Sunday, September 30, 2007

Now, there’s moose

Lately, I’ve noticed in the Rochester-area environmental news that there are increasingly more stories about sightings of coyotes, bears, mountain lions, and now moose. What is one to make of these alleged come-backs—animals previously lost to us, now inching their way back into our environment? Could it be the enthusiasm of the editorial staff of our newspapers short on things to titillate the public with, or have there really been actual sighting of these animals?

I know people have seen coyotes, some have seen bears, it’s really sketchy as to whether anyone has seen a mountain lion in these parts, and moose—I doubt it. But, that just my opinion. What I find interesting most, though, is the impressions each of these animals and their anticipated returns bring with them. Few care about having the coyote around because there is so much misinformation about them and few think they do any good.

Some like the idea of bears being back, but most have no desire to see one except through closed car windows. Almost no one wants mountain lions around because of the fear factor. But, I suspect everyone except speeders on our winding country roads are for moose coming back to our area. Except for dangerous car collisions with these humongous beasts, what’s not to like in these majestic beasts making a come back?

Overall though, we should be wondering what is causing these animals to return (though actually the Eastern Coyote is not really returning, but making its way East because there are no wolf populations existing here) to our area. Why were they all killed? Why are they coming back? What role did they play in our environment? What role would they play in our environment if anyone of these creatures made a significant come back?

These top predators and plant eaters play a significant role in areas where man has not taken over, but do they still have a place in our local Rochester-area environment today—with all our houses and roads and factories and lawns and, you know, man’s ubiquitous footprint. These are questions for scientists and though our opinions will ultimately decide whether or not these creatures are allowed to stay, it would be interesting if our colleges and/or governmental bodies actually went out and did a complete study on each of these animals and how each has and will help frame our environment.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

“America’s Report Card on the Environment”

"According to the first annual installment of a new national survey, majorities of Americans are pessimistic about the state of the natural environment and want a lot to be done to improve its health. "

As this study shows, most American care deeply about the condition of our environment and they are unhappy the way our public officials are handling environmental issues. And, most Americans believe that our environmental problems are severe.

So, why is there such a massive disconnect between a widespread public desire to create a sustainable environment and wholesale disinclination for corporations and our public officials to begin work on the greatest threat to our existence—an unsustainable future? Could it be corporate greed, misinformation by a corporate lead media, politicians elected by constituents who want a safe environment, but instead get ideologues more interested in preserving their own parties?

There a probably countless answers why people say that want a sustainable environment and why they are not getting one, but there is only one answer to the problem: Nature wins.

Environmental Research Foundation - Rachel's Weekly

Environmental Research Foundation - Rachel's Weekly


"Big Coal is in deep trouble and wants Congress to provide a massivefederal bailout. Since the beginning of 2006 at least two dozen newcoal-fired electric power plants have been canceled, most forenvironmental reasons. As of May there were only 132 coal plantsscheduled for construction nationwide, down from 137 in 2006, andeven this number will likely dwindle. A small but effective citizens'movement has managed to box in Big Coal.

Last week Alan Greenspan, the nation's financial elder statesman,acknowledged that the Iraq war "is largely about oil." Big Coal is hoping instability in the Middle East will spook Congress into a $10billion subsidy for 10 or more coal-to-liquid (CTL) plants, to makediesel fuel from coal instead of from oil. Coal-to-liquid (CTL) is BigCoal's best hope for remaining viable, but the chances of successgrow dimmer each passing day."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

wxxi NewsRoom

Senator Schumer Wants Guarantee to Rebuild Russel Power Plant ROCHESTER, NY Senator Charles Schumer says the sale of Rochester Gas and Electric to a Spanish company shouldn't go forward -- until the company agrees to convert R-G-and-E's Russell Station to the latest natural gas burning technology. (2007-09-24) WXXI NewsRoom

This story about our senior NYS senator holding RG&E and the future of the Russell Power Plant to the iron on promising no coal and environmentally clean energy is, I argue, one of the most important environmental stories coming out of Rochester this year.

