Sunday, May 20, 2007

Take Over The Media:


In this day where the major media is owned and operated by the major corporations and so our environment reporting reflects the few and powerful, instead of what is actually occurring, it’s a good time to learn to be your own media. RochesterEnvironment.com sprung from this sentiment that a concerned individual was reading about a world in ecological crisis, but experiencing a Disney-like world where everything was going along fine.


However, after ten years of watching Rochester, New York’s environment and comparing all the news on our city from all online sources, this fantastic tranquility is just that—fantastic.
Mostly, what occurs in the media are sporadic explosions on toxic releases, brownfields that occasionally bubble up out of their containments, bad air-quality reports from agencies like the American Lung Association, or something else that, by its compelling Nature, forces itself through the media’s door.


Many other just as pernicious environmental issues are going on but they are not either as sexy as an inner city shooting, or ‘hot’ as a car crash, or ‘weird’ as people collecting body parts. Too bad that most of the really worrisome environmental problems (like Global Warming, Bee Colony Collapse Syndrome, the infestation of an invasive species disease like VHS, or the breakdown in water quality in the many lakes surrounding Rochester) don’t hit the front pages or splashed on the 6 O’clock news because the major media don’t thing these story sell. And that means we don’t usually find out about an environmental problem until it’s in our face as a major crisis.


Imagine a world where our media knew how to report on environmental matters, that is a continual investigation of all the possible threats to our environment, which keeps us alive and healthy. That would be a world where we knew how all our man-made products were entering in and reacting into our environment, like pharmaceutical and pesticides going into the waters we drink; objective cancer cluster studies that might reveal buried trouble spots of industrial waste; land that should be public land given away at cheap prices for those with money; the total effects of sprawl on our local fauna and flora, the entire range of possible effects in our area of global warming and the loss of biodiversity; how our local recycling programs are working, what potential environmental health problems lay on the horizon, and how our area is helping the Climate Change effort with our areas business and residential energy policies and practices.
In short, we need a media that isn’t afraid to give us an entire and unbiased picture of our environment so we can react to it responsibly—and timely. Baring a complete makeover of our media, which is flourishing in a hail of sexy, sports, political scandal, car crashing, lottery-winning, and (more often than not) just downright silliness, individuals could enter the public discourse on the media with their own observations.


One way to Take Over the Media is to create your own web site, like RochesteEnvironment.com and/or begin your own podcast. What is a podcast? Let Dave Atias [ greenpmc34@yahoo.com ] tell you:


"The hosts of the locally-based podcast, The Stuart Bedasso Show, will be holding a free, one-hour workshop for area progressives who are interested in producing their own podcasts. The workshop, called Podcasting for Progressives, will be run by Dave Atias, Keziah Kelsey and Erick Rodriguez and take place on Tuesday, June 5th at 7pm at Spot Coffee, 200 East Avenue in downtown Rochester.


A podcast is an audio file that is available for downloading on the internet to be played on personal computers or portable media players. Most podcasts are like online radio shows that are downloadable on demand. Participants will learn what a podcast is, how to produce one and strategies on how to publicize a podcast. Participants will also leave with a list of free resources that are available.


The workshop will show participants how to use the medium of podcasting to help promote progressive ideas as done on The Stuart Bedasso Show. The Stuart Bedasso Show is a weekly, non-commercial podcast that features talk, independent music and pre-produced comedy. The hosts, with special guests, discuss a wide range of topics ranging in scope and seriousness. They have been privileged to play independent music, in some cases, exclusives, before any local radio station has been able to. All shows are archived at http://bedasso.libsyn.com and are available for download for free. Internet users can also subscribe to the show using iTunes. For more information, call Dave at 966-9067 or e-mail bedasso23@yahoo.com . Listen to The Stuart Bedasso Show Help The Stuart Bedasso Show get on Public Radio"

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wikia Environmental Project


This collaborative project on the environment seems to me one of the most important and potentially successful Wikia projects since Wikipedia. The promise is to create a free, on-going white paper from everyone who has learned something about making our environment sustainable and update that information continually.


According to the UN Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC), our environment is going to change drastically and in turn this is going to change the human condition dramatically, quantumly, and soon. Climate change also is a National Security risk. None of this is new, except for the degree of verification from expert data; many environmentalists have been predicting global warming, the loss of biodiversity, and the pollution of our land, air and water, the build up of man-made toxins in our environment and in ourselves (the body burden) for a long time. It’s just that finally the media and governments have started to Get It!


