Sunday, July 29, 2007

Climate change will hit home—it’s only a matter of how hard.

The latest in climate forecasts for our region, NEW YORK is the report "Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment" by Union of Concerned Scientists. It reemphasizes and updates predictions of massive changes for our area due to climate change. There are other reports (“Forecast For New York” by Environmental Advocates of New York) and undoubtedly there will be more, for that is the direction things are going.

Manmade Global Warming is happening. In fact, what many don’t appreciate is that climate change is going to happen even if they refuse to believe or adapt to it. Global Warming is not a belief-system or some by-product of a deranged political agenda: it’s a model of reality based on decades of continual research around the world by thousands of scientists. Global Warming is, given the inadequacy of nailing down with complete precision anything dealing with weather and climate prediction, not going to go away because people disagree about its validly or get tired of hearing about it in the news. All indications are that we have a tiger by the tail.

What this latest report about Global Warming in New York State says is that there are already profound changes going on in our climate and that if we do not make wholesale changes in our energy use things will be lot worse. This probable scenario seems to numb many into inaction, avoidance, and indifference, which are strange responses to a major catastrophe. If there were a report of large meteor hurtling towards New York State, my bet is that the public wouldn’t be turning off their TV sets or shaking their heads in despair. They’d get moving. They’d find out all they could about the meteor’s trajectory and make sure those in charge came up with a solution (which, as most scientists say, the last thing you want to do is nuke it) that would work.

What’s happening now is that a lot of people are getting it about global warming in our area, but most are not. Some even believe that we will be better off with climate change: Some realtors think property previously too Northern to enjoy will become more Southern like. We won’t have those nasty New York winters and vacation time will increase. They forget or chose to forget that our weather is far too complicated for a single prediction of our area’s warming—as this report by the Union of Concerned Scientists indicates. Yes, we may have more days at the beach, but you probably won’t want to spend much time there because the ultraviolet rays will be too intense and the prevalence and potency of diseases, like West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, and maybe even malaria may be too appalling to endure.

One of the problems with getting everyone onboard for massive climate change solutions is that it’s so easy to dismiss. It is cognitive dissonance: we casually think that Global Warming is real, but keep intact the idea that our children’s environment will be like the one we experienced. You can kill the messenger: “Al Gore and those Greenies are nuts!” You can disregard the Laws of Nature, like when George W. Bush said he wouldn’t join Kyoto Protocol after he said he would in the run-up to the 2000 election so there was no debate on this crucial subject. You can trash the character of those harping on this issue, as if finding something you didn’t like about Albert Einstein’s character would negate his equations, e.g. E=mc² is wrong because old Albert annoyed you. And quite frankly, many find climate change so dreadfully depressing they don’t want to deal with it at all. The media just won’t get off it.

Well, like it or not, it’s becoming ever more evident that in New York State we can expect these possible scenarios: temperatures rising, a migration of plants and animals north as our climate adopts a Southern visage (though, most ((especially plants)) won’t move quickly enough), droughts, change in precipitation, lowering of Great Lakes water levels, coastal flooding, sea-level rise, shore-line change, extreme heat in our cities, more diseases (like Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, and maybe malaria) and more potent cases of poison ivy, air quality loss, agriculture changes, changes in the fisheries, changes in the dairy industry, changes in spruce/fir forest of the Adirondacks, alterations in winter recreation (did you know the NYS has “more ski areas than any other state in the nation”?), and an increase in ozone pollution. These changes are going to happen even if we get off our butts. Even if we stop right now and curb manmade climate change, the consequences of our not acting long before this point in time will occur. By the way if there are tipping points (not factored in this study) like massive ice melts, and ocean currents abruptly changing, things could get much, much worse. The take home message about climate change in our area is that it is going to be bad because we have waited so long to begin doing something about it, but it’s going to get much worse if we continue to do nothing.

In saying all this, New York State and even the Northeast is not and may not experience as many of the devastating effects of global warming that other counties around the world. Some Pacific island nations are getting ready to bolt as refugees to other countries as sea rising begins to take over their lands. (Don’t we bear some responsibility for their plight?)