All the talk about global warming and wind farms and what individuals are doing for conserving energy in our area won’t mean much if our main energy source falls back on coal. We get a lot of our energy from the Russell Power Plant--15% to 20% of our energy comes from this source.

If the public and the media ignore this issue and allow (for economic reasons, i.e. only caring about lower energy bills) to shape our energy future instead of sound environmental reasons, we shall be directly responsible for pollution to continue from this power plant.

I suggest that the public write letters to the editors of their favorite local media and their public officials and help ensure that Russell Power Plant become an environmentally friendly source of energy for our area. News Sources are here; Your elected officials are here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


WiserEarth: "serves the people who are transforming the world. It is a community directory and networking forum that maps and connects non-governmental organizations and individuals addressing the central issues of our day: climate change, poverty, the environment, peace, water, hunger, social justice, conservation, human rights and more. Content is created and edited by people like you."

This place must be wise: It lists

Sierra Club slams Environment Canada budget cuts

Sierra Club slams Environment Canada budget cuts

This story represents something very profound: our governments (that is, around the world) really do not get it on our environment. There is absolutely no way we can address environmental problems if we slash governmental programs that produce objective environmental studies. Without scientific knowledge of what is going on, we are flying blind.

People will say that when governmental budgets are tight, something has to go. And, environmental studies, programs, monies for staffing environmental regulatory departments are the first. So, what can one make of this? If national security were in jeopardy, there would be no money spared (and rightly so) to alleviate the problem.

Well, what’s more dire, of critical national security, than protecting our environment? Governments around the world continually slashing funds meant for fulfilling their responsibilities—protecting their people and all people—are reneging on their oaths.

Today, Canada cuts back on environmental funding; tomorrow it will be another country. And people will say that the tide has turned on wholesale understanding of our environmental crises, including Global Warming. But I don’t buy it. This story out of Canada proves my point.

Urban Sprawl

Thought for the day: When you see a large open space image like this one above, do you experience (like our forefathers) an irresistible urge to make use (a soccer field, a baseball field, a housing track, a large new home or many new homes, etc.) of this “wasted land?”

If you do, please seek therapy. This land is not being wasted; it’s doing its job. It’s keeping us alive, doing what Nature does.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Buffalo News: Home: Making a living by making a difference

The Buffalo News: Home: Making a living by making a difference

Wouldn’t it be great to go to work and not have to leave your conscience at home?

DEC Using More Stringent Measurement for Air Quality Forecasts - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

DEC Using More Stringent Measurement for Air Quality Forecasts - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation | Wanted: information on Cougar, Mt. Lion, Puma "Wanted: Information on cougar, mountain lion, puma, black panther sightings. If you have seen any large tawny, brown, grey, mahogany or black cat, Please contact John Lutz, 24 HR Hotline @ 304-749-7778 or E-Mail: Please note our new email, write: HC 30 Box 2233 Maysville, WV 26833"

I’d thought I’d pass this site along because there has been some interest in spotting pumas in our area. When you think about it, not many of us would want to encounter a puma (mainly because we wouldn’t know how to act), but there has to be something said for wiping out such an important top predator species like the Mountain Lion. What effect has this (probable) extinction had our local environment?

The Red List is Out – Again

What is the Red List? “…the world’s most authoritative assessment of the Earth’s plants and animals, acts as a wake up call on the global extinction crisis.”

How long has this list been issued and how often does it come out? “Major analyses of the IUCN Red List are produced every four years. These were produced in 1996, 2000 and 2004.”

What is the World Conservation Union (IUCN)? “Created in 1948, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) brings together 84 States, 108 government agencies, 800 plus NGOs, and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 147 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. The Union’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.”

Why should you care about this list? You are being slowly boiled like a frog in a pot. You (as Jared Diamond explains in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed) are like the inhabitants of Easter Island that was once covered with trees chopping down the last tree. Mr. Diamond’s point was that the destruction of the trees on Easter Island by man occurred so slowly that each preceding generation continued chopping down trees for their way of life, without the overall knowledge that over time trees were getting dearer. They couldn’t see the catastrophe looming because like a frog being slowly boiled in a pot it was happening so slowly that they didn’t notice until it was too late.

