Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cuomo, he who said he would lead on Climate Change, isn’t

 

CCDisruptiveSMost of Governor Cuomo’s accomplishments on Climate Change preparations were in fact initiated by his predecessor, Governor David A. Paterson. Although it was Cuomo who stated after Hurricane Sandy that “We will lead on climate change |New York must press ahead with urgency to equip itself for the new age of extreme weather… ”, it was Patterson who began the moratorium on Fracking, developed our climate plan ‘New York State Climate Action Plan Interim Report,’ and kicked off our Climate Smart Communities (CSM) program. While most communities west of Syracuse have not signed into the voluntary CSM program (and those who have like Rochester barely admit it) it is an increasingly robust program that provides a lot of state help for local action to adapt to Climate Change.

Paterson’s climate initiatives have gone fallow under Cuomo. Instead of leading on Climate Change, Cuomo has failed to lead on energy and allowed the Fracking issue to fester. He has permitted the table in NYS to be set for fossil fuel infrastructures by snoozing as Albany becomes a major railroad hub for trafficking dangerous bomb trains and turning a blind eye as local folks fight back a Texas company from poisoning Seneca Lake lands with more fossil fuel storage. This fossil fuel mania is getting in Rochester’s face.

“About 350 New York state schools, including at least 63 in Monroe County, lie within a mile of railroad tracks used by trains carrying volatile crude oil, a coalition of environmental and other advocacy groups said Thursday.” (Oil and schools don't mix, enviro groups say 11/202014 Democrat and Chronicle)

Even our local media is finally recognizing the threat that construction of a gas storage facility on the shore of Seneca Lake presents to our region:

Opposition builds to gas storage facility on Seneca Lake shore As protests continue over construction of a gas storage facility on the shore of Seneca Lake, people across the entire Finger Lakes region opposed to the project are getting involved. As protests continue over construction of a gas storage facility on the shore of Seneca Lake, people across the entire Finger Lakes region opposed to the project are getting involved. “The Finger Lakes is all of us,” said Rosemary Hooper, a Naples resident who has joined others from Ontario County in participating in the campaign to stop the building of the gas storage facility on the shore of Seneca Lake in Schuyler County. Texas-based Crestwood Midstream's proposal is to use old abandoned salt caverns along the lake to store millions of barrels of liquid petroleum gas and billions of cubic feet of natural gas. Those opposed include organizations, individuals, businesses and municipalities. The Ontario County Board of Supervisors, Yates County Legislature, Seneca County Board of Supervisors and Geneva City Council are among those that have passed motions opposing the proposed storage facility. (11/19/2014 Gates-Chili Post)

He who should be leading on Climate Change has created a climate of delusion where business-as-usual flourishes and renewable energy languishes. Where it’s OK for our leaders and media to go mum on this worldwide warming crisis, even though over 400,000 of us insisted on action at People’s Climate March, (most of them New Yorkers). Where, despite all evidence that Fracking is a public health hazard, leaks methane gas like a sieve, and will certainly screw up our drinking water, the present governor cannot make up his mind. Where the recent snow storm buries Buffalo in a record-breaking snow storm and no dots between it and Climate Change were connected in our local media, not even in our public media: Buffalo Area Needs To Dig Out; Then Prepare For Possible Flooding (11/21/2014 WXXI) Other non-local news outlets were not so timid: Cold snap caused by climate change-weakened jet stream, scientists suggest and These Photos of Lake Effect Snow Are Crazy.

The weak-kneed Democrats in Congress are little better at leading on Climate Change. The absurdity this week that was the Keystone XL pipeline vote in the Senate would not have happened if President Obama had just squashed this game-over fossil fuel project years ago. [Demand that Obama veto it once and for all.] And while our two NYS senators didn’t cave in to this political nonsense, they didn’t lead. Our leaders have been cowed. To get a sense of just how lame this entire Senate vote was, you have to watch Rachel Maddow go at it: What On Earth Were They Thinking? Rachel Maddow On The Democratic Party. Our leaders are not leading on the most important crisis of our age.

Instead of our leaders taking the heat (suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and all that), as is part of their job description, and boldly informing the public about Climate Change and plans to deal with it, they pacify the pubic with reassurances that the climate for now is hunky-dory. Our climate is not even remotely hunky-dory.

Our scientists and the evidence of our own eyes that the growing seasons have lengthened are telling us that Climate Change didn’t go away back in the 1980’s. It’s gotten worse. No one, least of all our governor, wants to take charge. But Climate Change is physics, just like earthquakes. You can dither and downplay their devastating inevitability all you want, but come they will.

After 309 people died the in the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake, the public went berserk searching for those they thought had kept important information from them, resulting in catastrophe and no plans to avoid it. The denial machinery, political weakness, and the pressure to reassure the public is intense. After experiencing a few tremors in the region of Abruzzo, in central Italy:

“The meeting was called with intentions to reassure the public. The scientists correctly emphasised to De Bernardinis that the precise timing of major earthquakes could not be known. They were careful not to rule out the possibility of a major earthquake any time. Following their meeting De Bernardinis publicly stated: “The scientific community tells us there is no danger, because there is an ongoing discharge of energy. The situation looks favourable.” None of the scientists made an effort to correct Bernardinis’s imprecise statements. L'Aquila earthquake scientists freed but political lessons remain (11/21/2014, Dr. Lawrence Torcello, The Conversation)

With Climate Change, scientist have been clear to the point of mind-numbing simplicity:

IPCC Synthesis Report Highlights Science Strength A distillation of the major findings of the fifth assessment report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been published today (Sunday 2 November 2014). Known as The Synthesis Report, the document pulls together all the various strands of the different AR5 documents published by the IPCC over the last year or so. The launch was accompanied by a major press conference in Copenhagen. At the press conference, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a global response to climate change: “We need everyone, even individual citizens, to take action,” he said. IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri told the press conference that “Business as usual is certainly not an option” and urged leaders to look at the science. (November 2, 2014) ReportingClimateScience.com

Instead of being buried in obscurity, our appointed governor could be established as a leader on Climate Change. Governor David A. Paterson patiently and persistently established a firm ground in climate preparedness. Our present governor could be scorned forever as one of the many politicians who dithered and dallied despite overwhelming evidence in his state and beyond that there are more than enough reasons to prepare for Climate Change.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The real tragedy of the mid-term elections

 

CCMandateSMy take-home message from a talk by the Monroe County Sewer Authority (Pure Waters) (at a neighborhood association meeting) was that our sewer system is very healthy as long as you don’t believe in Climate Change. Our sewer system is the envy of many surrounding communities like Buffalo because of our Combined Sewer Overflow Abatement Program (CSOAP) program and the ‘tunnel system’. This is to say, when there have been heavy wet weather events, we tend not to discharge raw sewage into our rivers and lakes—as other communities do.

Combined Sewer Overflow Abatement Program (CSOAP) events have all but been eliminated with the phasing in of the deep rock tunnel system unique to Monroe County. This tunnel system allowed the integration of approximately 25 smaller sewage treatment plants into the Monroe County system. The lab monitors the improvement in the surrounding environment and the positive impact of this program. CSOAP and Wet Weather Events

The operative phrase here is ‘where there have been,’ meaning our system can and has dealt with most current and historical heavy rainfall events successfully (there are a few, and increasingly more, overflows each year). The continuing issues with basement sewer backups and water pooling in our streets after heavy rains has more to do with the 100-year-old sewer pipe system or blockages in any one of our 80,000 catch basins, than advances made in the 1970’s for combined sewer overflow problems. Combined sewer overflow systems which proliferate around the Great Lakes basin take away both sewage and storm water. They work fine until more frequent heavy rainfalls overwhelm the systems, at which point raw sewage gets sent (mostly) untreated into our rivers and streams.