Sorry to be so dreadfully depressing. But, it’s a shame to watch ourselves slowly being boiled like a frog, e.g., so used to our fish being uneatable (check out “Up To the Gills” by Environmental Defense ), our waters undrinkable, our land eaten up by development, and nothing but excuses and public and political indifference for an answer. Our media periodically notes the changes our way of life has wrought on the planet, but overall presents a future unchanged from the one we rosily expect.

At this point in an essay of this type, it is conventional to offer up a glimmer of hope. The report on New York’s Climate Change above offers some. However, I, given human history, don't have much hope on doing anything but a meager effort on halting Global Warming because in order for change to occur rapidly enough to reverse course on our environment, it must happen on a massive scale--everyone has to 'Get it'. A few greenies giving up a few gas-guzzling cars are not going to do it. Moreover, in the last couple of decades in the United States there has been a great politicization of environmentalism. Industry fears a growing public revulsion towards pollution. As more and more people want to help our environment, there seems to be a stronger and stronger effort by those in power to thwart it. Environmentalist were arguing the case for Global Warming ten years ago and little was done because the media and industry successfully muddied the waters about the lack of concrete evidence, while doing everything in their power not to get that evidence.

So, that’s the real deal. Not only do you have to ‘get it’ your neighbors, your politicians, and your media have to get it also. New York’s climate is going to change; it’s only a matter of how much.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Good Example of Good Reporting on Our Environment

One of the environmental issues we have not heard much about this year highlights the importance of how the environment is portrayed in the media. There have not, to my knowledge, been any local stories about West Nile Virus, this year, but that does not mean that this new disease (actually an old disease, but newly transported here in the late 1900’s) is going to go away. In fact, climate change predictions in our area say that we could have more cases of this disease. This article ( Rise in Cases of West Nile May Portend an Epidemic - New York Times ) in yesterday’s New York Times states that we even might be on the verge of an epidemic of this disease.

The point about the media is that, as the New York Times is doing, this issue should be brought to the forefront of our attention each summer at about this time because, whether there are present cases or not, the possibility that West Nile Virus will spring up again this year or any year at this time is good. I have a lot of information about this disease in our area on this page West Nile Virus,.

But, while I’m speaking about the New York Times, I want to commend them for archiving West Nile Virus free (most of their online articles are not) on this page West Nile Virus - Health News - The New York Times. My hope is that all the media in our area will take the New York Time’s lead in using their powerful influence as a major print media in our country to bring this issue up at an appropriate time and keep all information available free and open to the public.

Yearly attention about an issue like West Nile Virus that may not be what we want to read about, as there are certainly more compelling things going on in the news, but this Environmental Issues we should pay attention to whether we like it or not. There are many non-toxic, behavioral precautions we can take during the latter part of each summer, and like fire drills at home and in the office, we should review at this time these precautions—instead of our usual behavioral towards environmental problems, ignoring them until they’re overwhelming.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Is our new Notification Law quietly disappearing?

Monroe County has opted in on New York State’s “48 Hour Neighborhood Notification Law” which demands that neighbor spraying pesticides for their lawn to at least notify their neighbors of this fact 48 hours before spraying. It took years to pass this law, fought for years by environmental and health groups in Monroe County, brought up several times in the local media about the lawn care industry’s half-hearted attempts at compliance, and now the entire law on Notification has been reduced on the Monroe County web site to this single sentence: “The Monroe County Pesticide Neighbor Notification Law became effective January 1, 2006. It requires various groups applying pesticides to provide certain types of notification to neighbors.”

So, if you want to know about this law, what pesticides are covered and how to comply and what your rights are, you’re going to have to surf over to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) site: The Neighbor Notification Law, Rule and Regulation. Or you can get the complete story about passing this law in our county and all information links about the law on’s “48 Hour Neighborhood Notification Law.”

I’m wondering why, after so many years to get this law passed and so much press about this issue that it has almost disappeared from sight. It cannot be because it has been proven that the spraying of pesticides is no longer a health threat to pets, children, birds, and those with compromised immune systems, because as the article (below) reveals, many experts, including the DEC believes that some pesticides and some herbicides are dangerous. So, what gives?

