In this week's newsletter: FEMA funding for climate disasters could increase to $10 billion, Earth's ice loss has increased to a staggering 1.2 trillion tons per year, a brief history of global anti-fascism and much more!
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New Funding Strategy Could Provide Up to $10 Billion to Prevent Climate Disasters

In the past year FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has taken a leading role in fighting Covid-19 — and the agency’s plan is to count that Covid spending toward the formula used to redirect money to climate projects. Doing so would allow the Biden administration to quickly and drastically increase climate-resilience funding without action by Congress, generating a windfall that could increase funding more than sixfold.

Michael M. Grimm, FEMA’s acting deputy associate administrator for disaster mitigation, said the agency’s initial estimates suggested that as much as $3.7 billion could be available for the program, called Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC. By comparison, that program so far has just $500 million to award in grants.

More of that $3.7 billion “may be forthcoming,” Mr. Grimm said in a statement.

But the amount of new money could potentially climb to as much as $10 billion, according to some estimates, if FEMA also decided to count Covid dollars toward a similar fund, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, designed to help communities rebuild after a disaster. Mr. Grimm said the decision to provide that funding has not yet been made.

The proposal wouldn’t necessarily reduce the money available to address Covid, according to people familiar with the plan. Rather, it would give FEMA the ability to draw additional resilience money from the government’s dedicated disaster fund, which Congress routinely replenishes once the fund is drawn down.

You can read more about this on the NY Times website here.

Global Ice Loss Rises to 1.2 Trillion Tons Per Year, Alarming Scientists

Global ice loss has increased rapidly over the past two decades, and scientists are still underestimating just how much sea levels could rise, according to alarming new research published this month.

From the thin ice shield covering most of the Arctic Ocean to the mile-thick mantle of the polar ice sheets, ice losses have soared from about 760 billion tons per year in the 1990s to more than 1.2 trillion tons per year in the 2010s, a new study released Monday shows. That is an increase of more than 60 percent, equating to 28 trillion tons of melted ice in total — and it means that roughly 3 percent of all the extra energy trapped within Earth’s system by climate change has gone toward turning ice into water.

“That’s like more than 10,000 ‘Back to the Future’ lightning strikes per second of energy melting ice around-the-clock since 1994,” said William Colgan, an ice-sheet expert at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. “That is just a bonkers amount of energy.”

There is good reason to think the rate of ice melt will continue to accelerate. A second, NASA-backed study on the Greenland ice sheet, for instance, finds that no less than 74 major glaciers that terminate in deep, warming ocean waters are being severely undercut and weakened.

You can read more about this on the Washington Post website here.

What Is Antifa, Really?

In recent years, from the protests in Charlottesville to the riots at the U.S. Capitol, various incidents and news reports have mentioned "Antifa", or Anti-Fascism, to refer to the people and groups challenging white supremacists and their fellow travelers. Most people may be aware that it is not an organization or specific group, but rather a philosophy that creates solidarity among groups, including those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Since we are now on the cusp of Black History Month (and of course Black history needs to be told throughout the year, not just in February), we thought this would be a good time to review the history of Antifa and its connection to anti-racist movements around the world over the past century...especially since Smithsonian Magazine published this article about it in June 2020 as part of its Brief History series, and even though it's a bit of a digression from the usual environmental and local stories we feature in this newsletter.

Eluard Luchell McDaniels traveled across the Atlantic in 1937 to fight fascists in the Spanish Civil War, where he became known as “El Fantastico” for his prowess with a grenade. As a platoon sergeant with the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion of the International Brigades, the 25-year-old African American from Mississippi commanded white troops and led them into battle against the forces of General Franco, men who saw him as less than human. It might seem strange for a Black man to go to such lengths for the chance to fight in a white man’s war so far from home—wasn’t there enough racism to fight in the United States?—but McDaniels was convinced that anti-fascism and anti-racism were one and the same. “I saw the invaders of Spain [were] the same people I’ve been fighting all my life," Historian Peter Carroll quotes McDaniels as saying. "I’ve seen lynching and starvation, and I know my people’s enemies.”

McDaniels was not alone in seeing anti-fascism and anti-racism as intrinsically connected; the anti-fascists of today are heirs to almost a century of struggle against racism. While the methods of Antifa have become the object of much heated political discourse, the group’s ideologies, particularly its insistence on physical direct action to prevent violent oppression, are much better understood when seen in the framework of a struggle against violent discrimination and persecution that began almost a century ago.

Anti-fascism began where fascism began, in Italy. Arditi del Popolo—"The People’s Daring Ones”—was founded in 1921, named after the Italian army’s shock troops from World War I who famously swam across the Piave River with daggers in their teeth. They committed to fight the increasingly violent faction of blackshirts, the forces encouraged by Benito Mussolini, who was soon to become Italy’s fascist dictator. The Arditi del Popolo brought together unionists, anarchists, socialists, communists, republicans and former army officers. From the outset, anti-fascists began to build bridges where traditional political groups saw walls.

Those bridges would quickly extend to the races persecuted by fascists.

Anti-fascism has changed a lot since 1921. Today's anti-fascist activists spend as much time using open-source intelligence to expose white supremacists online as they do building barricades in the street. Just as their predecessors did in Europe, anti-fascists use violence to combat violence.

You can read more about the history of anti-fascism in Europe and the U.S. on the Smithsonian magazine website here.

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