The problem is that Pure Waters also mentioned that according to their rain gauges we have received significantly more rainfall than what historical data would predict. This is code for Climate Change, as this is precisely what climate studies like ClimAID suggest: “Climate hazards of particular relevance as detailed by the Ecosystems sector are … increased frequency of heavy rainfall events …” (Pg. 9 Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID))

To be clear, Monroe County (and Rochester) ‘has greatly reduced’ overflow events:

These discharge events are referred to as combined sewer overflows. As would be expected, this sewage contains pathogens (disease-causing agents), excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous), metals, and large debris that can harm aquatic organisms as well as curtail recreational use of waterways. In New York State, more than 60 municipalities have sewage systems that generate combined sewer overflows, and most are located in major cities (NYSDEC, 2008). The City of Rochester has greatly reduced these events; the cities of Buffalo and Syracuse are in the process of implementing mitigation plans. (Pg. 94 (ClimAID))

But when asked (by me) about the rainfall patterns coming with Climate Change for our region, Pure Waters was mum. This leads me to infer that our region is satisfied with measures to deal with current and historical rainfalls events, but we are simply not connecting the dots with Climate Change. Which is to ask, are we properly preparing and planning for the consequences of Climate Change in our region? We don’t know because despite the attention Climate Change has received nationwide and worldwide, neither the City of Rochester nor the County of Monroe mentions Climate Change much.

For whatever reason--politics, other concerns, not-being-grilled-by-the-media, whatever—our leaders are not leading on Climate Change. Climate Change is about planning. If you’re just relying on historical data to plan for the future, you’re delusional. Just focusing on the present viability of Monroe County’s sewer system, especially in the presence of data indicating a worrying trend, is like watching someone peeing into the water at the other end of the pool where you’re swimming and thinking it won’t matter to you.

The results of the mid-term elections suggest that it is more likely that those politicians already squirming on Climate Change will be more squirmy, and less likely to talk about, address, or inform the public about any measures they are taking to adapt to and mitigate Climate Change. This is significant because Monroe County’s sewer system is but one of many systems connected to the Great Lakes basin. If any number of communities around the largest fresh water system in the world are continually dumping raw sewage into our waters, this is going to matter to all of us. Top down planning, leaders around the Great Lakes talking to each other and preparing, is crucial.

Listen to this archived version of a local program on the likely effects of recent elections on Climate Change. Three local experts examine the possible repercussions of our efforts to adapt to and mitigate Climate Change after the recent dismal election turnout.  Have we shot ourselves in the foot, as it were? Have we crippled our ability to adapt to Climate Change locally and possibly hampered our efforts to lead on Climate Change at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris because it’s now easier for our leaders to plead ignorance? 

Connections: Recent Elections and Climate Change What do the election results mean for those who had hoped for more aggressive public policy relating to climate change? To say the least, advocates are disappointed. What's next? We discuss with our panel: Lawrence Torcello, RIT Ethics professor, Dr. Susan Spencer, solar scientist Abigail McHugh-Grifa of The Rochester People's Climate Coalition.

Already, we are seeing signs that the science of Climate Change is being ignored by our local leaders, who are responsible to plan for the consequences of Climate Change. For example, why hasn’t New York State upheld the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act? Are we swimming in raw sewage? (BTW: Monroe County is reporting diligently and you can find that information here: Sewage Discharge Reports. However, we here on the shores of Lake Ontario are downstream from all the other Great Lakes.)

WHAT'S IN THE WATER? STATE AGENCY'S FAILURE TO FOLLOW SEWAGE POLLUTION LAW PROVOKES QUESTIONS Each year the aging sewer infrastructure in New York’s cities, towns and villages dumps billions of gallons of raw sewage mixed with dirty stormwater into local waterways. These overflows close beaches, kill fish and wildlife, and sicken scores of people each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “No one swims in their toilet,” said Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo. “We don’t want to swim in waterways that are contaminated.” In an attempt to provide immediate notification to New York residents about this public health threat, two years ago Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act into law. (October 30, 2014) City and State

Why are we even considering liquid gas (an explosive, greenhouse emitting fossil fuel) storage on the shores of Seneca Lake and setting the table for Fracking? For a great encapsulation of this dynamic folly check this out from Food and Water Watch’s. Wenonah Hauter:

Standing by Those Who Stand in the Way of Fracking Infrastructure It all began taking shape back in March of 2013, when Sandra Steingraber – the noted biologist, author, educator and advisor of Americans Against Fracking – and 11 other courageous individuals were arrested for blockading the entrance to a natural gas compressor station on the banks of Seneca Lake, in the environmentally sensitive Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. These so-called “Seneca Lake 12” were simply doing what countless other Americans have done over generations when they knew their health and safety were threatened, when their elected leaders weren’t there to help, and when they had no other choice: they stood up for their neighbors, their families and themselves, and were hauled off to jail. Sandra spent 10 days behind bars after defiantly refusing to pay a fine. (November 10, 2014) Food and Water Watch

Also, watch, listen, and read this amazing coverage (you have to go here because the local media isn’t covering this) of the human blockade of the gates of a methane gas storage facility near Seneca Lake, one of New York’s Finger Lakes, a water source, a tourist attraction, an ecosystem, and a whole lot of other resources, all put in jeopardy by another volatile fossil fuel: 10 Arrested as Human Blockade Continues Protesting Methane Gas Storage Facility. Consider signing a petition or donating to help this cause to reject Inergy Midstream‘s (now Crestwood) proposal to store Liquefied Petroleum Gas and expand natural gas storage at facilities on the shore of Seneca Lake in Reading, NY. More at Gas Free Seneca. Even folks in the Rochester area should care about the health of our Finger Lakes.

The real tragedy of the mid-term elections, and climate denial in general, is that the burden of proof is still put on the science and on the expensive, inconvenient things that have to be done to plan properly for Climate Change. Instead of us all being grownup and facing the challenge of our generation, we are hiding behind the skirts of denial, demanding that our leaders make this problem go away—instead of dealing with it forthrightly.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The window of opportunity for mitigating Climate Change is closing

Recently, “R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC said: “The scientific case for prioritizing action on climate change is clearer than ever. We have little time before the window of opportunity to stay within 2ºC of warming closes.”” (IPCC warns time is running out to tackle climate change, 11/03/2014, tcktcktck)  

(Remember: Adapting is adjusting. Mitigation is alleviation. You can adapt to brushfire by continually moving away from the fire. You mitigate by putting the fire out. Pachauri is speaking about mitigation.)

One of the really annoying things about Climate Change is that, because it’s a problem of physics, we cannot wait around until our collective social consciousness can digest it. The clock is ticking. Even trying to vote it away won’t work. Regardless of the dismaying mid-term elections (in which one of the consequences will be to install Sen. Inhofe, the climate denier-in-chief, to the chair of Senate environment committee) won’t slow Climate Change down a bit. Allowing such an irresponsible senator to escalate his efforts to thwart our government’s efforts (especially our military) to address Climate Change will only cripple our chances to mitigate Climate Change. Denier obstructionists will only make our ability to make critical commitments at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris more unlikely. In other words, deniers cannot stop Climate Change—that can only be done by lowering GHG concentrations--all they can do is kill our efforts to save ourselves.