Read on: Perfect lawns, environmental hazard - "The shimmering green of the finely groomed Long Island lawn may trigger an owner's pride and neighborhood envy, but it also could pose a serious health risk. Many of the 30 most commonly used backyard pesticides, which have been beautifying lawns and killing pests since the 1950s, have been linked to cancer, birth defects and other problems such as asthma and diabetes, according to Beyond Pesticides, an environmental advocacy group in Washington, D.C. The risk of pesticide exposure is particularly high on Long Island. Nassau and Suffolk counties used more than 10 million pounds of commercial pesticides in 2004, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation." (July 15, 07) --from

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Misinformation, the Threat:

We should all be very concerned about how our government is dealing with our environmental problems. If we, who have our busy lives to contend with, cannot trust our government or our media to give us the best, most comprehensive, and objective view of our environmental reality, we are in deep trouble. Environmental problems due to our way of life is disrupting enough—given a human population of six billion all wanting lots of land and lots of manmade stuff—without our government trying to shape a view of a reality that does not exits.

Our environment is not a political basketball. It is that relatively small range of all possible environments that we need to live in, and an environment that plays by the laws of physics and biology—whether we know them, understand them, or agree with them. So, this (see below: "Inappropriate Influence") story about the possible fudging of information we need to know about the decline of endanger species if very troubling.

What are you going to do? Take action. Start informing yourself on what is going on in your environment and how it works. Begin keeping yourself continually informed on this extraordinary period in our environmental history by using many sources of media. Here’s a great way to start, for all Rochester-area environment News go here: and for all the rest go here: Global Environmental Resources - E_News

Read: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Acknowledges "Inappropriate Influence" In Decision-Making; Actions Insufficient to Restore Scientific Integrity to Policy Making WASHINGTON (July 20, 2007) – Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it would review a small number of the Endangered Species Act decisions in which disgraced former Interior Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald had participated, acknowledging for the first time that MacDonald had "inappropriate influence" over endangered species science. --( July 20, 07) Union of Concerned Scientists

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bike and Chat:

As always, I’m looking out into the Internet for great environmental sites from individuals and organizations bent on helping our area’s environment. Here’s a fantastic environmental blog that help cyclists (potential cycle commuters) share their experiences and information for making Rochester, NY a more friendly place for bicyclers. Make sure you join this blog and bring up issues and solution for making it easier and safer to bike around Rochester. "I started to chronicle my adventures as a cyclist and bike commuter in Rochester, NY, a mid-sized city on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. My idea was to write about the rides, the idiots, the joys, the brushes with death, and the daily challenge that is being a bicycle rider. After just a few days, though, I started to see more potential for the site. Now I’m interested in making it a gathering place for bike advocacy and shared experience here in the Flower City. can be an online zocalo (town square) for cycling and bike activism in Rochester, from Critical Mass to citywide bike tours to the everyday experiences of cyclists just like me."

Recycling & Landfills

The link between recycling and landfills is neatly made in this article by City Newspaper and (because like many of our local media) you can chime in at the end of the article. I encourage you to give feedback on this important issue because we need a major change in the way we all view the problem of waste. There are some neat solutions already being made by private businesses and our governments, but until most of us begin recycling and most of what we now throw into the garbage does not reach the ground, our way of life will not be sustainable.

There are many ways we can improve our footprints on this planet and many are associated with the problem of human generated waste. We could be recycling almost all our plastic products, if we found markets for them all. We could have more containers depositable, if the Bigger Better Bottle Bill passed the NYS Senate, we could get more Rochestarians to recycling if there was a continual update of this issue in our media, and much more… ENVIRONMENT: Recycling has grown, but landfills are king - News & Opinion - Rochester City Newspaper The way society thinks about waste has changed dramatically. Highly-engineered landfills have replaced the old municipal dumps. Recycling has gone mainstream, and schools, environmental groups, and governments promote it along with reuse and waste reduction. But landfills are king, and there are two in Monroe County: High Acres in Perinton and Mill Seat in Riga, both operated by Waste Management Inc. (Monroe County owns Mill Seat but contracts with Waste Management for its operation.) (July 17, 07) Rochester City Newspaper

Monday, July 16, 2007

Do Coyotes Kill Adult Deer?

