Friday, December 29, 2006

Climate Change: Attitude is everything.


Most have gotten their minds around the concept of Global Warming, for our planet is indeed warming up. Granted, it has taken awhile for scientists and environmentalists to convince the public that this is so and now only but a few of the most entrenched say publicly that Global Warming is nothing but a hoax. (One is the out-going leader of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.) But many, and that includes the present administration, has not Got It! Present Global Warming is due to mankind’s footprints, that is, industry, fossil fuels being burnt up far faster than the normal carbon cycle.

Why is this important that the education of our public officials, lawyers, and the public go to the next level on Global Warming? Because if you don’t get it that man is causing this present leap in global warming gases like carbon dioxide and methane, then you don’t act. You believe that were just going through a normal climate trend and there’s nothing we can do because climate just changes. (Though, that too is a spurious argument, because regardless of the cause, if our planet is warming up quickly the consequences of that will affect us nonetheless.)
Anyway, it matters that you understand and find evidence that present Global Warming is due to mankind because you will believe that it is possible to reverse the effects. In New York State the effects could mean the lowering of the Great Lakes water level, the reduction of hydroelectric power, having summers like Georgia, the increase of diseases like Lyme disease, malaria, and West Nile Virus, much less snowfall, the possible destruction of the wine and maple syrup businesses, and many more days of temperatures over 90 degrees. [Read: Forcast For New York: Projected Global Warming Impacts & Next Steps, by the Environmental Advocates of New York.]

So, we need to take the threat of Global Warming to the next level. We need not throw up our hands and give up, but realize that our actions—driving cars and heating our by houses—by burning fossil fuels are the cause of the dramatic increase in our planet’s greenhouse gases. And act, by voting for responsible politicians who ‘get it.’ By buying more fuel efficient furnaces and automobiles and educating our friends and anyone who will listen to us that we are living in extraordinary times where we are responsible for the environment that our children will inhabit. Your attitude towards Global Warming in the next ten years will make the difference.

Here’s the beginning statement by the Pew Center for Climate Change SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE OF HUMAN ROLE IN CLIMATE CHANGE GROWS ---Read a concise summary of the latest strong evidence that greenhouse gases released by human activities are the main cause of contemporary global warming The Causes of Global Climate Change (PDF): “During the twentieth century, the earth’s surface warmed by about 1.4 °F. There are a variety of potential causes for global climate change, including both natural and human-induced mechanisms. Science has made great strides recently in determining which potential causes are actually responsible for the climate change that occurred during the twentieth century, providing strong evidence that greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere by human activities are the main cause of contemporary global warming.”

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Vision that changed some of us into environmentalists.

There was that photograph from one of the Apollo trips to the moon, where an astronaut turned and shot a photo of Earth rising at the moon. Thousands saw a new way at looking at our planet, large and brimming with life, off the horizon of its dead moon. But, perhaps a more significant photograph was that that Carl Saga had an unmanned probe take of Earth from much further way in our solar system, which made Earth look like a “Pale Blue Dot.”

This vision of a small, delicate planet in a bad (lots of asteroids) part of our solar system in a distant part of our galaxy, among billions of galaxies, made our planet look tiny and vulnerable. As far as we know, there’s nothing else like Earth. And, there’s nothing else like Earth at this moment in history when conditions are ripe for mankind, which given its four billion-year history, hasn’t been so hospitable.

Granted a vision is just a glimpse, not a comprehensive argument that, for example, our planet is in great environmental trouble. Nevertheless, a small vibrant planet out there all by itself amidst countless suns and dead worlds has compelled some of us to think we ought not to take chance with our environment—which is only a narrow band of all possible environments in which our species can thrive.

So anyway, you can request a transcript of this discussion with the late Dr. Sagan from Science Friday, but you can also listen to the program as a podcast from Science Friday. Or you can order the "Pale Blue Dot : A Vision of the Human Future in Space." Ballantine Books, 1997. –from Amaon.com.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

We need more Environmental Studies


One of RochesterEnvironment.com’s stated goals is “To increase independent and objective studies of our environment to find out the affect of industrial pollution, sprawl, invasive species and other assaults that would affect our environment.” –from About Rochester Environment.com. For we cannot possibly solve the question, is our species living sustainably? if we do not know what effects our human footprints are having on the planet. By footprints, I mean the effects of our industrial chemicals, the wholesale changes in our air, the paving over of our planet, etc.