Think of our present situation this way: Someone is frantically knocking at your apartment door. You open the door and it’s a firefighter saying you must evacuate the building immediately. You ask why. The firefighter says that your building is on fire. You don’t believe her. You ask, what makes her think your apartment is on fire. She says that your apartment isn’t on fire yet, your building is on fire. You still don’t believe her. You explain that you don’t see any signs of a fire, no smoke, no sirens, no alarms in the building are sounding, and nary a mention of a fire on your TV. She says that she is a firefighter and it’s her job to know whether there’s a fire or not.  The firefighter explains to you that the manager of your apartment doesn’t believe in fires and the cable service from which you get your TV news doesn’t believe in fires either, that’s why you haven’t been warned. You say that you don’t want to leave as it would be very inconvenient for you and all your stuff inside might get stolen.  You further explain very calmly and respectfully that if you see a lot of smoke or fire trucks pulling up outside or something on the news about it then, and only then, will you get moving.  Otherwise, fuhgeddaboudit. The firefighter says that if the fire isn’t stopped in your building, then the whole neighborhood will go up in flames. You still refuse to believe that which is very inconvenient to believe; you’re not getting out of your apartment so that some firefighter can put out a fire that you don’t believe exists or will have any effect on your neighborhood. The firefighter explains with more urgency that she has witnessed the fire, you can talk to her supervisor. You can even come with her and see the fire for yourself. But you think this is just her sneaky way to get you out of your apartment so the firefighter can do some kind of mischief. You close the door on the firefighter and go back to watching the cable news, occasionally checking to see if they make any mention of the alleged fire.   

This rather silly thought experiment is just another of my futile attempts to understand why folks are not alarmed by Climate Change. The International Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is not only a collection of science experts, they tend (as anything related to the UN is very political) to be conservative. If they say the freaking window is closing, it might be a good idea to heed their warning.

On the local level, it’s interesting to look for signs of Climate Change alarm in our leaders. Are any of our local agencies alarmed; are they planning; are they even aware of Climate Change?
At least someone is. Here’s a press release from one our leaders: NYS Attorney General Schneiderman says in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (from press release, October 29, 2014A.G. Schneiderman: Two Years After Sandy, We Must Remain Committed To Making New York Stronger Than Ever):

In the past two years, Attorney General Schneiderman has made several significant efforts to help New Yorkers overcome the challenges posed by Sandy. Among his achievements:
·         Intervening in a Public Service Commission proceeding on a proposed rate hike for Consolidated Edison and successfully advocating that the utility company be required to take into account the risks posed by climate change in its storm-hardening plans;
·         Proposing legislation to require all electric and gas utilities in the state to ensure that the critical services they provide to millions of New Yorkers are properly protected from the impacts of climate change;

One of the things we absolutely have to do to address Climate Change is make sure our critical utilities are ready for more frequent disruptions. For all the doubt and dismissing of Climate Change in our region, our public officials must see to it that we are prepared for Climate Change and that we are also prepared for the collateral damage. Our public officials do not have the luxury of doubting Climate Change—no matter how loony their political constituencies are.

We need more media attention focused on efforts by our public servants like A.G. Schneiderman’s. The media must make it crystal clear to the public that Climate Change is real, that it is happening, and it must be planned for—especially by our government. Only our government can set the playing field for addressing Climate Change, and only our government (no matter how many donors and volunteers help out after a disaster) can be the insurers and provide assistance of last resort.

Some may view that the Paris 2015 conference is merely a line drawn in the sand, an arbitrary point where climate scientists around the world have chosen to act. The window of opportunity may have already passed or it still maybe some point in the future. Only someone viewing our present position from the future can be absolutely certain. We will never have absolute certainty. So, it is important that we draw a line in the sand at the Paris 2015 conference, even though there will never be a Pearl-Harbor moment of clarity on when we should act. Our best bet is not to trust the deniers, but listen to our experts, a firefighter, as it were: 


How Michael Mann Views Sunday’s IPCC Synthesis Report Michael Mann, originator of the hockey stick graph that shook world science in the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report and contributed to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, posted some thoughts today about the final IPCC climate synthesis report released by the UN on Sunday. Mann’s take on the key points of the report, which calls for zero fossil fuel emissions by 2100: “The world’s scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is not only real and caused by us, but that it is already taking a toll: on our health, on our economy, on our security, and on the health of our environment. The good news is that it it still possible to solve the problem cheaply. But if we delay acting, it will be far more expensive, and the damages will be far greater.” He finds this latest IPCC synthesis report more definitive than the past reports in terms of its tone of certainty. He hears in it a higher level of confidence that human activity (fossil fuel burning) is responsible for warming. “The report is far more definitive that climate change isn’t some nebulous, far-off threat—it is negatively impacting us already, where we live.” He cites the influence of climate change in the US, such as increasing impacts of extreme droughts, floods, and massive wildfires. (November 2, 2014) Planet Save [more on Climate Change in our area]

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Demand NPR restore its climate reporting team

 

"I am convinced that ecology cannot be kept secret. Environmental openness is an inalienable human right. Any attempt to conceal any information about harmful impact on people and the environment is a crime against humanity." --Alexandr Nikitin, Russian environmentalist.

CCTooSmallSHere is an astonishing remark by a newly hired climate reporter for the New York Times “Few topics fuel as much reader attention as climate change.” (Steering the Climate Change Coverage, October 27, 2014 New York Times) It’s astonishing given that the New York Time gutted its climate reporters a while ago and now is rehiring. But it’s also astonishing because National Public Radio has just gone ahead and gutted their climate reporter staff.

NPR Guts Its Environment And Climate Reporting Team, Becomes ‘Part Of The Problem’ NPR has gutted its staff dedicated to covering environmental and climate issues. Given the nation’s and world’s renewed focus on the threat posed by unrestricted carbon pollution, this baffling move is already receiving widespread criticism from scientists and media watchers. It is “a sad commentary on the current state of our media,” as one top climatologist told me. Katherine Bagley broke the story for InsideClimate News. She reports that earlier in 2014, NPR “had three full-time reporters and one editor dedicated” to cover environmental and climate issues within NPR’s science desk. Now, shockingly, “One remains — and he is covering it only part-time.”(October 24, 2014) Climate Progress

The reasoning behind this unfortunate shift? Anne Gudenkauf, senior supervising editor of NPR’s science desk, says “… she doesn't "feel like [the environment] necessarily requires dedicated reporters" because so many other staffers cover the subject, along with their other beats.” (NPR Reduces Its Environment Team to One Reporter, Oct. 24, 2014 Inside Climate News). This response by our public radio would make sense if our collective understanding and acceptance of Climate Change had reached such a level that Climate Change, the mother of all problems, were already understood and assumed by the public to be, indeed, the mother of all problems.

First, the media didn’t cover Climate Change because it was so new they could not decide if it was even an issue worth reporting. Then when they did start covering Climate Change, this issue was framed as if 97% of the scientists who back the science were evenly balanced with the 3% who didn’t buy it. (See Jon Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Climate Change Debate (HBO)”.) And now, presumably, Climate Change is so ingrained into the public consciousness that it makes no sense to have dedicated reporters covering it. This magical jump—where the media leaps suddenly from unbalanced coverage to ‘this is a no-brainer’—avoids the reality that most of the US public are woefully uninformed on an issue that requires massive public planning with massive public backing —as suggested in most Climate Change studies.