Lots of stories lately about coyotes and bears. Check out news in my Animals Page. Lots of apocryphal info too. Everyone seems to admit that there are no experts on Eastern coyotes and how they act in our area.

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation DEC has put out information on the coyote and some prudent measures when encountering them. Check out the DEC’s “Coyote-Furbearer Profile".

One issue that continually crops up on local coyotes facts is that coyotes can and do kill adult deer. This is a critical question because, if true, it becomes the reason why deer hunters feel justified and obligated to specifically target coyotes. Hunters don’t want competitors for deer during hunting season; though I don’t believe there is any shortage of deer in this area.

Anyway, I have listened to a talk from someone who does not call herself a coyote expert, but deals with them a lot as an animal control officer and she says that coyotes do not kill adult deer. They might kill fawns and sickly deer, but because they are too small (forty or fifty pounds) and coyotes do not (like wolves) hunt in packs they are not capable of pulling down a health adult deer.

Besides apocryphal tales, has any group conducted a comprehensive study on the habits of the Eastern coyotes in our area? I don’t think so. What evidence is there that a single coyotes brought down a healthy adult deer? Until an objective study is done, I suggest that we have a state study done and find out exactly what affect coyotes are having on our local environment and what safety hazard they present.

Besides the demonization going on in the press, it may well be that the coyote is having a beneficial effect on controlling some animals (like foxes) and (as top predators do) keep certain populations of sickly pests in check.

Lake Ontario Fish Safe to Eat?

On eating fish from the Great Lakes: From Canada, there increasing concern that the sport fish in the Great Lakes may be uneatable in the near future from manmade toxins. Read the report "Up To the Gills" -- "The report examines pollution in Great Lakes fish" by Environmental Defence - Defense Environment

Friday, July 13, 2007

News You Need:

Are you getting all the news you need? That is all the news you need to make informed decisions about our environment—which keeps us alive. If you have a device that will play podcasts, I recommend that you get your environmental news as you work, workout, sit and relax, or whatever. The world of media is changing and some of the best ways of keeping informed are not TV, radio, newspaper, but the Internet and Internet devices. My list of environmental podcasts.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A great organization with great goals.

In my endless search for people getting together online to solve local environmental problems, here’s a great site that seeks to redress the urban forest devastation wreaked by a free storm in Buffalo, last fall. I remember racing over there to help my mother-in-law and bringing her back to Rochester until her power came back on.

The tree damage in Buffalo was catastrophic and it got cleaned up quickly. But, as with any urban area that has this sort of catastrophe, trees need to be replaced because they are a major part of any urban area’s environment—read here about the ‘benefit of trees”. Maybe we can help out Buffalo, by visiting this site, or maybe someone in Rochester can form an online group like this one and help populate our city with more and more trees. "Re-Tree WNY was established on November 3, 2006 by a group of about 40 Western New York residents who saw first-hand the devastation done to our beautiful Western New York living resource -- our trees -- and decided to take action to re-forest every public area that was destroyed by the freak October 12-13 snowstorm. Included on our committee is an eclectic group of professionals who have a passion for Greater Buffalo and a background for being "doers" in our committee. We have government leaders, media personalities, attorneys, park personnel, community activists, volunteer organizations, sales executives, promotional people, media people, retirees, and retail managers in our group."

Ozone pollution in Rochester, NY

Ozone pollution is a major problem with Rochester’s Air Quality. “On June 20, 2007, EPA proposed to strengthen the national ambient air quality standards for ground-level ozone, the primary component of smog. The proposed revisions reflect new scientific evidence about ozone and its effects on people and public welfare. “ –from Fact Sheet Ground-level Ozone US EPA Find out what Ozone is and what can be done at: Ground-level Ozone US EPA --from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Get the Environment involved in the next election.

