Sunday, August 31, 2008

Check out the NYS AG's "Environmental Protection Bureau

"The Environmental Protection Bureau, located within the Office of the Attorney General's Social Justice Division, plays a central role in protecting New York's environment and public health. With a staff that includes 40 lawyers and 8 scientists, the Bureau vigorously enforces both the State's and Nation's environmental laws. It also represents the State of New York in legal matters related to the environment. The Environmental Protection Bureau is recognized as a leader in the fight against global warming, reducing smog and other forms of air pollution, cleaning up our lakes, rivers and coastal waters, protecting wildlife and other natural resources, and safeguarding our families and communities against toxic contamination."

Our Generation’s Responsibility

Tragically, our media has not brought to the forefront the importance of the new rage in gas drilling in New York State. And, the public doesn’t seem to care where they get their fossil fuels, just as long as fuel prices remain low. That’s too bad because this issue—natural gas drilling in the wide-spread Marcellus Shale—could have a big impact on our air, land, and water quality.

This issue has been mentioned, but not highlighted like we do with political conventions or sport events or other passing interests. The New York Times published some stories recently on this issue -- Drilling Boom Revives Hopes for Natural Gas - (Aug. 25, 08) and “There’s Gas in Those Hills - New York Times” (April 8, 08) –and there is a press release from our governor-- - GOVERNOR PATERSON SIGNS BILL UPDATING OIL AND GAS DRILLING LAW; PLEDGES ENVIRONMENTAL AND PUBLIC HEALTH SAFEGUARDS – and the Democrat and Chronicle did a story recently: New York state bill could boost fuel output Democrat and Chronicle (July 14, 08).

But largely, this issue doesn’t reach genuine public attention because it doesn’t get much play—that is, the public doesn’t seem to much care about the potential environmental affects of gas drilling around us and the media is not disposed to hammer the public on matters the public should know about, just the issues the public wants to know about. Never-the-less, gas drilling in New York State is coming, just like wind turbines, just like nuclear power, and just like more coal-fired power plants. All these energy forms have issues that can greatly affect our environment and it seems as though only the people next to gas drilling sites or near wind farms seem to really care about the negative effects of these energy forms.

But, in the twenty-first century shouldn’t we be seeing the bigger picture? Haven’t we been given enough warning that it is obvious that our way of life—man-made pollution, global warming, etc.—is changing the planet? Yes, we are worried about jobs and getting affordable energy and keeping our properties from being contaminated and keeping its value while the public gets power to fuel our way of living. But, shouldn’t sustainability be the model of our reality, instead of “What-we-Wantism”?

That is, shouldn’t we be examining the repercussions of drilling for gas, or the potential environmental consequences of ramping up nuclear instead of focusing on our short-term perceived needs? I say “perceived” because the recent gas crisis (that we seem to be coming out of as gas prices drop) reveals that we can get around without a steady increase in fossil fuel use. In the last few months, people have driven less, walked more, biked more, car-pooled more and used public transportation far more in recent days—something they would not have done before the steep increase in gas prices.

Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of our generation (to our children) to adequately examine how our way of life affects the long-term health of our environment? Shouldn’t we be monitoring how we get energy, like drilling for gas in our area that could possibly release particulates into the air, or break into our water aquifers, or some of the other potentially pernicious affects of this form of energy? Or, should we merely ignore the fuzzy environmental issues (as the corporations would like) and make sure we make it through our own lives, hoping our children will find some other energy source that we’ve exhausted or harmed our environment with?

Other generations had their cause célèbre: securing our independence from Great Britain, freeing slaves in the Civil War, saving Europe in World War I, and preserving Democracy in World War II. Shouldn’t our generation, now that we know that our actions affect the planet, be preserving our environment for future generations? What is it that we do in our daily lives that reaches to such preeminence? If we fail to find a sustainable solution to our way of life by failing to inform ourselves about Global Warming, the negative effects of our energy use, water contamination, and the myriad of other environmental problems we face—we won’t simply lose some metaphysical value (like Freedom or Democracy) we cherish—our way of life may collapse.

Well, if you’ve made it this far into this essay, you may wish to go further and check out these two information sources on drilling in the Marcellus Gas shale. The first is a new site by the New York State Department of Conservation: DEC Launches New Web Page for Marcellus Shale Info - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation and the second is the Sierra Club Susquehanna Group’s -- MARCELLUS SHALE GAS DRILLING.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Energy Tipping Point?

