Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Souless Greed" - by Charlotte Baltus

“Greed is no good and does no good”. "They simply have to give up mindless and soulless greed." The article implies that this needs to happen somehow voluntarily. That if we just had some stronger cultural bias against greed, we'd solve that particular problem. Ridiculous. Two points in this regard:

1 -- A system was concocted in which unbridled greed was allowed to run rampant, and lo and behold, unbridled greed ran rampant. It is idiocy to suppose that ANY system that does not curb this kind of greed, through regulations with real teeth as well as social expectations and sanctions, will ever see this sort of greed held in check.

2 -- Greed has many manifestations. As a progressive, I am one of the greediest people I know. I consider that progressive policies ARE quite greedy, although I would dub it "enlightened greed". Why do I advocate for a fair distribution of income and wealth? That health care is a basic human right? For a healthy environment? For sustainable living habits? Because that's the kind of society I personally want to live in. Even if I get to be one of the "haves" under the current regime (which I most certainly am), this is not the kind of society I want to live in. It turns my stomach. It is terrifically myopic, a burn-the-seed-corn strategy that strips hope from our future prospects. A squandering of nature's bounty as well as human capacity on a massive scale. An impoverished culture of acquisition that yields a throng of depressed, screen-addled marketing targets cohabitating with countless "have nots" lacking the basic wherewithal to live life with dignity. I say what we need is MORE greed – greed informed by perspective and a vision of a better way to live for all of us. So let’s worry less about greed per se and more about idiotic ideologies such as “the church of the invisible hand”.

This is the article I was replying to:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Web that Nature Weaves

When I first began one of my main Rochester Issues (environmental concerns particular to our area) was Acid Rain. There were many stories on this issue and much made of the dying lakes in the Adirondacks due to sulphuric and nitric acids drifts from Western power plants. But, after placing scrubbers on power plants the effect of Acid Rain began to diminish and with it all news pertaining to Acid Rain. Seemingly, man had recognized a problem and solved it.

Hubris and delusion.

However, the web of life is not as simple as a man-made machine. It is hubris to think that we could spew out toxic gases into the atmosphere in fantastic quantities and believe there would be a quick fix. Stop the cause, like fixing faulty brakes, and your car is ready to go. This is hubris.

But beyond hubris, it is delusionary to believe that that the complex web of life can be fixed without ferreting out all the causal threads in what is always an infinitely deep connectivity that links all life with life. Upsetting the balance of Nature, in this case the PH of a lake, and even stopping the cause of the problem will probably only create another one-like the boy trying to plug holes at a dike. Another one springs anew.

These kinds of delusions feed our hubris on environmental matters and make our inexorable march towards catastrophe inevitable. We are like a virus that feeds on its own destruction, believing when victorious over a small battle with Nature that we have won the big battle when in truth what we have accomplished is to kill the host.

Periodic set-backs like Acid Rain and seeming solving them do not lead us to heed and caution us to investigate how our way of life may affect our ability to have our way of life. Rather, these small victories lead us towards more folly, ratcheting up our precarious relationship with our environment, possibly making our collapsed more intense. Out future will be a continual reaching towards dangerous tipping points and making them more profound.

And our media, which feeds on controversy and the whims of its audience, is not compelled to ferret out the rational results of large scale environmental problems—a wholesale disturbance that probably has manly consequences not obvious to a species not inclined towards getting at the bottom of the problems it causes. Quite the opposite, we tend to ignore anything that intrudes on our own beliefs.

However, back in reality, we usually have only an inkling of the real disturbances when first we cause to disregard the health of our planet. This story about the drop in calcium levels due to Acid Rain describes the nature of our conceit—we just don’t get it (that we are causing major disruptions in the very system we need to survive)—and probably won’t ‘get it’ until it’s too late.

Oh, Global Warming, an example of where we are ‘getting it?” Please. We’ve probably passed several critical points of no return, where the best we will be able to do is keep ourselves from cooking completely, and the economic crisis at present will further delude us into thinking that our economy is more important than solving our present environmental issues.

Indeed, the only environmental problems we seem capable of fixing are those that irritate us—one of which is the mere mentioning of environmental problems.

Read on: sciencetech Acid rain legacy hurting lakes - Canadian-led study finds calcium depletion in bodies of water result of the 1980s toxic crisis (Nov. 28, 08)

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: "The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań will be a milestone on the road to success for the processes which were launched under the Bali Road Map. The meeting comes midway between COP 13 in Bali, which saw the launch of negotiations on strengthened international action on climate change, and COP 15 Copenhagen, at which the negotiations are set to conclude.

The conference will include the 29th sessions of the Convention’s subsidiary bodies - SBSTA and SBI – as well as the 4th session of the AWG-LCA and the 2nd part of the 6th session of the AWG-KP. The Poznań meeting, which is expected to draw around eight thousand participants, will both advance international cooperation on a future climate change regime and ensure progress on key issues."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Parks For All?