Here’s an interesting idea about how the public can change how the media and politician frame the issues that concern us most—like our environment. Check out: Pre-elections forum planned on community issues — An open forum for city and suburban residents to discuss issues important to the region will be conducted at 6:30 p.m. July 25 at the Monroe Community College Damon City campus. (July 12, 2007) Democrat & Chronicle

Monday, July 02, 2007

June 07 RENewsletter

Highlights of the June 2007 RENewsletter:

* Opening salvo: You may have noticed that there were no news entries for the last week. I attended a week at Chautauqua Institution <>, where the theme was “The Media and News: Applied Ethics.” It was a very informative series of lectures by pivotal people in the media and ethics concerning our news sources, environmental issues, and the media itself. A theme that continued throughout the week was that the news media is undergoing a massive change and a big part of that change is the role of the Internet. How the Internet changes how we get our news and participate as citizens, whether we like it or not, is going to rule—and probably already is. Speaking of participation, the move on many online news sites to provide discussion areas at the end of particular news stories is a great leap forward in the dialogue between citizen and media. Even the historic ‘letters to the editor’ cannot compare to this new feature on online media sources for immediate, unfiltered feedback on specific articles—though you cannot usually respond in this way to every article. Also, I’ll be speaking on WXXI’s “1370 Connection” with Bud Lowell, Friday, July 13, at 1 PM -2 PM, <> on an ‘overview of feelings about wind development in the region.’ Though, far from an expert on this subject, I’d like to see more communities consider global warming when considering wind power in their region.

* Hottest issue this month of June 2007: My votes this month for the hottest environmental issues for this area are the brownfields, energy, and the Hemlock/Canadice/Reservoir issues. The Democrat and Chronicle just finished up a serious of excellent articles on known and unknown dump sites in our area. They summarize a month of contamination issues in Victor of some other locations. These issues include cancer fears, well contaminations, and the loss of property value. All together these stories highlight what I believe can happen if we don’t adopt a more realistic program for early detection and the thorough cleaning up contaminated sites, instead of the state we are now in, which is ‘don’t mention them until they’re in your face.’ Though, by the time they are in your face disrupting your life, they’re a colossal nuisance, instead of a small one. There is a story about Rochester receiving a US grant for brownfields and a couple of articles about Senator Schumer’s recent visit and his demand more Federal and state action. On energy, we find that New York State farmers like the new US Senate energy bill, which just got passed, but differs from the US House bill. In Albany, our legislature cannot figure out what to do with ‘sitting’ power plants, and in many of our surrounding communities wind power is either favored for lowering energy costs or feared because of complications of this technology. In Buffalo (actually the old Bethlehem Steel plant site in Lackawanna), they love their giant blades twisting in the wind, because even though the project is not a money-maker yet, the wind turbines are attracting a lot of interest in the area. Go figure. Who knew that not only do some communities actually like the look of renewable energy sources on their horizon, visitors do and take another look at a community that is moving into the future instead of languishing in the past. There are also other articles this month on energy including fuel cells and ethanol and several measures by Monroe County that I mention below. Finally, the Hemlock/Canadice Lake issue has morphed into a water/wetlands/reservoir issue. The city of Rochester, under a federal mandate, must update its water reservoirs to comply with stricter rules and that affects the city’s decision on how it will deal with its ownership of part of our water supply from Hemlock and Canadice Lakes (which the city owns) and that will affect the pristine watershed area around these lakes. It’s complicated and important. Your attention is required because it all relates to you and your children’s water and environmental future.

* Other Hot Environmental issues this month: There many other hot environmental articles this month in our area’s online media and I’ll mention a few. The Great Lakes, which rule our area’s environment, is under constant threat from many sides. These issues were underscored in a recent conference at Penn State University. Issues include invasive species, global warming, and VHS, which I have been listing for several months now. VHS, or Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia, is spreading rapidly and according to (June 19) “The virus has been confirmed in Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Erie, the Niagara River and Conesus Lake.” In order to slow the spread of this disease, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has posted new regulations. Also, on air quality the DEC ups the ante on air quality measurements. We’ve had a single ozone alert, but the ozone issue is one of those long-term environmental concerns that we should be working on and not waiting it to get to the point that the media splashes it on headlines: “State issues ozone warning” -- (June 26, 07) Messenger Post Newspapers. The Bee Colony Collapse Syndrome is back in the news as we still don’t know the exact cause of this environmental and economic threat. According to one article, farmers, without conclusive answers from objective studies on this bee disease must guess at the cause—the latest being a possible new pathogen or certain pesticides. This underlines the flipside of our government not marshalling large studies when issues like VHS and the Bee Colony Collapse Syndrome occur: the public and industry must make their best guess on what to do. It may not be pretty. Mayors of US cities are taking environmentalism into their own hands. Our own town of Brighton included, which is taking charge of their energy and public information. This is a community policy that I can heartily endorse. On lead poisoning, there is a story alleging that Monroe County, and many others, do not properly screened for lead poisoning. This is especially troubling because Monroe County and Rochester have taken the lead in trying to curb this disturbing problem. There’s also the issue of limiting the amount of lead in children’s jewelry.