NPR’s unfortunate decision is especially tragic considering the fast approach of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris—where the “objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. ” Even though we marched 700,000 strong worldwide for the People’s Climate March to demand action on Climate Change, they couldn’t hear us in Bonn, the most recent climate talk preparing for Paris: Governments at Bonn climate talks apparently lose memo on people’s support for climate action (October 25, 2014, Climate Action Network ). Secretary of State John Kerry stated on the excellent climate documentary “Years of Living Dangerously” that in order for countries to stop insane practices like drilling for more fossil fuel in the Arctic, the public needs to demonstrate they care on a level that their political servants cannot avoid.  Which is to say, the public must make it clear that not acting on Climate Change is unacceptable if they are to give our leaders the clout they need in tackling this issue. That cannot happen if the public is not informed.

“The final instalment [sic] of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due for launch on 2 November in Copenhagen, Denmark” (Special Alert: IPCC Synthesis Report, Oct. 24, 2014, The Tree). It portends the last chance, the last fork in the road for humanity:

“It is expected to say that we can go down a clean energy path where we enjoy economic benefits and manage to adapt to modest climate change, or follow a path with increasing carbon pollution worldwide where severe climate change threatens our societies and derails our economies.” [ibid]

The public is so not prepared and informed on Climate Change. To say that a major component of US public broadcasting, a public institution that “has a substantial news operation of its own with hundreds of reporters and editors in a central newsroom in Washington and in bureaus around the country and the world”1, a public entity where 39% of their revenue comes from ‘individuals’ and 4.6% from federal, state, and local governments (i.e. your tax dollars) is doing their job on the most important crisis of our generation by gutting environmental and climate reporters is ludicrous indeed.

NPR is not just another dysfunctional media outlet that we can shrug off. It’s ours; it’s not Murdock’s or a play toy for rich billionaires. Our public communications should not shrink from its prime objective: “The mission of NPR is to work in partnership with Member Stations to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures.”( Our Mission and Vision). Our public network, albeit far short of what Europe gets for their tax buck, is not supposed to pander to events, ideas, and cultures; it’s suppose to adequately inform the public about them. Unlike corporate media, which seemingly must indulge the ideology of their corporate backers, their customers’ prurient interests, and the agenda of their advertisers, our public airwaves should be free of all that. Or take out ‘Public’ from NPR.

We don’t have a Pravda (a state-sponsored political propaganda apparatus), nor should we; but we should expect from our public broadcasting independent, impartial and honest information to the public. The public’s (everyone’s) understanding of Climate Change is a must. Coverage must be continual, pervasive, free, and accessible to all. Climate Change is not emotional, nor political, nor economic, nor a special interest: It is our present and future reality and it needs your attention.

Sign this petition, via 350.org Campaigns: DEMAND NPR RESTORE ITS CLIMATE REPORTING TEAM And/or this petition: Sign the petition: Stop NPR from gutting its climate coverage. Also, consider contacting NPR and demand they restore their (your) climate reporting team: Go to NPR’s ‘Contact Us’ and demand they restore their Public mission.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Become the Media! in Rochester, NY on Climate Change

 

CCFFFFSA deer standing in the middle of the road while you approach it at 65 mph in a one-ton SUV seems to prove that many animals aren’t very smart at all. Especially when you get closer and closer, honk your horn, and they continue to stare at you fixed-eyed and unmoved by the danger you present to them. Of course, deer are not stupid. Hunters can attest to their extremely keen sense of smell, hearing, and the slightest disturbance to their environment. So why the incredible deer/car collision rate (18,000 deer per year in Connecticut)? Adaptation. Deer had hundreds of thousands of years to adapt to wolves and bears and only a little over a century to adapt to vehicles. Something humungous coming noisy and blazing-eyed straight towards them is, for all practical purposes, invisible.

That’s how we are reacting to Climate Change—a species watching a disaster coming straight us and doing little to react. Humans aren’t stupid. We’ve put men on the Moon. We’ve produced a Jane Goodall. But Climate Change, without an immediate shift in our collective consciousness, remains invisible to us. Climate Change isn’t sexy, it doesn’t do tricks for us, it’s not talked about much, it’s slow and boring, it doesn’t appear on our news, and unless you’re focusing on the science it’s almost imperceptible.

Almost. In fact there are many pressing consequences of Climate Change right in our Rochester, NY region if you’re paying attention or getting your facts from science. This, from a list gained from numerous climate studies and posted on RochesterEnvironment.com: ‘Real changes in our region because of Climate Change’: Annual temperature increases, increase in intensive precipitation events, bird population shifts, reduced snowpack, earlier ice break up, increase in lake effect snowfall, increased plant frost damage,  plant growth and decomposition affected, species shifting locations, streamflow changes, amphibians responding to Climate Change, invasive species thriving, wildlife affected by Climate Change, increase in heat-related illnesses, increase in incidents of ground-level ozone, livestock affected more by heat stress, timing of seasons is off, Northeast extreme weather increasing, more extreme weather driving up liability claims, NYS coastal sea level rising, Climate Change causing plants to shift, and forest pests increasing.

We thrived during the 10,000 years of the Holocene with a relatively stable climate, a climate we couldn’t have imagined that we could influence any more than we could move the moon in the sky. Since the Industrial Revolution, where our greenhouse gas emissions skyrocketed, things have changed. We’ve flipped the thermostat to ‘very hot’ without our even noticing that we did. However, ignorance of the laws (of physics) is no excuse. We must adapt quickly to a warmer world and stop further warming, or we’ll be unprepared for what’s coming at us.

This brings me to my point: How do we inform humanity about the all-inclusive existential danger that Climate Change presents our species on a level and a speed that will matter? In an incredibly pithy and cogent argument by a local philosopher and a prominent climate scientist, they explain the present status of the problem.

Limiting global warming to 2°C: the philosophy and the science Industrial civilization must become technologically, economically, politically, and morally sustainable to hold the earth’s temperature below 2°C (3.6°F) higher than its preindustrial average. The problem is not insurmountable. It is possible, then, that we’ll benefit in the long run from having to deal with human-caused global warming, by being forced to mature politically and ethically. As of yet, however, the world has largely failed to move beyond moral, political, and economic parochialism. Our continued failure will supplant the promise of sustainability with a legacy of collapse. (October 21, 2014) The Conversation

How do we get this message and the sense of urgency across to a species, however smart, that can’t see the thing barreling down on it?

Dr. Hansen, foremost NASA climate scientist, explained the situation to Congress in 1988, but that didn’t do it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) formed a worldwide organization to collect scientific information and inform the world, but that hasn’t lowered worldwide greenhouse gases. We’ve had over 20 climate talks, we’ve march 400,000 strong through the streets of New York City (700,000 worldwide), there are books galore, films, a very popular Showtime series “ Years of Living Dangerously” that brings top stars and amazing technology to bear on this issue; there are a zillion climate studies, there is voluntary program created by our state (see Climate Smart Communities) to help communities to adapt—but few have opted-in. Politics have failed us. Leaders have failed us. Business has failed us. And most alarmingly, our information system, mainstream media, where we collectively inform ourselves of important stuff, has failed us. What’s left?

You. Become the media!

When one reviews all the local news every day, it is astounding at the discrepancy of how much and how thoroughly Climate Change is reported globally and how meager this news is locally. If we only depended on local media to accurately portray the world we actually live in, a warming world, we Rochesterians are essentially blind on every aspect of this worldwide crisis.

