Group works to save animals left behind amid Ukraine war


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Some Ukrainians are risking their lives to save cats, dogs and other animals made homeless by the Russian invasion.  

The fighting has destroyed entire towns and leveled large stretches of many cities while forcing millions of Ukrainians into exile abroad or in the relatively safer western parts of the country.

Olga Chevganiuk, of the Ukrainian animal organization UAnimals, estimated that amid other effects the fighting has left at least 200,000 animals homeless.

When volunteers enter a territory newly recaptured from Russia, “we see ruined houses, and we see scared animals,” Chevganiuk said.  

“Sometimes they’re so scared, they are afraid to reach people — but sometimes they are so hungry that they run when they see the car coming.”  

Once primarily focused on advocacy causes like securing better conditions for circus animals, UAnimals pivoted to more direct aid once the war began.  

That includes rebuilding bombed-out shelters and securing food and medicine for the thousands of private citizens providing care to animals in war-torn towns — including sometimes those still under Russian control.  

Ukraine’s homeless animal population ballooned in the early days of the war.

“No one knew what was happening the time people were panicking, and very often, they wanted to go,” Chevganiuk said.  

Many migrants took their pets, but others left them, assuming they would return within a few days. “But then they didn’t come back,” Chevganiuk said.  

That meant UAnimals spent much of the early part of the war fielding calls from “people asking us how they can help animals locked in the houses.”  

Many Ukrainians took matters into their own hands, even as Russian shelling destroyed shelters and strained supply lines for food and medicine.

“We have these horrible stories of people who stay in the towns were not able to evacuate — because they don’t desire to leave these animals alone,” Chevganiuk said.

Infrastructure is also strained along the frontier, she said. “Even before the war, a small town would have a shelter for 100 animals.”  

Now they might have to care for three or four times as many — on far less income. “They need much more help — and very often it’s an emergency,” Chevganiuk said. 

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. I’m Saul ElbeinSubscribe here.

Today, we’ll examine why Exxon’s record profits have Democrats furious and why the Colorado Basin states failed to make a deal to save the beleaguered river.

🌿 Plus: How green space can prevent heat-related death in cities worldwide. 

Exxon reports record profits for 2022

ExxonMobil announced record profits for 2022, saying it made $55.7 billion, our colleague Rachel Frazin reported.

  • The announcement drew criticism from Democrats, who accused the company of price gouging at the pump 
  • Yet analysts attributed the profits to market forces. The country’s second-biggest oil company, Chevron, recently announced $35.5 billion in profit.

Record numbers: Exxon’s earnings set a record, Bloomberg reported. 

  • It far outstripped Exxon’s previous 2008 record of $45.2 billion — then the largest corporate profit in history. 
  • With oil supplies tight, the company is benefiting from this decision to invest on new oil production as other companies pulled out. 

Reaping rewards: “Our work began years ago, well before the pandemic, when we chose to invest counter-cyclically,” Exxon CEO Darren Woods told analysts on Tuesday, as Bloomberg reported.

“We leaned in when others leaned out, bucking conventional wisdom.” 

Buying back: Exxon plans to buy back $35 billion in stock through 2024, Bloomberg reported. 

  • Stock buybacks functionally increase the value of stocks, benefiting investors and raising executive compensation. 
  • Chevron last week announced plans to spend $75 billion on buybacks. 

Angering the White House: The Biden administration harshly criticized Chevron for spending money on buybacks instead of new oil production.

  • “For a company that claimed not too long ago that it was ‘working hard’ to increase oil production, handing out $75 billion to executives and wealthy shareholders sure is an odd way to show it,” White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said in a statement last week.
  • “We continue to call on oil companies to use their record profits to increase supply and reduce costs for the American people.” 

Exxon is next: “This summer, families across PA paid $5 a gallon for gas while Exxon made profits that ‘smashed earnings records’ and Chevron posted ‘record earnings,’” Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said in a statement Tuesday.

Colorado Basin states almost make a deal

Representatives for six of the seven states dependent on the Colorado River said they have reached a deal on how to share the dwindling waterway, our colleague Zack Budryk reported. 

The one holdout, however, was the Colorado Basin’s biggest water user: California. 

Calling California out: That state’s “decision not to join this consensus is deeply disappointing,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said in a statement.  

“California must step forward and be part of the solution. For too long, the other six states, and particularly the Upper Basin, have carried the burden of this historic drought,” Bennet added. 
Staying out: California’s decision not to join means that the states will miss a crucial deadline that expires on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

California officials argued the state has been singled out by the other basin states, the Times reported. 

  • “It’s become combative and adversarial, rather than collaborative toward a consensus,” Bart Fisher, who runs the Palo Verde District Irrigation Board in California, told the Times. 
  • “Everyone’s backed into their respective corners and focused on the largest target, which is California,” Fisher added. 

What’s in the plan? Negotiators said the new Colorado framework — not yet a formal agreement — includes plans to reduce release from two major reservoirs: lakes Powell and Mead, Budryk reported. 