Some in the Monroe County area believe that everyone should have the right to use our public parks for whatever they please, as they are public parks. Laissez Faire of the Commons, sort of thing.
Yet, we have many restrictions on how the public uses any of our public facilities. We do not allow bicycling on 490, 590, 390, or the New York State Thruway. Alternatively, we do not allow motorized vehicles (except maintenance) on the New York State Canal Path. So, should we allow aggressive biking off-trail in our parks? They do pay taxes.
Or, should our parks exist for the free expression of the majority, who walk and crave a peek at our dwindling forests?
And ,beyond the parochial, do our public parks, collectively, play a critical role in the operation of our environment—meaning, that beyond aesthetics, do the plants and animals and the soil that still exist in our public parks contribute to making our environment sustainable?
Or, as many probably believe, are our public parks like zoos, merely non-commercial blocks of land set aside for the pleasure of the most strident?
Read on: Mountain biking options in Monroe County parks studied Democrat and Chronicle Mountain biking could be allowed in at least one Monroe County park next year under a master plan update for six parks in the area bordering and south of Irondequoit Bay. (Nov 25, 08) Democrat and Chronicle Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York

Monday, November 24, 2008

Obama urged to create 'Green New Deal' - The Boston Globe

Obama urged to create 'Green New Deal' - The Boston Globe: "The worldwide economic crisis is prompting a growing number of countries to back away from pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions and invest in clean energy, just a week before the start of talks in Poland on a new worldwide climate change treaty."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

EPA Proposal Would Ease Clean-Air Rules for National Parks -

EPA Proposal Would Ease Clean-Air Rules for National Parks - Regional Administrators Decry Decision

"The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas, even though half of the EPA's 10 regional administrators formally dissented from the decision and four others criticized the move in writing."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Green Collar Jobs . NOW on PBS

Green Collar Jobs . NOW on PBS: "Can something as common as building materials represent an opportunity to create jobs, help the needy, and save the planet? This week, NOW looks at two 'green' projects keeping furniture, paint, cabinets, and other building supplies out of landfills and getting them into the hands of those who need them most. Will they be devastated by the economic meltdown, or do they signal a possible way out?"

Who Cares About Our Environment in Rochester?

So, where were they? The press, I mean. Last night, the mayor of one of the largest cities in New York State brings together community leaders and celebrates the public’s involvement in reducing our area’s carbon footprint. But nary a peep about it in today’s news. Unless, like Bush looking for WMD under his couch, I missed it completely.

Massive measureable amounts. What? Communities like Perinton, Irondequoit, and Brighton all have been reducing their energy consumption by innovation and commitment by their local governments? What you say? Carbon dioxide? Global Warming? Rochester and green what?

Mayor Duffy stands up in front of a full room of enthusiastic community leaders from all walks of life and says he would like to see this group come again and celebrate the wonderful grass-roots efforts of our area on the Low Carbon Diet Plan - What was that again? Climate change? Hello? Nobody covered that?

The press couldn’t walk down the street and find out what the mayor of Rochester, New York had to say about environmental efforts in our local communities? Maybe they were going to mention something about local efforts at recycling or reducing energy which could help all of us during this economic crisis, but they were too busy finding fault with the Governor’s bottle bill plan—too busy giving a one-sided rant about how your bottled water (our tap water is probably about ten times better for you) will go up fifteen cents that isn’t true and an act of depraved misinformation.

The mayor had a big meeting last night over at City Hall, you say. Well, what did he have to talk about? Hey, how about those Bills? And, did you see those great head shots of dead animals that hunters have been having fun killing that the Democrat and Chronicle is now posting on their website? So yeah, who really cares about the environment, that which sustains our existence? The press?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Can the Internet save the world?

Probably not. But, because it’s probably the biggest jump in the ability of humans to communicate (well, there’s the cell phone too, but forget about TV and radio because they’re only one-way communication—and that’s just propaganda) it can sure help.

Hard to push your world-wide anti-environmental agenda with the Internet around where everyone has their say—including scientist who can usually squash nonsense with sense. Anyway the Internet is a wonderful tool (which will probably supplant the print media) and with a pandemic flu being one of the great killers of our species, Google’s new tool could have a great impact on our collective ability to monitor the spread of this fast-moving killer. When the bird flu jumps from bird-to-bird to bird-to-to human, it’s bad. When that, in turn, jumps from human-to-human, it’s one of the fastest moving killers of human kind there is. Google’s “Flu Trends” will help us track the flu and maybe offer up clues as to how the inevitable pandemic flu might occur.