We need new ideas on how to get the deer in us to stop glazing at the headlights and focus on the problem that’s going to run us over.

Check out this amazing new media format that ‘gives you a voice, putting your stories happening now before climate scientists and journalists.” CLIMATE AT YOUR DOORSTEP, from The Daily Climate. Go around the dysfunctional media and link up directly with the folks doing the science and reach the public with the information they need to know.

One of the most creative opportunities in our region is a new kind of film festival to do just what I’ve been talking about. In the Rochester area create your own environmental message and win a prize:

Fast Forward Film Festival  Showcasing New Environmental Perspectives.  Presented by WXXI/Little Theatre, George Eastman House, RIT, and the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute. The Fast Forward Film Festival invites residents in the greater Rochester area to submit independent short films (5 minutes or less) that inspire a deeper connection to the environment. As an incubator for innovative thinking and artistic expression, FFFF encourages films that tap into the local experience, compel audiences to engage with the community, and raise environmental awareness. An acclaimed jury will review the films and select winners who will receive a $1,000 cash prize for each of these categories: (1) most inspiring, compelling, and engaging, (2) most unique perspective, (3) strongest call to action. Submission deadline is February 27, 2015. Read more at: www.fastforwardroc.org"

The FFF is an amazing opportunity to think outside the box on messaging Climate Change. What might some folks do for this film? Try something wild. Mimic something that’s gone viral on the Internet and tailor it to Climate Change messaging. Connect with your friends and crowdsource ideas. Demonstrate the Climate Change has gotten personal. Zen it: How, in just five minutes, do you get everyone to pay attention to this worldwide crisis quick enough and on a level that will matter? Sure it’s a challenge, but even the exercise, thinking about the most important crisis of our age, will produce something better than denial.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Censure a remedy for powerful political climate change deniers

 

CCOutOfOrderSAs those who don’t exclusively get their news locally already know, September 2014 “is now the hottest on record, according to NASA”1 That jaw-dropping reality goes along with NASA’s conclusion that “Earth Just Experienced the Warmest Six-Month Stretch Ever Recorded.”2 I could go on with an endless litany of grim facts (benchmarks) from scientists proving every day that we are headed for disaster.

But one thing the public must be wondering: If things are this bad, why isn’t our media apoplectic with alarm, politicians pounding the pavement with their local solutions for addressing this crisis, or folks with their hair on fire over this?

Good question.

Actually a lot of your friends and neighbors were out in the streets, their hair on fire as it were. The People’s Climate March (PCM), beginning in Rochester with the People’sClimateMarch/WesternNY, was a massive demonstration that is finally starting to sink in. Social experts are stating that because of the march “The Climate Change Movement Is Not Wishful Thinking Anymore”3 and may actually be “a burgeoning social fact” [ibid] Burgeoning, beginning to grow or increasing rapidly; flourishing.

What may be the most immediate result of the PCM comes from Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change at the US State Department: “Todd Stern says that mounting public pressure could rapidly force GOP to address global warming, and urged people to demand action. Climate change denial will switch from being a litmus test for major Republican politicians to a liability in the near future.” More:

Stern said that mounting public pressure would eventually force American politicians' hand on global warming. The People's Climate March in New York City last month, he noted, was a start. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Manhattan calling for action—any action—on climate change. The event took place 48 hours before world leaders, including Stern, gathered at the United Nations to lay the groundwork for climate treaty talks. "It's a basic rule of politics that politicians listen to the voice of potential voters," he said. "When politicians come to believe that not listening could be detrimental to their political health, they listen." Will Climate Change Denial Become a Political Liability? U.S. Treaty Envoy Thinks So (October 15, 2014 Inside Climate News)

Climate Change denial could become a political liability? Wow! Kind of unbelievable given the dreary assumption that climate deniers may flood the Mid-term elections. Yet historic social conditions thought to be so entrenched as to be impossible to transform have changed with amazing rapidity. Recent examples include the acceptance of gay marriage. Nowadays you don’t going around in colleges blurting that you’re a knee-jerk bigot on this issue.

But, before we get too giddy, drunk with success, let’s face a very unpleasant denier obstruction, one that goes to the heart of our collective inability to address Climate Change. What do we do with the denier-in-chief: Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee?

Just this week the US Department of Defense made it crystal clear that Climate Change is not only happening but is a prime concern of our military.

The Department of Defense Must Plan for the National Security Implications of Climate Change The responsibility of the Department of Defense is the security of our country. That requires thinking ahead and planning for a wide range of contingencies. Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe. In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts. (October 13, 2014) White House Blog

Climate Change for the US Military is a ‘threat multiplier’, which is to say the military must view all global military issues through the lens of Climate Change.

But how can our military act on Climate Change if a key figure in the Senate Armed Services Committee says “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the president and his administration would focus on climate change when there are other, legitimate threats in the world.” (Emphasis added) (Pentagon Signals Security Risks of Climate Change   (October 13, 2014) New York Times)

Climate Change isn’t a ‘legitimate’ threat? Really? The worldwide public, our military, our government, and most scientists agree that Climate Change is something we ought to plan and protect ourselves from, but a few powerfully political ideologues say no. So we’re screwed?

Is there no accounting for powerful deniers who block the rest of us from protecting ourselves? Censure might send a signal that Climate Change denial, just as slavery, is off the table at the US Congress.

In 1954, the censure of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy [5] effectively shut up the rabidly irresponsible senator. Perhaps Congress should consider other well-placed censures so ’we the people’ can get on with addressing the most important crisis of our age.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mid-term elections: We must not put a climate denier into public office

 

CCVoteForMeSPlease note: this essay is not about politics. I find US politics as they are presently practiced bewildering and nasty. I have no stomach for the slings and arrows of outrageous US politics. Nor is this a diatribe about climate deniers. These are other people’s battles, battles that should have ended years ago.

This essay is a plea to remove Climate Change denial from US politics. Climate Change should be apolitical, as if it were as much about our environment as our environment—our life support system. I know, it seems at this moment in time like an impossible request in every sense …, except we do not have the time to remove Climate Change denial from a position it should have never been placed. Inserting Climate Change denial into the mêlée of US politics has put everyone, including the party embracing it, in an impossible position. We can and should debate how to address Climate Change, but it’s suicidal for our country to doubt that it exists.

Voting is important. It has always been integral to democracies. Folks have lived their lives and died so others of different races, genders, religions, and financial status can vote. Getting people to vote is difficult at this point in history because of a prevailing mood that because of money and political influence one’s vote doesn’t count. Corporations, many of which are extremely politically influential, are now ‘people’, according to the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission These corporate-backed groups have almost unlimited funds to manipulate votes. This befouls our political system with pervasive lobbying and makes these powerful Climate Change deniers the puppeteers of our legislative puppets.

So why bother voting?

Attempting to get beyond the voting malaise of the present generation is a great get-out-the-vote video going viral:

'Turn Out for What' Video Aims to Get Millennials to the Voting Booths “Rapper Lil John (the name on his ballot is Jonathan Smith) has repurposed his 2013 summer anthem "Turn Down for What" into a celebrity-filled parody music video, "#TURNOUTFORWHAT," appropriately employing a hashtag to encourage millennials to post, tweet, and share the video with their peers.” (October 8, 2014 Yahoo News)

This video is wonderfully whacky and poignant, but it does throw a grab bag of issues at potential voters. Nonetheless, no one in the video is trying to make up your mind for you on any particular issue; they’re just trying to get you to vote. It doesn’t matter what you vote on, just vote.