What is the meaning of the Red List? The Red List is another is a series of such lists and increasing amount of separate reports (Vital Signs 2007 - 2008 Worldwatch Institute - Forecast For New York by Environmental Advocates of New York & "Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment" by Union of Concerned Scientists and "Up To the Gills" which reports on the crisis of Great Lakes fish by Environmental Defence ) that tend to collaborate the case that we are living in Extraordinary Times. That there as signs that our environment is collapsing. That “We Don’ Get It!

What’s the point? OK. We’re not as dumb as frogs. If we were thrown into a pot of water and someone (probably Hollywood evil and all that) slowly turned up the heat so that the water eventually boiled, we would have the sense to get out before things got too hot. And, like the peoples who inhabited Easter Island long ago, we have a sense of history and can measure the amount of trees we used to have as opposed to more recent times when the trees got fewer. At some point, we’d either change our way of living; get off the island, or start saving trees. Having said that, our present generation collectively seems incapable for reasons of denial, dismissal, or downright indifference to understand that there are substantial disturbances caused by mankind’s actions to the very environment he needs to survive. No amount of environmental reports around the world on the incredible state of our troubling environment is changing most of our behavior.

So, what do we do? Well, I’m not sure. Governments, industry, authors, cities, and ordinary citizens are scrambling to find out this question. But, I suspect that if you were walking down a jungle path and a lion jumped out in front of you (actually a lion would probably be found on a savanna), your response wouldn’t be to throw up your hands and give up. I suspect you’d get moving. According to the implied laws of evolution, if a species had been incapable of addressing life-threatening issues, like humans taking evasive action when encountering dangerous predators, they would not carry on genes to the next generation. So, I guess the first thing to do in these Extraordinary Times is to understand the dramatic changes that our environment has undergone in the last couple of centuries and that sometime does need to be done. That would mean that the way we keep informed of such things as the conditions of our surroundings should be the focus of our media. Our media needs to understand the concept of Objectivity when framing environmental matters that could jeopardize our way of life. That would require knowledge of science and that the media, and all the people in the media, are in the environment, not outside it. For example, if a power industry is planning on creating a very polluting form of energy in a community under the jurisdiction of a particular media, this is just not a business fun fact—it is worthy of tough investigation by media to make sure that industry will not aversely affect the immediate environment. And, that goes against the traditional sense of ‘objectivity” for the media. On the environment, the media cannot stand aside and report as if they too won’t go down the drain from bad environmental acts.

What’s the ultimate answer? I think it’s kinda like what Benjamin Franklin said, “We must hang together, gentlemen...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.” In other words, We’d better work together for common solutions for environmental sustainability because Planet Earth is one system and bad (or no) plans to deal with the present environmental disasters will gravely affect us all. Focusing on the latest quirks in the lives of O. J. Simpson and Paris Hilton won’t give you the information you need about your life support system.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Harder and harder to ignore

There seems to be more reports about environmental degradation lately than you can shake a stick at: Are the Greenies on the rise, chicken-littling the climate change debate to death? I don’t think so. All that’s going on, that is, what’s indicated in this report is that conditions that affect human existence are going to be dramatically affected by manmade footprints. It’s time for the naysayer’s to climb out of their denial box and take a hard cold look at the plethora of facts and reports about the changes that our species have made on this planet. The answer is not to get overwhelmed and depressed, but to acknowledge that unprecedented change is going to occur and become part of the solution.

There is hope, some have looked ahead: One of the theories as to the popularity of science fiction is that in this vein of literature we can imagine future scenarios and virtually ‘move around’ in them to examine the repercussions of such a world. Science fiction writers have imagined all sorts of worlds, one of their favorite being our planet invaded by an alien race, one where all humans have to put away their differences and focus on the threat to us all. This is the message of the changes that are coming: We must stop acting the way we have and treat the changes coming to our planet as if an alien race were attacking us all. Which is sort of what is happening. If we don’t sort out our political and economic differences and focus on the common threat that Climate Change and other changes described in this latest report describe, then how to we solve them?