Many new opportunities, including the Internet and the Wikia encyclopedia project, offer up a chance for humanity to share their observations, their knowledge, and solutions to what appears to be a faster and faster rate of environmental change. I recently listened to a report on DemocracyNow.org Friday, May 18th, 2007 George Monbiot: "If We Don’t Deal with Climate Change We Condemn Hundreds of Millions of People to Death" and came away (again) with a sense of urgency that this issue needs. A Wikia Environmental project can deal with the quick and evolutionary change of information and solutions we will need to solve this world-wide crisis.


Many environmental solutions, either in business, in government, and even individuals have worked in one place or another. And some ideas like recycling seem simple at first blush but require a constellation of changes attitudes, inventions, transportation between collection and use, collecting and separating properly. There are different programs in different cites, offering ideas for places to continually ramp up recycling until the point where no trash enters our waters or land. For example, in some cities, garbage collectors will not pick up a resident’s garbage if, after examination, recyclable goods are found—and a fine delivered. Everything can potentially be used and reused, making endless possibilities for creating new businesses.


Of course, most ideas about sustainability are already out there in books, and are working in communities, but there is no single clearinghouse that is not managed and edited by the people themselves who want their children to survive--only governments, groups, and corporations with their own agenda. An open-source project for ideas and solutions on how best to reach a sustainable world for humans can only be accomplished with a variety of scientists, individuals, educators, and environmental groups hoping for a better world that will not collapse under its own progress.


Much in the way the first Wikipedia project matured and came to rival and then surpass the book form of an encyclopedia (which is out-dated the moment it gets published) this project can grow and change to the volatile world we are entering, where the oceans levels will rise, the Great Lakes water level will fall, and where pests and disease will migrate to areas unfamiliar with how to cope wit them will certainly occur. As some areas become warmer, the people in those areas can learn how to cope with changes from a district that has always dwelt with heat and how it affects all aspects of people's lives and the business arena.


As the site stands now, there is little there. It’s just a start. But, it’s also an opportunity to help kickoff and shape this environmental solutions project that should be at the foremost concern of all peoples and governments of the planet. So, check out Main Page - Environmentalist - a Wikia wiki and encourage others to join in.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tipping Point as Cliché


In some minds Global Warming may augur a boon for real estate not previously longed for: the tundra, for example, that may take on the aspect of idyllic parcels with lawns for bold entrepreneurs. The cold North according to this dream might become a new Mecca for those who would come to love the new warmth of climate change.


However, it is more likely that areas once covered in snow and ice and soon to be green are going to be more problematic. A slow and gradual transformation from the un-saleable to the ripe for the pickings is rather to be rife with change, quantum change. Tipping point, a phrase stolen from science and now so overused in general speak that it threatens to become cliché, is nevertheless the proper and principle concern of Global Warming.


For, while there has always been climate change on this planet, some of it occurring through the time of man, there has never been the threat of dramatic, quick quantum change caused by a fast-moving amalgamation of issues to a tipping point in a cascade of cause and effect. (Whew! That was a mouthful and I won’t do it again.)


An example, or rather the archetypal model for this effect is the warming of the polar caps, which increase the sun's warming power on the water due to the lack of the snow to reflected sunlight, the albedo effect, thus changing the salinity of the ocean and thus the relationship to cold and warmer waters and eventually the direction of oceans currents.


In language a word or phrase can become so overused that the cliché numbs the mind and you don’t really hear it. That’s a problem because in Nature some processes, like global warming, keep repeating themselves so often that one becomes habituated to them, until tiresome or not, a cool breeze that had always before wafting off the ocean warming green fields suddenly delivers something quite unexpected.


Check out this report: Living on Earth: Melting Ice "A new study from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado shows that scientists grossly underestimated the rate of ice loss due to warming from greenhouse gas emissions. The study claims that if current trends continue, we could be facing an ice-free Arctic summer within the next 50 years." --from Living on Earth: Sound Journalism for the Whole Planet

Getting All the Facts


From the father of Biodiversity, E.O. Wilson, comes a very interesting story about a new website that attempts to catalogue all animals on the planet. This is important because almost lost in the world-wide embracing of the issue of Global Warming acceptance as a true danger for mankind is one of the other major environmental issues of our day.