Just months ago, jumping into our gas-guzzlers to go anywhere from a three-minute drive to a couple of days drive seemed normal. Really normal, so much so that to consider anything else didn’t cross our minds. You bought the vehicle you could afford, meaning the sticker price. Then the gas crisis hit and we all paused because what fueled our vehicles was draining our pockets. For all the talk about Global Warming and air pollution and all the environmental stuff, it was the sharp rise in energy prices that changed our behavior. The story below about the drop in NYS Thruway use is an indication of an energy tipping point—the point at which the public will drastically change their driving habits. Bicycling increased, more walked, more car pooled, more bought scooters, more did less driving gas guzzling vehicles.

That’s a fact. Beyond all the arguments about whether we should continue using fossil fuels to fuel our moving about and how to go about changing our behavior towards the planet because the wide-spread use of fossil fuel warms our planet is this clear indisputable fact that all positions on energy use must accept: When the gas prices hit a certain point, people will change their behavior and begin using alternate ways to get around.

We learned a lesson in the last several months about our behavior—a get-in-your-face fact that many of us would not have considered before. We can and will change our lives if something so ubiquitous and jumping into our cars to get around changes radically.

But, what will that lesson be?

For me, when the gas prices hit $3.50 a gallon I left my car (which gets about 25 miles per gallon) in the garage and drove my wife’s car, which gets about 40 miles per gallon. And, I biked to the library and walked to the corner store, Now that the gas prices are going down, should I begin driving that car again? Or should I sell it to someone else who has given up their 10 mile an hour behemoth and considers my car a godsend?

Are we going to go back to our old habits of recklessly burning fossil fuels to get around—as we did back in the 70’s after the gas lines ended, or are we really going to change.?
My guess is that our sense of priorities is focused on our short-term needs and the long-term problem of energy use and its consequences will disappear as soon as the financial threat has appeared to disappear. My guess is that we won’t change to a responsible form of energy until we have to. My guess is that we’ll listen to the siren’s call from the fossil fuel producers that “everything will be fine now and don’t worry your pretty little heads.”

I may be wrong. Maybe we got it this time. Check below: - Use of Thruway down Fewer people are using the New York State Thruway. State records show nearly two million fewer cars and trucks traveled on the thruway in June and July compared to the same time last year. State officials blame the economy and high prices at the pump. (Aug. 27, 08) - Rochester, NY News, Weather, Sports, Health, Investigative, Entertainment

Friday, August 29, 2008

Environmental groups pick up where the media falls down

The public is more aware of the importance of environmental issues because environmental groups are helping to connect the dots. Left to their own, the media only publishes environmental stories when something happens that their editors think will grab the public’s attention and bring in more money.

Most environmentally irresponsible companies just want the pubic to forget about environmental matters—like when Vice-President Cheney closed the doors when developing energy policy. And, most politicians don’t bring up environmental matters unless urged to do so by the public. So, who gets the public to pay attention to our environment? Environmentalists.

Chect out: "Action on protective laws ever likelier - Congress, president, candidates pledge support for compactonservation community might be wondering how the tide turned so quickly. But Wisconsin state Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) says it can be tracked back to citizens who became knowledgeable about the threats facing the lakes and then leaned on their elected officials. “There were environmental groups working with mayors up and down the Lake Michigan coast saying, ‘We’ve got to do this. We’ve got to protect the lake,’ ” Cowles says. “And those pressures eventually brought people to the table to move it forward.” --from (Aug 16, 08)

How's biking around Rochester, NY?

Did those high gas prices this summer get you out into the streets with your bike? If so, how did that go? Did you find the rage in the NPR story below?

My personal observation is that there is a lot of room for improvement, though I did not observe much road rage. As bicyclist in Rochester, there seemed to me to be a heighten awareness by cars and motorcyclists alike that I was there—and cars would give me space if they could. Overall, good drivers greatly respect good bicyclist, sharing the road with their gasless friends and weary of those racing down the sidewalks, or speeding down the wrong side of the road. Good bicyclists moved seamlessly through our streets hand-signaling keeping their eyes pealed for danger spots.

The trouble I see for potential problems is with bad drivers and bad bicyclists—though the car drivers always win (except in the courts.) Bad drivers talk on cell phones oblivious of bicyclists and pedestrians, don’t even slow down on “right on red”, and cop a ‘tude about bicyclists, who have as much right to be on the road as they do. And, bad bicyclists race down sidewalks oblivious to the fact the pedestrians cannot hear them approach from behind them.

Bad bicyclists don’t stop for street lights, observe any signs or rules of the road (not less care) and think it is the car driver’s job to find them amongst the myriad of things going on on a busy street. Though, bicyclists may be right, they may also be dead—as vehicles win in any collision.

My suggestion is that everyone learn about bikes and cars and rules of the road and sharing and become good drivers aware that bikes have as much right to be on the streets as they do and for bikers to realize that car drivers need to see them, meaning bicyclists should know the rules of the road too.

