Policy Faces Growing Claims of Environmental Racism," Dec. 23, available at bit.ly/3rUrR6L). Pew is one of the most markets-oriented conservation foundations on the planet. Pew is deeply connected to the conservation industry in the redwood region.

The article describes the injustice of carbon trading mechanisms that allow fossil fuel corporations (i.e. Chevron) to continue polluting communities (i.e Richmond) through the purchase of offsets based on forest management and logging projects, including on the North Coast and in the Klamath Basin ("The Top 10 Stories of 2020," Dec. 31).

The Pew article does not pursue the scientific critiques of carbon market failures to address the main drivers of climate change. However, the article does describe how the bleak track record of former chair of the California Air Resources Board Mary Nichols in addressing the environmental racism of the carbon market was enough to prevent the new Biden-Harris executive from nominating her to be the next administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

These newsworthy politics are very relevant to our community. Let's hope 2021 marks a new chapter of frank and transparent discussion about carbon markets, one of the most monumental policy developments in the history of the redwoods — yet one that is understood by very few.

Gary Graham Hughes, Redway

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