Most of the pundits on most of the mass media believe that the political concerns in the Washington beltway, or Iraq, or Iran, or North Korea, or sexual behavior of this or that senator, or the vagaries of the stock market, should preoccupy our minds. But, it isn’t so. While we squabble about our usual human transgressions a much larger problem about our ability to sustain our way of life is looming. We’d better find a way to better sort out our priorities or we will be battling the usual suspects while we all fall together.

Vital Signs 2007 - 2008 Worldwatch Institute "This report tracks and analyzes 44 trends that are shaping our future, and includes graphs and charts to provide a visual comparison over time. Categories of trends include: Food, Agricultural Resources, Energy and Climate, Global Economy, Resource Economics, Environment, Conflict and Peace, Communications and Transportation, Population and Society, and Health and Disease." --from Worldwatch Institute

Friday, September 14, 2007

Getting the word out

One of the things that the Internet does best for environmental matters is give a complete voice to those with an environmental cause. This is important because many groups trying to preserve their environment cannot do so without getting other behind their efforts. Everyone in this vein should have the right to make their case to the public—and that’s what the Internet offers.

Check out this new group: The Preserve Scenic Perinton Alliance, Inc (PSPA) is a grass roots organization formed on May 21, 2007 by dozens of homeowners in Perinton, New York. The PSPA was created as a response to very-recent discoveries by average citizens of a proposed Phase III and Vertical expansion of the High Acres Landfill in eastern Perinton. Town approval is pending, but its leadership is actively endorsing the landfill's expansion.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Weighing Renewable Energy Options

I wonder how we can resolve the conundrum that while renewable energy can help resolve the world-wide accumulation of manmade global warming gases, few want wind farms near them. Most people like the idea of windmills added to our power grid, providing us with a non-polluting energy source--until it threatens their area. So, how can it happen? I don't remember anyone having a choice about a hydro-electric dam stopping up their river or a coal-burning power plant, which pollutes the air with particulates, too much carbon dioxide, and mercury. I don't remember community groups getting up in arms about a far more insidious form of energy--nuclear power.

But, it seems every time a community is faced with having a windmill farm near them, they get up in arms about how it will change the aesthetics of their landscape, or the blades falling off, or ice coming off, bird and bats kills, or the flicker effect, or the noise, or something. This is strange because residents near nuclear or coal-burning power plants have, in all probability, far graver health and environmental problems than those who live near a windmill. Moreover, in our area we presently get 25% of our energy from Russell Station (rated as one of the dirtiest coal-burning plants in the country), which means that those who are fighting against wind power in their area are probably doing so while enjoying energy supplied by a very polluting energy source.

In my opinion, I think we are condemned to hitch our future on the horrific nature of oil (war and pollution) and nuclear energy (in which the problems at Yucca Mountain highlight just how impossible it is going to be to deal with spent fuel rods) unless we find a solution to creating wind farms, which are the only quick, viable energy alternatives to our tremendous increase in energy needs. There are other forms of renewable energy sources --solar, geothermic, etc.—and conservation plans, but none can at this time complete with dirty oil and gas.

What concerns me too is that the argument that our country (we burn 25% of the oil in the world for energy) needs to find energy alternatives is not being heard in small, rural communities. It seems to me that if given a choice communities will always choose not to have large windmill near them. What about the argument that rural New Yorkers have a significant resource here (lots of wind) which means that we have an opportunity to give something back to the country and to the planet--even if it means compromising some of our previously pristine views of what constitutes our environment?