  • It would cut a total of 250,000 acre-feet of water to Arizona, California and Nevada at Lake Mead for elevations below 1,030 feet.
  • It would also cut 200,000 acre-feet to the same three states at elevations of 1,020 feet and below. 

The six states hope the federal government will draw on their plan for its ultimate decision, the Times reported. 

Why is this so hard? The Colorado River nourishes both an enormous number of people and an enormously diverse — and contentious — array of public and private economic interests, according to Colorado public radio station KUNC. 

  • It also depends on a creaky and nearly century-old agreement — which was originally built around water quotas benchmarked to an unusually wet year in a far less water-stressed century. 
  • There are also perennial conflicts between the upper base and states, where the water originates, and major users like California — an agricultural powerhouse at the tail end of the basin. 

Enter the gorilla: Federal pressure may be a necessary catalyst to get the states to make a deal, Stanford University fellow Felicia Marcus told KUNC. 

  • “The beauty or the value of that 800-pound gorilla stepping in is that it gives people either the motivation or the cover to make … decisions,” Marcus said. 
  • Those decisions are ones “that the gorilla probably wishes those people could make on their own — but you really can’t expect them to be able to,” Marcus added. 

Green spaces vanishing from cradle of civilization

Baghdad’s green spaces are vanishing beneath a rising tide of asphalt and concrete, The New York Times reported. 

Builders are cutting down orchards and gardens in the city, where temperatures can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, according to the Times. 

  • Amid widespread housing shortages, officials say laundered money has been poured into illegal construction.
  • Official projects have also leveled thousands of acres of orchards. 

Making matters worse: Iraq, like the rest of the Middle East, is warming twice as fast as the global average, according to The Associated Press.

Extent of the damage: Two decades ago, green space made up 28 percent of Baghdad’s urban cover, Maryam Faisal of Al-Farabi University College in Baghdad told the Times. Now it is about 12 percent.

“We are gradually losing the living lungs of our city,” Faisal said.  

Legacy of occupation: Experts told the Times that the loss of green space had accelerated following the U.S. invasion in 2003.

  • A 2006 law — passed while Iraq was still under occupation by the U.S. and allies — encouraged the privatization of government land for shopping malls and gated communities. 
  • Privatization of Iraqi state resources was a key plank in U.S. attempts to reshape the country, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Broader catastrophe: The land-clearing in Baghdad is part of a wider pattern of collapse in Iraqi rivers and wetlands, The Guardian reported. 

  • Drought has led to the loss of nearly 90 percent of the year’s wheat yield in crucial farming regions. 
  • It’s also choking up rivers and marshes that nurtured the growth of Western civilization. 
  • Turkish dam-building has also cut off 60 percent of Iraqi access to the vital Tigris and Euphrates rivers. 

Unnatural disaster: “Climate change is working as a threat magnifier,” former water minister Hassan al Janabi told the Guardian. 

  • “But in essence, this is a man-made disaster, in which the marshes are the clear victims,” al Janabi said.
  • The loss of the marshes “is part of the traditional prejudice of the city towards the countryside, and especially against the marsh people,” he added. 

More trees mean fewer heat deaths: study

Doubling the tree cover in Europe’s increasingly scorching cities could save thousands of lives per year, according to a study published on Tuesday in The Lancet. 

  • European city planners could have prevented more than 2,600 heat-related deaths if their cities had a tree coverage of 30 percent. 
  • The study shows that European cities have an average tree coverage of about 15 percent. 

Main findings: The researchers found that European cities were 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer on average than the surrounding countryside. 

  • This higher urban temperature was responsible for 6,700 premature deaths, representing 4 percent of summer mortality and 2 percent of yearly mortality.
  • About a third of those people would have survived if urban planners had used urban forests to break up the killing power of urban heat islands.

Preventable death: “Essentially all heatwave-related deaths are preventable; no one needs to die from the heat,” Kristie Ebi of the University of Washington said in a statement. 

Transport Tuesday

Tesla faces federal scrutiny over its self-driving, Minnesota will get a clean car rule and the world’s biggest electric vehicle (EV) maker had a banner year. 

Justice Department digs in on Tesla’ self-driving deaths 

  • The U.S. Department of Justice has demanded documents regarding automaker Tesla’s Full Self-Driving feature, according to Reuters. The department is investigating a dozen deaths linked to the technology.  

Minnesota court upholds emission reduction plan for cars 

  • Minnesota’s Court of Appeals on Monday upheld state ‘clean car’ rules — modeled on California — that aim to ramp up state use of EVs while decreasing emissions, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Car dealers had argued unsuccessfully that customers didn’t want low-emission vehicles and that the state had overstepped its bounds, according to MPR. 

World’s biggest EV-maker quintupled profits in 2022 

  • China-based carmaker BYD — the world’s biggest seller of EVs  — believes it made five times as much money in 2022 as the previous year, Reuters reported. Chinese sales of BYD’s top-selling models rose dramatically in 2022 as sales of Tesla’s model, according to Reuters.

Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for more and check out other newsletters here. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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