Here's the story by NPR: Cyclists And Drivers Vie For Space On The Road "Talk of the Nation, August 26, 2008 · High gas prices and heightened environmental awareness have led more bicyclists to take to already-congested streets. Road rage has escalated quickly — drivers complain that cyclists ignore traffic laws and cyclists contend that drivers deliberately try to run them down."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Please don't trash that TV or Computer - Do the right thing - Recycle it

RECONNECT - This is a great program from Goodwill and Dell for the Rochester area for recycling those old computers--Get the RECONNECT FACT SHEET jobs, environmental y important--no way should we be seeing electronics on the curbside for garbage pickup:--from The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI)-Goodwill Industries of Greater Rochester, Inc.

Monitoring your environment and having fun

Good for your community: Good for your environment.

Did you know that tagging Monarch butterflies are a a good way to monitor our environmental health? If your community has not already joined in this great program by Seneca Park Zoo, sponsored by the Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation , then you ought to check it out:

The Butterfly Beltway Project “Seneca Park Zoo has launched another exciting season of sharing the beauty and wonder of butterflies with the citizens of western New York. Thanks to the Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation (DMJF), our seasonal onsite butterfly experience will re-opened in June, while our offsite Butterfly Beltway garden-planting project kicked off in mid-May. Each year since 2002, we have added new gardens to the Butterfly Beltway, and as a result, our tally of gardens sits at 73. We plant gardens at senior-living centers and at facilities that serve urban youth, disabled youth, youth-at-risk, or other special-needs children. Each garden has special kinds of flowers that attract butterflies for feeding and egg-laying purposes. The gardens also provide critical shelter and rest areas for 75 local species of butterflies.”

Buying from local markets in Rochester, NY.

Buy local foods and help our environment. Another good way to help our environment and our economy is to help out our local agriculture.

In the United States (and probably around the world) we have so evolved in our food production and distribution so that there are many local food producers who feed the few and a few very large food producers who feed the vast majority. Though this model often keeps food prices low and uniform (though even that can be disputed), it also requires a vast quantity of fossil fuels (which warm the planet) to transport and in my opinion create a very dangerous dependency on a few food products (like wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, and a few others) which work against the need for biodiversity in our planets flora system.

Buying from local agriculture can help alleviate this propensity to depend of a few large agriculture corporations and sustain our environment—and maybe even give jobs to your locality. Not to mention, you can probably walk to your local farmer’s market and move food production away from a dependency on fossil fuels. Check out Monroe village Farmers' Market. Farmers' Market "Monroe Village Farmers’ Market Wednesday Evenings 4:30 to 7:30 June 18th to October 29th Blessed Sacrament Church Parking Lot Monroe Avenue Between Rutgers and Oxford Enjoy local musicians and artists in a fun community atmosphere." --from Monroe Village

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Give me one good argument against the Bigger Better Bottle Bill

In all the years we have tried to get the Bigger Better Bottle Bill passed, I have yet to hear a reasonable argument against its passage.

That it’s too much trouble for the public to bring back bottles, or that it’s too much of a burden on the grocers, or that the bottling companies won’t get enough money back is so incredible selfish and myopic as to wonder how this intelligent species of our is actually going to solve any environmental problems. Look, the first bottle bill was a success and since its passage tons of bottles have been brought back for recycling, instead of going into the ground. And, since that first law, there has been a vast increase in the number of products that use bottles that could be recycled if this law passes.

Deposit-able bottles works. Nothing else works that will keep a lot of people from just tossing bottles, which litter our environment, onto our sidewalks, roads, forests, streams, you-name-it. Give me one unselfish, environmentally responsible reason why we shouldn’t pass the Bigger Bottle Bill or concede that you don’t really care about the next generation.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Mercury in Florescent Bulbs

This article has some good information about disposing florescent light bulbs—which you have probably heard by now contain mercury. It’s interesting to hear some people complain about the mercury in these bulbs, adopting an attitude of annoyance because these products which are being marched out as helping against Global Warming harm the environment also. Well, strictly speaking, mercury in any amount may be problematical. And, we do need to learn how to dispose of these bulbs, especially (like Australia) if we intend on passing laws against incandescent bulbs, which waste a lot of electricity.

But, here’s the point about the mercury in florescent bulbs that those marching out this complaint seem to forget: If they continue to use incandescent bulbs, they are mostly likely doing so with electricity supplied by coal-burning power plants, which spew lots of mercury into the air, which falls back down into our waters—especially the Great Lakes. The amount of mercury in florescent bulbs pales against that mercury release when we burn coal to light incandescent bulbs. It seems prudent to use florescent bulbs, and maybe store them away (hey, they last ten times longer than incandescent bulbs) until you can dispose of them properly.