Part of the problem is that the complete ledger of what is involved in the energy problem has not been accurately described in our media. Editors and reporters in our major media, who determine just what objective environmental reporting is, seem to be incapable of adequately weighing environmental problems, especially the arguments for and against windmills. In short, the arguments about birds, bats, and the flicker effect from windmills pale against a planet warming up. If we don’t get this profound discrepancy, we’re cooked. For example, Russell Station is gearing up for a major change and burning coal again (albeit cleaner ((but how clean?)) is not off the table. Where’s local media attention? Where’s public concern?

If we do not use wind farms, which are the only viable large-scale renewable energy sources at this date, we will be forced to continue to use out-dated coal-powered plants and dangerous nuclear plants for electricity. That means extensive air pollution, global warming gases, and mercury contamination--which is why we cannot eat fish in any quantity in the Eastern United States. Nuclear power is too dangerous and the waste issue cannot be addressed rationally. And the problem of creating a single site for spent nuclear waste does not even address the serious problem of transporting that waste across our roads and through our cities that nobody even talks about.

Remember, environmental issues are totally different that any other issue. As Carl Sagan said, "If you cannot drink the water, or breathe the air, anything else you want to do is not going to happen." At this point in time, only wind farms can quickly reduce our dependence on dangerous and polluting, and greenhouse-gas-producing energy sources. Conservation is an important component of our future energy equation, but proportionally very few are interested in doing with less energy. Most just aren’t going to do it. And, if everyone is dead set against having a windmill near their homes, how will we solve our energy problems?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Where Are You Getting Your news?

Get important news about updates to Russell Station and events from the newsletter of the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club.

In fact there a lots of environmental groups in the Rochester, New York area that publish their own newsletters, which adds to and supplements the major media information—who often only report on our environment when there’s not much else going on, or when something major hits (like a contamination outbreak, which is too late to do anything about it.

Because the major media does not keep us on top of all the local environmental news that we need to know in order to keep our environment sustainable, there are many ways nowadays to keep informed.

Some say that the Media is the Forth estate. But, things are changing. The Internet, as part of the media, and now dominating the way the young people get their news makes it very easy for the viewer to cherry-pick the news in a way that was not possible before. This has good and bad repercussions.

Yet, like it or not, it's the way things are moving and the media themselves are getting very nervous about it. They won't have the control that they used to with owning the few media sources.

The new technology and innumerable ways in which people can get their news now is both a boon and a problem for the environmental movement.

On the positive side, using podcasts, feeds, websites, blogs, etc. allow environmentalists to frame the issues. When we comment on articles in the news, we have a voice in the way the public interprets the message, instead of the corporate media, which is not objective, telling people how to think.

On the other hand, having so many choices, the young people will probably not choose environmental sources--or for that matter important news sources like local news. That is going to be the biggest challenge to the environmentalists: to be on the vanguard of all these information sources so that the young people will come to us for environmental news, when they are ready to listen to environmental news.

How that is going to happen, I'm not sure. This new movie, the 11th Hour, starting at the Little Theatre Sept. 21 will help a lot.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I’m Going to Be Rich!

(after reading The Canadian Press: APEC leaders agree to broad 'aspirational goal' on climate change SYDNEY, Australia (CP) — Leaders of some of the world's fastest-growing economies are on track toward a "sensible" international agreement to curb climate change, Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced Saturday.")

I’ve decided that I want to be rich and so I’m embarking on a broad 'aspirational goal' of being a millionaire. The great thing about this approach for getting lots of money is that I don’t really have to do anything--noting concrete, no goal setting, nothing really at all. I just have to dream about the prospect that lots of money will fall into my hands by magic or serendipity (I just like that word.). I kinda just have to aspire towards it, a sort of mental leaning and poof! just like that tons of money will fall into my hands. Those poor idiots who slaved and worked for economic wealth, they didn't know how easy it really is.

I don’t know why the rest of the world doesn’t wake up to this fanatic way of goal setting. Just think how many problems in the world could be solved, if we all just aspired, without any specific concrete actions, to achieve our goals. Nobody would have to do anything say, to curb poverty, or diseases, or making this planet a better place to live.