Right now, most of the information we get about the condition of our environment comes from the industries that pollute. That is because most governments cannot afford to conduct emission tests and objective studies that would give us honest, objective feedback about what is actually going into our environment and what effect these chemicals are having. Though, there are hints that massive amounts of chemicals—like the pharmaceutical drugs we dump down our toilets cause endocrine changes in fish and amphibians—are wreaking havoc on various ecospheres. Of course, universities and governments and environmental groups and scientists with grants, also conduct objective studies on our environment.

But along with that, you can help with environmental studies by joining EarthWatch. “Earthwatch Institute is an international non-profit organization that brings science to life for people concerned about the Earth's future. Founded in 1971, Earthwatch supports scientific field research by offering volunteers the opportunity to join research teams around the world. This unique model is creating a systematic change in how the public views science and its role in environmental sustainability.”

I am not associated with EarthWatch in any way; I just think that this group offers an excellent opportunity for ordinary people to be a part of the job of collecting information the rest of us need to make decisions about our environment. The days when we can leave Nature alone to do what Nature does are over. Humans have affected the climate, water quality, and introduced chemicals never before experience by our environment or natural chemicals in concentrations never before experience by our species in the five or seven million years or so since we have been around. Carbon Dioxide, for example, has been in Earth’s atmosphere in higher concentrations in earlier times, maybe billions of years ago, but our species wasn’t breathing it. We need our atmosphere to be where it is today, not where it was billions of years ago.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Simple Solutions For Our Environment

Simple Solutions for our Environment:

There is a new law coming out of Canada that sounds like a simple solution to a complex problem, yet it is a profound law that (I believe) will greatly affect fish life in Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park. We should adopt this law for all our lakes in the United States and especially in New York. It may sound extreme to some (especially those who make a profit from live bait and barbed fish hooks) but we can also find a way to compensate those who will pay the price for helping to protect our waters. The ecology of our lakes—both the Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario—that surround the Rochester area is becoming more dear.

Soon, our government is going to implement a new measure to control Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia, a fish disease that has caused wide-spread damage to our area’s fish population, by inspecting live bait. [Check out: Big Prices for Small Fish New regulations force minnow costs to rise - Fishermen in New York and the rest of the Great Lakes region might want to budget a few extra dollars for bait in 2007. Minnow prices - now as low as $1 a dozen in some Central New York bait shops - are likely to increase as a result of emergency regulations issued by state and federal strictures to slow the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia, a disease implicated in recent die-offs of fish in the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and Conesus Lake. Just how much the cost of bait will go up, and when, isn't yet known. (December 15, 2006) Latest News and More From Syracuse.com ] But, we should go further to protect our lakes by adopting Canada’s new law: “The new rules prohibit the use of any organic bait - anything like worms or leeches, living or dead. The rules also prohibit the use of hooks that have barbs on them. Next year, visitors will need to use artificial lures or bait, and the hooks will have to be barbless.” From Trying to Get off the Hook -- Canadian officials introduce new rules for fishing in the waters of an Ontario wilderness.by Earthwatch Radio

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Penfield peddles bicycling survey

Democrat & Chronicle: Local News

I like the idea of a community conducting a survey on biking in their town. During some (according to your comfort zone (for some that includes winter)) portion of the year, it is possible to commute to work by bike. In these days of heightened awareness of energy (gas prices) consumptions, you cannot beat a bike for its positive effects on global warming. But, biking commuters constitute only a fraction of those on bike, for most are recreational bikers and most of them kids—at least where I live in the city of Rochester.

So, from my point of view most bikers use the sidewalk (despite a recent hike in the amount of summons handed out by the police for doing so) because it's far safer for them than riding on city streets where disdainful, cellar-phone-using car drivers don't give bikers much respect. I like the idea of widened shoulders for bikers because it is the only practical way to have vehicular traffic and bikers to ride on the same street.

Bikers should ride in the road and obey all traffic rules. That’s the law. However, they don't and they don't because competing with cars for road space is a major challenge for most. Yet, a growing menace is bikers on our sidewalks. This common use of bikes is a nuisance and a danger to pedestrians. Also, car drivers, who are not usually expecting fast-moving traffic on the sideways, have to pay special attention to sidewalk biker who ignore all traffic signals and don’t use lights at night.