But it does matter not only that you vote, but vote through the lens of Climate Change. The warming of our oceans and air temperatures due to manmade Climate Change is accelerating, not abating. It does matter that we understand and accept that humanity’s use of fossil fuels is causing this condition, because we cannot solve the effect if we deny the cause.

We need to prioritize our issues in accordance to Climate Change because in order for our candidates to do their job, they need to plan. That means there needs to be plans and actions in place long before our infrastructures crumble, our food security fails, and disasters due to sea rise and extreme weather events overwhelm our ability to adapt. It’s not that Climate Change is more important and urgent than jobs, public health, equality, justice, energy and anything else; it’s that they all must be addressed within the context of a warming world. You would not carry on normal activities on a cruise ship that was quickly sinking. You’d be preventing the ship from sinking and prioritizing all other issues and activities accordingly.

The mid-term elections (by definition) do not include voting for the next president, which will be held in 2016. But they will be setting the table for the direction for the future. If the people don’t clearly demonstrate in the voting booth that climate denial is not acceptable in a candidate or party, this particular suicidal form of delusionalism will rule. Our ship, as it were, will continue to sink.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The People’s Climate March from the voice of the people

 

CCPCMLotSNews of the People’s Climate March (PCM) got headlines all over the world, except Rochester, NY, of course.  As a matter of fact when I mentioned that I went to the march to an acquaintance she said, “How nice that must have been for you folks who believe in global warming.” (It’s as if those of us in this special club of science lovers had a great big party for ourselves. Ya gotta laugh.) Local media has so much to account for, for not messaging this worldwide crisis.  

Admittedly, the PCM efforts to get Rochesterians to the march got some press before the event. Not much ((as some mentions (below) were letters to the editor and our own coverage of ourselves)) given the enormity of the march but some nevertheless.

  • Connections: Climate Change “Coming up on September 21, the People’s Climate March takes place in New York City. The organizers describe the event as the largest single event on climate ever organized. The march is designed to get the attention of world leaders about the issue. Our guests today will tell us about the march and discuss the issue of climate change: Susan Spencer, Ph.D. candidate at RIT, Susan Smith, Dr. Abigail McHugh-Grifa”
  • People’s Climate March |Coalition recruits climate marchers  On September 21, hundreds of thousands of people will march through Manhattan to show leaders from around the world, particularly US politicians, that the American public supports and demands action on climate change. (September 3, 2014) Rochester City Newspaper
  • Rochester group to join climate march Early on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 21 — very early — people will filter into a parking lot in Pittsford and board a bus. Their intended destination? A future that’s a little less overheated than it otherwise would be. The Sept. 21 bus-riders from the Rochester area, and others who will travel by train and car, will be among several hundred thousand people expected to descend on New York City that afternoon for an event known as the People’s Climate March. Participants hope to focus attention on the need for the United States and other countries act more aggressively to reduce emission of the greenhouse gases that are altering the Earth’s climate. The protest march is timed to bring pressure on international leaders attending a climate summit two days later at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. More than 100 people from the Rochester area are expected to join in. (September 8, 2014) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
  • Rochesterians Prepare for Climate March in NYC A group of Rochesterians are headed to the Big Apple to take part in a historic march.  The Rochester “People’s Climate Coalition” is organizing a trip to send about 200 people to the “People’s Climate March” in New York City on September 21st. The coalition is made up of several local organizations and agree that climate change and carbon emission reduction are two of the most serious issues facing us today.  “Locally we want to raise awareness about the concern our community feels about climate change. and the speed with which organizations have come together and the number of people who are going down to the march speaks to the concern that does exist here in Rochester addressing climate change,” said Sue Smith of the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition.  (September 9, 2014) RochesterHomePage.net
  • “The local chapter of the Sierra Club staffed the Community Tent. Holly and Frank discussed Sierra Club programs and the upcoming People’s Climate March in New York City.” (9/08/2014The Monroe Village Farmers’ Market News)
  • Our press conference was videotaped and is now available on our hub site. Please distribute the press release web address to everyone on your distribution lists, your websites, and when you talk to the media.  We cannot depend on historical media to message Climate Change, an issue they’ve completely failed us on.  There’s a reason why so many in the public still deny Climate Change science and how it will affect our region and how our leaders must respond to it.  So we have to become the media.  You all have spoken eloquently and put much effort and concern into your statements.  Please don’t let this evaporate; this chance will not come again anytime soon.
  • Letter to the editor: Why march for the climate? “Is the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21 a waste of time? Even hardcore environmentalists are questioning the political efficacy of major street demonstrations to produce significant legislative action...” (9/17/2014) Rochester City Newspaper.
  • GUEST ESSAY: Why I’m going on the people’s climate march By Sue Staropoli is a wife of 48 years, mother of 6, grandmother of 11, volunteer facilitator for the Pachamama Alliance (9/18/2014) Brighton-Pittsford Post).

And much of this coverage occurred because those who thought waking up our leaders to take action on the mother of all problems contacted the media—not because our local media themselves thought this worldwide event might be newsworthy.

How about after the march?

For a moment, it would be interesting to find out what the participants in the march thought of it. Why did they go? (Trust me it wasn’t because those who boarded a bus at 2 in the morning and stayed up for 30 hours are particularly fond of this kind of endurance experience.) Many (non-local) talking heads, media pundits, and show hosts got their inordinately loud utterances shouted to the world as why they thought so many (400.000) individuals attended this historic event, but little from the marchers themselves. As you know, some networks seem solely preoccupied to talking to only themselves about issues they haven’t a clue about—Climate Change a noteworthy case in point.

In a democracy our media should find out what the people think, instead of what the media think.

Thankfully, there are sources where you can find out what participants thought of their participation in the biggest climate march in history. These sources, though, aren’t mainstream sources. First is the local People’s Climate March/Western New York hub page: WHY WE ARE GOING TO PCM. Then there’s a great article in “Happenings the monthly newsletter of the Finger Lakes Institute” on the efforts of Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) called: The Green Hand: HWS At The Climate March Of The Century. Finally (but not least, because zillions of folks using their social media have spread photos and stories of their experience) is the People’s Climate March Wrap-UP web page. This page hosts an almost endless string of ‘everything’ connected to that amazing day.

That’s not the end. Locally there’s an event to find out what folks in our region who went to the march thought about their experience and why it was so important to them. Come. Check this out CLIMATE MARCH REPORT TO THE COMMUNITY, WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 8, 2014 FROM 7-8 PM, Church of the Assumption, 20 East Avenue, Fairport, NY 14450.

Bring your friends, bring your media, and let’s not pretend the greatest gathering of folks concerned about Climate Change didn’t happen.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

After the People’s Climate March, a Rochester manifesto

 

PCMPhotoSThe public has delivered a clear mandate on Climate Change. The People’s Climate March (PCM), which drew 400,000 concerned souls, demanded that their governmental leaders act on the most pressing crisis of our age. However milquetoast the UN Summit in NY turns out to be (the summit the PCM tried to kick start), the march will change everything. The media, despite their intentional use of the word ‘activists’ to dismiss most of the world’s peoples as only a special interest group, will have to change too.