There are many others including toxic pollution, our oceans breaking down, but the loss of biodiversity is something difficult to understand as a truly global problem. There are many arguments that the loss of biodiversity means there are pharmaceutical drugs we’ll never see, or it’s just ethically bad to allow spices to expire, but in my mind the true danger of the loss of biodiversity is the loss of important information on how Nature works. We might need the billions of years of countless animals and plants solution to the problem of sustainability and that information is locked up in the understanding of other life.


If we allow the mass destruction (some say the Sixth Great Extinction ((the fifth being the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago) of species through urban sprawl, pollution, and downright poaching, we could be losing valuable information about how to survive.


Check out this vast new project that attempts to catalogue all life on earth and bring attention to this problem that few understand, let alone get. -- Encyclopedia of Life "Comprehensive, collaborative, ever-growing, and personalized, the Encyclopedia of Life is an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. Our goal is to create a constantly evolving encyclopedia that lives on the Internet, with contributions from scientists and amateurs alike. To transform the science of biology, and inspire a new generation of scientists, by aggregating all known data about every living species. And ultimately, to increase our collective understanding of life on Earth, and safeguard the richest possible spectrum of biodiversity."

Monday, May 07, 2007

April 07 RENewsletter


* Hottest issue this month of April 2007: This month, which included Earth Day, was so busy that there are many ‘hottest” environmental stories. The first is Earth Day itself where our city had many environmental events going on. The most salient in my mind was the StepItUp2007 rally at Twelve Corners in Brighton (because I was there), an event like 1,400 other such events around the country. Bill McKibben’s idea http://stepitup2007.org/ where he thought 100 cities might join in, actually mushroomed into a major climate change movement that keeps growing. The Sierra Club’s 9th Environmental Forum highlighted the possible change in the city-owned pristine lands around Hemlock and Canadice Lakes. There were many stories on this issue throughout April and if you stayed tuned to these pages, you’ll see more: http://www.rochesterenvironment.com/hemlock_lake.htm & http://www.rochesterenvironment.com/canadice_lake.htm . There were many more local environmental events and I hope you had a chance to show up at any one of Rochester’s growing attention to our environmental issues. Also, the possible contamination from toxins in Victor spread across most of our local media in April, displaying what the local media does best: thoroughly covering a breaking environmental story. The question I have is: What other possible contamination issues lie beneath our brownfield studded environment, which are only going to get public attention when something foul bubbles up from the ground? Wouldn’t it be better if our local media each had full time, dedicated environmental reporters watching all possible brownfield sites http://www.rochesterenvironment.com/brownfields.htm in our area and urge our local governments to adopt a reasonable policy (with money behind them) to get them all cleaned up? The present paradigm where doubts linger over our many brownfields, compelling residents to cry for cancer studies, are not how we should be addressing environmental breakouts that we should be anticipating. And, of course Global Warming issues (such as the changes our area will incur) thread throughout this month’s environmental news—and will continue to do so for as long as I run this newsletter. Everyone should be watching closely as to how our area is going to be affected by Global Warming because there is no way we are going to dodge this issue. Our media, our public officials, scientists, universities, environmental groups, and even we should be continually monitoring the changes that will be brought by the biggest environmental challenge of our era.



* Other Hot Environmental issues this month: Two issues that are not going away, but are actually increasing in tempo and intensity are the viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) fish disease problem and the Bee Colony Collapse Syndrome. I have been following the stories on the VHS issue from online sources around the Great Lakes and I can only conclude that its effect is going to be profound and affect many fishermen and all related businesses. Controlling and preventing diseases like VHS, which is believed to have been imported from ships coming from Europe, is going to be an on-going concern that won’t go away until governments, businesses, and individuals work together to solve this problem. So, too the Bee Colony Collapse Syndrome, whose cause is not known, has the potential of greatly affecting our area’s agriculture and aquiculture. I’ve noted this story before and it’s grown to be a country-wide issue. Instead of endless speculations in the media (like, it could be cell phone interference) on what is causing bees, which pollinate many of our most precious products, the government should be helping scientist discover the exact cause of this particular syndrome before it causes incredible damage. Out local media should be continually pressing this issue until a cause is found. There are a lot of Great Lakes stories in this month’s collection of environmental news and that’s because there are a lot of issues going on and because I search all surrounding city’s and even Canada news sources for stories about the lakes that our city is intimately connected to. On a more hopeful note, our area is at the forefront in readying ourselves for a possible pandemic flu. Such a scenario is almost impossible to contemplate, but not to prepare for it would be the height of social irresponsibility. To these ends, our area has conducted mock inoculation demonstrations and one of our great universities is working feverishly to develop a vaccine that can be implemented quickly. I hope you all have gotten the pamphlet the Monroe County government has dispersed to the public on the Pandemic Flu. If not print it out and magnet it to your refrigerator from: http://www.monroecounty.gov/Image/BirdFluBrochure.pdf