I believe that wider shoulders with designated biking lanes is the only answer for biking safety in any of our towns and cities because no matter how hard the law clamps down on bikers who use the sidewalk or car drivers who don't give way to bikers, or bikers who don't obey any laws, most don't feel safe riding their bikes in traffic--with good reason. So, I applaud Penfield for taking this issue seriously and I hope that all communities carefully consider this matter. I would like to see all streets in and around all our towns and cities have wide shoulders for biking. If this were done correctly, that is, so bikers felt safe on our roadways, enough people may take to the roads to save some energy and pollution caused by vehicular traffic.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cancer alert sounded

Why we should care about what's going on with our environment. This story by the Boston Globe highlights a grave environmental problem that we, as Americans, seem incapable of addressing--that many of our irresponsible industries are and have been poisoning our environment.

The problem is that we, as a society, do not actively conduct continual studies of our environment (including cancer studies) to monitor the massive pollution that comes from industry. In most cases, because our government cannot get the monies to do so (and because we are inherently indisposed to do so) we do not find out about mass contamination until long after an outbreak of cancer or a disease occurs.

We assume, or we presume, that industry will act in a responsible fashion towards our environment—though there is little historical reason for believing this. We do so because not to do so would cause a major disruption in the way business operates. But, the fact is that for most corporations their only concern is for their shareholders to gain a profit. This means that our environment is only important as it does not cause a negative drag on its operations.

We assume that because that because we only occasionally see stories of industry pollution that it rarely occurs, but this assumption is based on a terrifically stubborn political attitude not see what we know to be true—that many industries act irresponsible towards our environment. They poison our ground, water, and air and then go bankrupt and leave. Note the thousands of brownfields and Superfund sites around the country.

Though most are indisposed to do so, we should as ourselves this question: To what extent has our environment been compromised by irresponsible industry? That question (regardless of your opinion) is unanswerable without a lot of independent studies on the matter. The bottom line: we just don’t know how many people are getting cancer or getting sick because some industries have been polluting our environment. Without a massive shift in attitude and a pro-active search to find out the true state of toxins in our environment from industry, we will not know—until events like this story in the Boston Globe occur.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Flu Pandemic and Health Coverage

The Flu Pandemic and Health Coverage - (This short essay is in reaction to this news item: ABC News: Now Sen. Clinton Battles Over Health Care COHOES, N.Y. Jan 26, 2006 — "Overhauling the nation's health care system might be the last suggestion you'd expect from Hillary Rodham Clinton, but the New York senator is talking up the issue again."

I believe that an important component in curbing a flu pandemic that few in our media are discussing is the role of our public health system will play. Senator Clinton’s program for overhauling our nation’s health care system is critical to making sure all of us have health coverage.

The media and our politicians continually talk about forced quarantines and flu vaccine, but I don’t believe either will help much in a world-wide flu pandemic, which most scientists believe is going to happen—again. A voluntary quarantine program will work better (some US cities are already planning this) and, because of the specific nature of people-to-people avian flu pandemic (where we won’t know the exact nature of the pandemic flu until it evolves to a fast-moving, people-to-people flu) a vaccine will probably do no good.

What will matter to head off a flu pandemic is a vast improvement in our nation’s health coverage, so that all are seeing a doctor. This is because a flu pandemic will spread from individual to individual very quickly and if everyone is getting health care there will be less chance of unhealthy people further spreading the flu. It’s simple: If you have large gaps in your community (as we have now) of individuals who have no health coverage, they are going to easily going to get the flu and go undetected until they’ve passed the flu along to another.

It’s so tiresome to see the media heap upon Senator Clinton the failure of her previous attempts to convince Americans to have full coverage—and somehow blame her for American’s to get it. I believe that a comprehensive, world-wide network of health coverage is the only way to stave off a flu pandemic. Putting boots on the ground (as Bush suggests) for mandatory quarantines and throwing billions of dollars for a flu vaccine that cannot possible stop the flu before it has mutated into its virulent form is just not going to work.

Making sure that everyone has health coverage so early detection and health care are possible should be an important aspect of the pandemic debate—but we don’t hear that message at all in our media, nor from our politicians.