But, the really great thing about this strategy to becoming a millionaire is that I won’t offend anyone. For those who think my spending the rest of my life rapaciously grabbing for great wealth is a bad thing, I can prove that I’m not really doing anything about it because I’m just making it a broad aspirational goal of it.

For those who think that you’re not really ‘anybody’ unless you have lots of bucks, I can show them I have a very specific plan for becoming like them. Everyone’s happy: my critics, my friends, and me. Except…, I wonder what the odds of my making a cent? But really, it must be a great strategy because look: The brilliant leaders of the world have just decided on this approach—a broad aspirational goal-- to curbing the greatest problem of this century—Global Warming.

They haven’t set any solid goals, or created any binding agreements. The Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum stood firm in making a string of lofty sounding sentences towards the great problem on fixing Global Warming and not doing a damn thing about it.

Friday, September 07, 2007




The rise in world oil prices since 2004 is a symptom of a very serious problem that few people recognize: worldwide demand for oil racing ahead of supply. Lou Grinzo will explain what’s going on and how we can all play a role in dealing with the increasing costs of oil dependency. According to Grinzo, “Global warming isn’t the only major threat we’re facing.

The continued rise of oil prices—The Oil Crunch—will be an enormous problem, especially in the next 15 years, as it forces us to reevaluate and change almost every part of our economy. It’s a challenge we must, can, and will meet, but the sooner people understand what’s going on, what it means and what they can do about it beginning today, the better it will be for everyone.”

This lecture will kick off the three-part lecture/video series given by the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club’s Global Warming and Energy Committee. This event is free and open to the public. For more information contact: Keri A. Kaminsky Co-Chair, Sierra Club Global Warming/ Energy Committee Rochester Regional Group If you have trouble sending mail to this address try

Thursday, September 06, 2007

August 2007 RENewsletter

* In order to subscribe from this newsletter, follow instructions on Google Groups : RochesterEnvironment -

What you get in every Monthly RENewsletter --Free:

A monthly commentary and encapsulation of all the environmental news for Rochester, New York.

A free and comprehensive publication of all the environmental news pertaining to the Rochester-area environment.

Many of the sources of this publication's news are primary sources: EPA, NYSDEC, Mayor's office, Monroe County Executor's office, NYS Public Heath, NYS Attorney General, the NYS governor, etc. Radio, TV, and other news you get only gives a fraction of the environmental news you need each day.

You get all the environmental action items where you can help our Rochester-area environment online.

Get all the environmental events going on in our area each week.

Get a clear picture of all the things an online environmental service can do for our Rochester-area environment by getting updates on all that has gone on on this very busy site.

Check out the Site of the Week - a new Rochester-area Environmental site from over 80 Rochester-area Environmentalists, helping our local environment.

The new RENewsletter format requires Word document plug-in for your browser-which it probably already has. Or, go to Word Viewer 2003 This will make the RENewsletter printable and easier to read and even more useful as an online newsletter with the usual links to news, events, actions, and site of the month.

The RENewsLetter Format Change

After much tinkering, trial and error, I’ve found that the best format for my new RENewsLetter is the Microsoft Word format, from which the newsletter is created.

My reason for changing the format of the RENewsletter is to make it easier to read, printable, and Internet-linking friendly so that when read online all bookmarks and web links make this newsletter a fully multimedia newsletter.

Other formats, like creating a web page for each month’s RENewsletter don’t print well and Adobe (.pdf) Reader format do not allow for most bookmarks and long links to work. So, I’ve settled on making the format a MS Word format (.doc) that most browsers like Internet Explorer and Firefox will easily open.

If not your browser will prompt you for an add-on that will read MS Word documents online. Sorry about all the fuss, but in order to provide the best RENewsletter possible I’ve had to find a format that really works.

* For PC Computers Word Viewer 2003 - Brief Description - View, print and copy Word documents, even if you don't have Word installed. This download is a replacement for Word 97 Viewer and all previous Word Viewer versions.

* For Apple Computers Word Browser Plugin 2.0.1