* On the Positive Note: Because environmentalists are continually viewed as doomsayers, I’m going to make a better effort to mention positive stories each month. The Positive is always there: Without being political, for that is not’s purview, I’m impressed by the number of environmental stories coming out of the Monroe County Executive’s office. Here’s a list of items listed this month in online articles: methane gas use from a landfill, green buildings (though the articles I read did not explain what ‘green buildings are), recycling computer events, and hybrid buses. I’d like to see more promotion of recycling programs and the recycling of more types of plastics–presently we only take two. The first will take more money and the second more markets—for it doesn’t do any good for our county to take all plastics if there are not markets for them. I’d also like to see landfills eventually go away completely and recycle those products (some toxic) leaching away in the ground for years and years. In the meantime, it is a good thing that our county is recovering one of the most effective greenhouse gases (methane) and giving us another energy source.

* The silent stories [important stories we didn't hear much about]: West Nile Virus (WNV) showed up in a single article in other NYS other counties, probably because we’ve had no incidences this season. Yet, the NYS Health Department met with the press about WNV. Least we get too complaisant, I suggest that viewers review the simple preventative rules I have listed on my West Nile Virus Page: <>.

* On-Going Concerns: Birds are in decline, according to an Audubon report. The reasons are complicated. One story emphasizes that some birds in New York State specifically have seen sharp drops. For those who love birds this is very unsettling and for those who don’t, they should. Think of birds as very sensitive (small, high metabolism rate, ever-present) indicators of our environmental health. If birds are dying off at a high rate, we may be shortly after them. Coyotes & Bears: Sightings of these creatures are increasing, but they are approached different in the press and by the public. Bears get respect and coyotes do not. Both are now our top predators making their way back to our area and we have to decide how we address potentially dangerous competitors to our top-dog status. How we best tackle increased meeting between our species and theirs may be best served by being aware of their presents and knowing what to do.

* Environmental Actions you can take for our area: Sorry about the short notice, but for this you’ll have to act immediately. Act on irradiated food labeling: Tell the Food and Drug Administration what you think of Irradiated food labeling. Remember, this item is not about the science and safety of irradiating food, it is about whether or not you should know if you are eating food that is irradiated. You only have until July 3rd. The whole issue is summarized by Living On Earth and links for you to submit your comment. This issue about how your food is labeled is critical. “…proposed labeling changes for irradiated food during a public comment period that ends on July 3.” --from Living on Earth: "The Right to Know: Irradiated Food Labels "(look on the bottom of the page for links on how to comment online.

* Environmental events going on this month: As summer begins, environmentalists seem to take a rest too and there are not so many events as there are in the winter months. But, come autumn, environmental groups will ramp up and continue their efforts to inform and engage their neighbors on local environmental matters. In the meantime, there are some events, and some that run throughout the summer. Be sure to check out individual environmental groups and check their calendars <> because’s calendar does not catch everything—though I sure do try.

* Rochester-area Environmental Site of the Month: Here’s a great new site by a community that has gathered together to observe and protect an area in their own backyard. This kind of site shows how the Internet shines and empowers people to take charge of their own environment. Environmentalists: Friends of Irondequoit Bay “is a non-profit, member based environmental organization whose mission is to help preserve and protect the delicate ecological integrity of Irondequoit Bay wetlands through preservation, education and advocacy.”