Never again. Never again will it be fashionable to deny or dismiss what most people know to be true: that our present way of living is causing our planet to warm up far quicker than most plants, animals and we can adapt to. Never again will our leaders be able to speak as if Climate Change is not occurring. Never again will public pressure cease to compel businesses and governments to respond to the climate crisis with actions that actually bring down greenhouse gases. Promises will be held to a strict standard of compliance—regardless of weak-kneed leaders. The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, whose “objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world”1 must not fail.

Even in Rochester, where the Climate Change crisis goes unheeded by the public, the media, and our leaders, there will be change. Rochester runs with the top third of fastest growing cities, but it is also the 5th poorest city in U.S. Though most think there are more pressing issues to be addressed, it will become increasingly clear that the ‘we’re-too-busy’ approach demolishes any chance to plan properly. Growth and making Rochester habitable for all can only work through the lens of Climate Change because Rochester (as with every other community) will be in climatic chaos. The stance that addressing Climate Change can only occur within the confines of our present economic zeitgeist will have to give way to reality. Already, within many of the organizations that comprise the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, a group that helped propel hundreds of Rochesterians to the PCM in NYC, excitement for change is growing. A major press conference in front of Rochester City Hall on local Climate Change concerns and a local march in support of the PCM show that change is happening—even in Rochester. But it’s not enough and it’s not soon enough, not even close.

Over a span of several years, I have suggested many local solutions to Climate Change in my essays and Daily Updates on RochesterEnvironment.com. (Also, I have been chair, transportation chair and zero waste chair for the Rochester Sierra Club, and endured polite Climate Change denial from the trenches.) At this pivotal moment, I reemphasize the need to act locally to this worldwide crisis on the level that will matter. If the moral imperatives of our region acting immediately on Climate Change are not enough to drive us, then the need to plan adequately in the proper time frame should. As climate scientist Michael Mann says there is a "procrastination penalty" for not acting on Climate Change.

Most immediately, there will probably be an effort to contact local media and community leaders about taking local action on Climate Change. Sounds obvious. But our media and our leaders already know most of the gory details; they need to be pushed. Two major climate studies in our region--Responding to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) and New York State Climate Action Plan Interim Report ( Governor Patterson, 2010)--spell out clearly what climate changes we are already experiencing, likely changes coming, and what needs to be done. What needs to be done will require massive changes to business as usual. The public must compel both our leaders and our media to act: Demonstrate outside the offices of local leaders and media—in large numbers. Drop subscriptions to local media that do not connect the dots of the local consequences of Climate Change. Become the media by using all online and off-line connections to connect the dots on local Climate Change that our media are not doing. Create islands of Climate Change education through outlets like what “Climate Change Central” did a few years ago, where two marvelous women dedicated their time and money to offer a library of books, videos, and even some coffee. (This could be achieved through grants from state and municipal outreach programs, something they should be doing anyways.)

On transportation there must be a major transformation in the way we get around. Even before we update and make our transportation infrastructure resilient, we should consider whether we should spend more billions of dollars on a system that will increasingly be impossible to maintain. Enhancing our present system with high-speed rail is continually put on and off the table because of funding gymnastics. But it, along with active transportation, could get folk around with a much lower carbon footprint than our present system. Because US transportation emits 27% of our greenhouse gas emissions, it must be a major area of focus. It has not. Instead, active transportation (walking and bicycling) have been languishing behind a tepid program to increase bicycling with painted road symbols that few understand and a sidewalk/trafficlight situation that turns individual pedestrians into packman-like casualties. Unlike New York City (where we marched for Climate Change) both pedestrians and bicyclists in Rochester are the first to be sacrificed for construction projects, trash collection, parking, deliveries, lawn service and telecommunications equipment parking.

One of the best Climate Change adaptation strategies we’ve got for the City of Rochester is also one of the best kept secrets (so where is the local media on this?). In a recent study from the Genesee Transportation Council released in March 2014 “Planning for Transportation and Climate Change: Model Ordinances, Incentives, and Other Resources”, Rochester’s urban active transportation efforts have been heralded as a model for addressing Climate Change – a rather ridiculous assertion. You can find it starting on page 223. Also, the two surveys from Genesee Transportation Council (GTC)--Help shape western New York’s trail network and Long Range Transportation Plan 2040—ask for public input on local transportation planning, but nary a word about the warmer future we must plan for. Education on this issue must be seriously ramped up. For more details read these essays on local transportation.

On public health, there is little at all happening on the local or state level to educate the public about impending health issues related to Climate Change. It took me awhile to find this, but NYS Dept of Health is offering information on public health and Climate Change buried on their website, called Climate, Weather & Health. You have to do a separate search on their site to find it. You won’t find this information at the Monroe County Public Health Department or the city of Rochester for that matter. Though you will find some information on Rochester’s Climate Change efforts buried here: Office of Energy & Sustainability and Climate and Environment Protection Resolution, with a City of Rochester Municipal Operations Climate Action Plan still in progress (though years have gone by). Zilch on Climate Change and public health.

On recycling, though it is integrally related to Climate Change in our region, there are almost no dots being connected, which is alarming because this is where most individuals can act on Climate Change. We are transitioning to a single-stream waste system and highlighting the virtues of burning methane gas (a major greenhouse gas) from our landfills. There is precious little in the press about how all that is working out. If we had serious investigations into Monroe County’s recycling stats, like they do in Buffalo (Investigative Post), we might have a better grasp about what is going on. Presently, the Buffalo Recycling Alliance is conducting Buffalo Recycling Thoughts and Habits; something like this in Rochester would be revealing.

Ok, there’s more on Wetlands, Brownfields, Urban Sprawl, Plants (Rochester's flora), Air Quality, Great Lakes, Pesticides, Water Quality, Food & Environment, Genesee River, Wildlife, Invasive Species, Energy, Wind Power, Solar Power, and Fracking, but I’ve probably already tested your patience. However no manifesto on Climate Change would be complete without action bullet points. In the immediate aftermath of the People’s Climate March, it feels like the low roar that came down the long, long march of 400,000 souls following the moment of silence at 12:58PM, which then quickly crescendoed into a deafening roar. It was a call for humanity to pay attention to Climate Change. On a level that will matter, there is much in Rochester that can be done to change everything:

  • Stop Fracking (a method of using undisclosed chemicals to drill a hole in the ground for more GHGs to send up into our atmosphere) and go 100% renewables. Living off the sun and wind is not insane; it’s a real choice: Read: Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight
  • Read and get others to read climate studies; stop listening to media that don’t report reality. Especially read ClimAid if you live in New York. The studies are long, but bumper-sticker talking points on Climate Change are not enough to understand the crisis of our age.
  • Learn about the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, and have your group join it.
  • Encourage High Speed Rail and Active Transportation instead of throwing more public money at our present transportation infrastructure that’s too fossil-fuel intensive and costly.
  • Get your community to sign up to New York State’s Climate Smart Communities program.
  • Become a citizen scientist to help monitor what’s happening to our environment and help provide more robust data for climate modeling.
  • Conduct more climate studies to fill in holes in our knowledge. Check out these amazing photos of the Finger Lakes with the smaller lakes completely frozen over by this year’s whacky weather. These lakes will be profoundly affected by Climate Change, but few studies exist. Each lake will react differently to Climate Change. There should be a dramatic push to undertake more climate studies on the Finger Lakes and surrounding region.
  • Refrain from the high-tech lure of nuclear power (which is too hot to for us to handle) and most geoengineering schemes—except planting trees. Plant as many trees as you like and keep them in the ground.
  • Do everything to protect our soil, as there are absolutely no high-tech solutions to decomposing life and making things grow. Consider massive organic farming by listening to folks like these, who know about keeping our soil healthy and farming: NOFA-NY, Northeast Organic Farming Association. Leaves and soil are really, really important and both will be severely challenged by Climate Change.
  • Get your government to get moving on infrastructure—transportation, waste water, water, and telecommunications—fixes and updates geared towards mitigating and addressing Climate Change.
  • Get meteorologists talking about Climate Change. If you think weather prediction is problematic, Climate prediction will be a doozy. It’ll be more than a parade that gets rained on if the projections are wrong. We’re going to have to plan our future based on climate predictions and free it up as much as possible from politics, economic jitters, and ideology, or else our predictions will be completely delusional.
  • Get wealthy Climate Change deniers out of American politics. Move to amend Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and gets some of ‘we the people’ back into it.
  • Stop the XL Keystone Pipeline “Stop the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.”
  • Morph social media into something useful. If environmentalists were to direct the energy that our youth pour into social media towards Climate Change, instead of inadvertently pushing corporate agendas, we would have a society tuned in to the most important crisis of our age. Corporations, the film industry, and the fashion industry, have learned how to leverage Youth Power and social media to make big bucks for themselves; why can’t scientists and environmentalists get our kids to focus on something important to Generation Like’s continued existence?  Just saying… Think of all this as you watch this insightful program “Generation Like”:  Generation Like | Frontline | PBS
  • Vote. Do not vote a climate denier, or someone without a strong climate policy, into office, regardless of their position on other issues. Here’s what happens when that happens.
  • Encourage all environmental groups, politicians, and countries to advocate for a top-down, worldwide, binding agreement on lowering GHG’s. [See: IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] Don’t fall for the lie that climate talks won’t work: Addressing the Big Lie that there are alternatives to the Paris Climate Conference 2015
  • Get politics out of our Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) so that projections of future catastrophes include Climate Change predictions. When your property is destroyed by extreme weather due to Climate Change, you’re going to need a well-funded FEMA to help you pick up the pieces.
  • Pass a single payer health care system. Hurricane Katrina, probably a Climate Change event, showed that everything fails everyone at once. Hurricane Sandy, also probably a Climate Change event, showed that everything fails for those without health insurance.
  • Stop shopping for stuff you don’t need. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. And if you do have to shop, make sure those you buy from a green use cradle to cradle design.
  • Climate Change educational outreach team ready to go to any local school, business, faith group, governmental group, neighborhood association, festival, or whomever with brochures, short films, lectures, displays, and whatever it takes to educate our community on Climate Change.

The People’s Climate March in New York City (and many events like it around the world) has already vanished from the attention of most—including our media. But it was a watershed moment, a moment when hundreds of thousands walked with others of a similar view that everything has changed.

We won’t forget.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Before: Rochesterians going to the People’s Climate March in NYC

 

CCBeforeSMany folks who live in the Rochester, NY region are preparing to arrive at the largest climate march in history—the People’s Climate March. I view this march as an attempt to capture the media’s attention and demonstrate how important it is to our leaders and fellow human beings that the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris must not fail. Other climate talks, especially 2009 in Copenhagen, failed miserably and this leads some to conclude that climate talks—worldwide binding agreements to keep greenhouse gas emission down and do so fairly—are not the answer. But climate talks are the only answer to a worldwide crisis that involves all people, all governments, all corporations, all animals, all plants, and our life support system. Just recently, ‘experts’ realized that our population growth assumptions were off by about 2 billion people. This makes 12 billion folks who by 2100 will have to eat, earn a living, and adapt to a warmer world. We still don’t fully understand all the ramifications of this aspect of the looming disaster.

One thing is for sure, absolutely nothing but a successful climate conference in Paris 2015 can adequately address Climate Change. Without the force of law throughout the world on mitigating Climate Change within a level playing field soon, we’ll be left to the forces of the invisible hand and voluntary efforts. The invisible hand, free market fundamentalism, allowing the market to supplant our moral system, is too selfish and heedless to anything but its own inhuman survival. Voluntary efforts, heroic though they may be, will not be comprehensive and rapid enough to address a problem that has grown exponentially because we’ve let it go for a very long time.

Will the People’s Climate March work? Many obviously don’t think so or they’d be going. I do not know if the People’s Climate March will get people’s attention to the most important crisis of our age. Many who are going to the march are going because of a deep, visceral urge to do something about the complacency they see in their neighbors, powerful corporations, and their governments. Some are going because they’re hoping hundreds of thousands of people marching around New York City on a Sunday afternoon might capture the media’s attention and give Climate Change the top priority it deserves. For those who think they just have to ignore this one because their plate is full, this is not one of those kinds of issues. You will have to adapt to Climate Change, just as you would have to respond to any immediate disaster.

Some are going because they hope. They hope this march will change everything. (A full discussion of this need for a complete change is probably best developed by Naomi Klein in her just-released book.

Naomi Klein: Only a Reverse Shock Doctrine Can Save Our Climate In her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein argues that if we had taken action years ago when scientists first established that human activities were changing our climate, we might have been able to deal with the problem of global warming with only minimal disruption to our economic system. But as we approach a tipping point, and the consequences of climate change come into sharper focus, that time has passed, and we now have to acknowledge that preserving humans’ habitat requires a paradigm change. But Klein doesn’t just offer us a depressing litany of the damage we’ve already done. She calls on us to seriously rethink the way our economy is structured to address not only climate change, but also other longstanding social problems like persistent global poverty and rising inequality. (September 16, 2014) Moyers and Company

The People’s Climate March is not an attempt to defend science, which many who speak to the media about this issue tend to find themselves doing. (It’s like having to explain gravity every time a reporter asks a passerby why some poor soul just jumped from a tall building.) The media, still in its infancy on messaging Climate Change, still wants to give denial a chance, and appease those who might find this subject too alarming and dreadful. So, we still have to march and make a lot of noise to grab the media’s attention because the media cannot get their heads around the all-inclusiveness of this issue.

The science of Climate Change can speak for itself, as it has in many climate studies around the world. The People’s Climate March is about reaching the public at a gut level (beyond politics and the will not to believe) and getting them to demand that their media and their leaders get moving.

Before this march, we still can hope. I find myself, someone who has seen almost no local action on Climate Change, hoping for a new day on climate responsibility when I return. A day where we wake up to the world we are really living in, a warmer world that is quickly getting warmer and a community ready to get their hands dirty. Before this march, I wonder if the local media will find it in their hearts to cover this issue after a great jolt of adrenaline from New York City. I wonder whether the public will continue to only muse about Climate Change, if they think about it all, or might instead become engaged with the issue of their generation. I wonder, as a soldier might before a great war, if all the planning and inconvenience of getting to and experiencing a great human movement whether it will be worth it all. But this last question will be answered after the march, not before it.

I acknowledge that many are working towards a sustainable future, doing their part and all that. But we must ask ourselves, is what we are doing going to make a difference? If our actions don’t address the immediate problem of lowering greenhouse gases on a planetary scale, it’s not enough. Unlike many of the great issues, where we won’t know the outcome of our actions, the need to lower GHGs is clear. We cannot dodge this one with rationalizations.

After the march, after the dust settles as it were, I’ll be back with my observations.

BTW: If you really cannot make the march, check this out: “5 Ways to Support the People's Climate March Without Marching” (9/18 The Huffington Post)