Check out: Home Depot lets you recycle long-lasting bulbs Democrat and Chronicle Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75 percent less energy, last 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, and over time yield sizable energy savings. But getting rid of them when they no longer work has been problematic. (Aug 4, 08) Democrat and Chronicle Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York

How much publicity is our area doing on VHS?

Our state, to my knowledge, has not engaged in a massive campaign to educate the public on Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) as Wisconsin has. Most people who I ask have not even heard of this invasive fish disease. Why not? Check out: Tests: State winning battle against VHS - Efforts to stop the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia appear to be paying off. (Aug 4, 08)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

DEC Tells New Yorkers: Don't Flush Medications

New Educational Campaign and Website Launched to Help Protect Water Quality
A new initiative to help reduce the growing presence of pharmaceuticals in water bodies is being launched today by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Commissioner Pete Grannis announced. The "Don't Flush Your Drugs" campaign and website, , will help raise public awareness and provide information about how to dispose of medicines properly to help prevent problems with water quality in the future.

Recent reports have shown that an array of medicines are showing up in our rivers and streams as well as in the drinking water supplies of a number of American cities. Though no New York community was singled out, these news reports indicate that pharmaceuticals -- including antibiotics -- can be found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. The concentrations of the pharmaceuticals are small - far below typical medical doses - but studies have found problematic impacts on wildlife and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has acknowledged that the issue is a serious concern.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Last Experiment has been monitoring the possible affects of Global Warming on Rochester, New York for many years at and climate change.

Now, a film specifically focused on how Global Warming will affect Rochester, New York by Rochester people is out. "The Last Experiment"

Check it out: Here's what they say:

  • "Film production started with a simple question: "What will climate change mean in Rochester, New York?" Over the 12+ months of filming, the question has expanded to include: "What does this mean for us as a society?"

  • First, we talked to local experts who gave us their best estimates of what we can expect -- locally. From apple crops, to lake effect snow, to real estate values, everything may be affected.

  • We’ve followed along as the community dialogue about the problem has evolved. When we started making this film, climate change hardly seemed to be on the public radar. We have witnessed, and we hope, documented a tipping point in public awareness.

  • More and more the discussion is about what to do, not about whether we need to do something. People's backgrounds color how they frame the questions: Is this primarily a moral issue? Do we fundamentally need to restructure society? Will we be allowed to drive in the future? Will market forces and proper pricing get us out of the situation?

  • Will our differences prevent us from responding as we need to? We’ve been there as local scientists, religious leaders, business people, governmental organizations and individuals search for the best path forward. The film shares their insights and the contradictions between the different perspectives. With humor and beauty, this film provokes real discussion. We hope you come out of seeing it ready to debate, and to act. The climate is already changing – now what about us?"

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Global Warming and Great Lakes

Among other environmental markers in our area, the Great Lakes will be affected by Climate Change in our area. Learning about the effects, instead of trying to ignore them (for this is science, not a radical belief system) will help us understand how we might curb the effects and learn to live with the potential changes:

Read: Great Lakes Restoration & the Threat of Global Warming “The Earth’s climate is warming, and the impacts are already being observed in the Great Lakes—the source of nearly a fifth of the world’s surface freshwater. This report synthesizes current climate change science and presents the likely impacts warming temperatures will have on the Great Lakes, people and wildlife. It also provides recommendations for curbing global warming while at the same time preserving the resilience and adaptive capacity of the Great Lakes ecosystem.” --from Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives

Sunday, August 03, 2008

No Excuse for Not Recycling:

There’s really no excuse, but I’m seeing discarded televisions and computers on the curb ready for pickup. Throwing computers to the curbside means possible identity theft from hard drives. The rest—monitors, televisions, batteries—contain materials (like lead, mercury, cadmium, and other hazardous materials) that should not be tossed into the ground. And, other materials (like copper) are recyclable resources for industries, instead of mining our natural resources.

There is a continual program by the Monroe County government Environmental Services Environmental Services Monroe County, NY and there are numerous electronic recycling events like this one which will take your discarded electronics for free:

  • Go Green! Recycle Rally to be held on Aug. 10 -Clean out your house and help protect wildlife habitat at the same time. Bring us your cell phones, ink cartridges, computers, monitors, printers, TV's, video game systems, VCR's, DVD players, microwaves, sneakers, refundable cans & bottles, batteries, and textiles such as clothing, bedding, shoes, belts and purses. Cost: There is no change to recycle most items. There is, however, a $5 fee to recycle computer monitors and televisions and a $1 fee to recycle batteries. When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 10 in the parking lot at the Seneca Park Zoo -Also of note: No appointment necessary. All Recycle Rally participants will be entered into a raffle for a Zoo membership. Ryan Loysen Conservation Education Coordinator Seneca Park Zoo Society 2222 St. Paul Street Rochester, NY 14621 585-295-7394