* The silent stories [important stories we didn't hear much about]: There is a wonderful story about making a law to rid our state of incandescent bulbs in favor of compact florescent bulbs (though, that’s really a May story but so compelling I had to mention it) and a story about the Elm Tree making a comeback. People have been working on a Dutch Elm disease resistant strain of the tree and have had some success. Recycling in Rochester is mentioned in our news and more could be done to both recycle and get our residents to recycle. I believe everything should be recycled and we should never have anything go into the ground, but that will take time and imagination. Besides many forms of giving things away (like donations) and methods of selling used items (like garage sales), which are very good, for those spent products like plastics we need to find markets that will make use of the dangerous products we now put in the ground. A couple of small stories this month about the reinvigoration of the Russell Station coal-burning power plant in Greece should be big stories. Clean coal technology has been hotly debated around the country when other major coal burning plants have been re-powered, but there is little mention of how RG&E plans on cleaning up their plant, which was gong to be shut down. The local media should be hot on this story, especially in Earth Day month where thousands of our citizens are pledging to do as much as they can to curb green-house gasses. From our southern tier there is a story about a pine-killing wasp making its way to upstate New York. This story suggests to me about one of the many pernicious effects of Global Warming, where pests are able to spread because areas where they can survive are expanding. There’s an article about Arbor Day (that almost seems to be forgotten) and perhaps we will all be forgiven if we go out and plant a tree and help requester some Global Warming gases. A story about toxins and children come up this month and makes me wonder how many toxic chemicals in our environment are making people sick. If we had a more aggressive media and more attention by our public officials, maybe there would be more studies about how the chemicals we produce radiate out and affect our environmental health. Maybe these arrant man-made chemicals are causing Bee Colony Collapse.



* On-Going Concerns: Rochester, according to reports, seems to making major progress on preventing childhood lead poisoning. This has been a preoccupation for many public officials in our city and taking charge on this issue has paid off. The algae problems at Charlotte Beach are in the news again this year with the Army Corps of Engineers giving up on the matter and suggesting that someone build a spray park nearby. That’s no real answer and hopefully other suggestions (like those proposed by Congresswoman Slaughter) could fix the problem. Another beach problem, this time at Duran Beach with an E.coli problem, will occupy public officials who are trying to keep open this popular beach. In my opinion, we are not going to fix these kinds of beach/health problems until we have a sea change in the way we treat water. Our local nuclear plant at Ginna has had a yearly safety and performance report and in a separate article on May 3rd, there’s a article on potassium iodine pills being offered to residents near Ginna in case of radiation leak. I submit that nearby residents to solar and wind power plants do not need anti-radiation pills. There is a story about maybe banning outdoor wood-burning furnaces again, which is a good thing, and a great story about our major wetland, Montezuma, from a New Jersey publication (what’s that about?) and I suggest you read it. Renaissance Square update is worth watching because it could have a major urban sprawl aspect to it (by having residents consider public transportation) and story about DEC grants, communities trying to save energy, an update on the Holly contamination from years ago, a bill to ban plastic bags (it got me to start using tote bags when I shop), and much more.



* Environmental Actions you can take for our area: The best environmental action you can take this month is helping your community clean up. Mayor Duffy’s Clean Sweep program is such a great project that it should be mentioned county-wide. However, when you think about it, we should not be producing such a mess each year that we have to go out in droves to clean things up. We should forever be encouraging others not to litter and to recycle properly. (Sorry, I keep getting on my environmental soapbox, but that’s my job.)



* Environmental events going on this month: Check out “Our Fragile World” by the Seneca Park Zoo, a program on urban birds, Sierra Club book discussions, International Migratory Bird day, a program on mobile air toxins, and much more.



* Rochester-area Environmental Site of the Month: Cayuga Lake Watershed Intermunicipal Organization "To create, modify, and implement a watershed management plan to allow local governments within the watershed to work together for the purposes of accessing dollars, cost savings, cost sharing, and efficiency of activities among municipalities. This plan when completed will prioritize water quality problems and solutions. The Intermunicipal Organization will provide direction for the regional planning boards and other staff, and oversee the entire project."