Of course, governments should be doing this job--tracking health problems world-wide--but lately most of them are busy warring with each other and trying to rein in their economies that they should have regulated in the first place. Allowing financial markets to regulate themselves--how’s that working out for ya? So, we’ll have to depend on Google and other wise businesses to do the right thing and help make our existence sustainable. Check out: Google’s “Flu Trends: Google Flu Trends

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

t r u t h o u t | The Midnight Deregulation Express

t r u t h o u t The Midnight Deregulation Express: "In his last days in power, George W. Bush wants to change some rules."

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 11/10/2008 | Probe sought of Bush handling of Alaska oil-spill case

McClatchy Washington Bureau 11/10/2008 Probe sought of Bush handling of Alaska oil-spill case
WASHINGTON — An environmental watchdog group asked the Department of Justice's inspector general on Monday to investigate whether the department had prematurely halted a criminal prosecution of BP for a 2006 oil spill in Alaska.

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 10/23/2008 | EPA weakens new lead rule after White House objects

McClatchy Washington Bureau 10/23/2008 EPA weakens new lead rule after White House objects

WASHINGTON — After the White House intervened, the Environmental Protection Agency last week weakened a rule on airborne lead standards at the last minute so that fewer polluters would have their emissions monitored.

Sorry For Bush?

For those getting sentimental and teary-eyed over the failed Bush presidency that tried and failed. (I’m not kidding this is an article in the Wall Street Journal “The Treatment of Bush Has Been a Disgrace What must our enemies be thinking?” (Nov 5, 2008). Rather focus on what he is about to do.

Behind closed doors Bush and Cheney created a Corporate-friendly energy policy—the public wasn’t invited. The Bush administration forced their illusion that corporations would monitor and curb their own environmental devastation. It didn’t work. They didn’t curb their pollution at bit. And, corporations didn’t go broke (we have to bail them out) because they were bending over backwards becoming more environmentally responsible --like implementing fuel efficiency. They went broke because they continued their unsustainable practices, despite public preferences for the alternatives.

Now, in the waning days of the Bush administration, while we angst about the collapse of all we worked for and tried to sustain (like our environment), the Bush administration is maniacally pushing its malicious anti-environmental agenda.

* “Rush to deregulate - Bush administration proposals to loosen EPA restrictions raise concerns for the environment” Nov 9, 08 - Dispatch Politics

* “Bush officials moving fast to cut environmental protections” Nov 6, 08 McClatchy

* “Bush team rushes environment policy changes” Nov 3, 08 Reuters.

* “A Last Push To Deregulate - White House to Ease Many Rules” Oct 31, 08 Washington Post.

Don’t feel sorry for Bush as he hangs his tail and leaves the White House as the most environmentally irresponsible president ever, contact Congress and demand that these last minute environmental deregulations be stopped.

Monday, November 10, 2008

DispatchPolitics : Rush to deregulate Columbus Dispatch Politics

DispatchPolitics : Rush to deregulate Columbus Dispatch Politics: "Ohio's dairy cows and power plants have almost nothing in common, except for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Both groups would have less contact with the agency and might pollute more, say environmental advocates, if the EPA loosens restrictions on large livestock farms and coal-fired generating stations before President Bush leaves office.
They say that could happen under deregulations the Bush administration wants the EPA and other agencies to approve before President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Green Delusion

It’s nice to see that our major news print media offer up its token ‘green’ news story of the week. As the world bumps up against Global Warming tipping points even in our area (Buffalo news covered this topic a couple of weeks ago), pharmaceuticals are leaching into our waters, our recycling efforts fall far beyond neighboring communities, and the economic crash threaten to carve up environmental regulations, our major investigative media finds it way to mention ‘green’ colors in our home décor.

What wrong with this picture?

Have we become so tired of bad economic news that delusion in the form of painting over our environmental issues green rules the day? There could be articles about the move towards eliminating bottled water and returning faith in our public water system. Our major print media could be finding out why so many of us are still tossing computers and TVs on the curbside to got in our landfills, when there are many companies and non-profit agencies will to pick them up and reuse the parts. Investigative reporting could focus on the soundness of our infrastructure and whether or not our sewage is overflowing into Lake Ontario.

Instead, we get ‘feel good’ articles about an aesthetic movement towards our environment. We do not get a realistic appraisal of our area’s environment—the one that sustains our existence. I know newspapers are in trouble, but continually pandering to the public’s desire to ignore or believe that we are actually solving our environmental problems is the kind of irrational exuberance that led to our economic crisis today.

Only the environmental backlash is going to be much worse. There’s no bailout to be had when our environment becomes unsustainable.

Read on: Trend green, as in nature, for season's home décor Democrat and Chronicle Take the green movement to heart, add a flash of color or redo traditional to update home décor - (Nov 9, 08) Democrat and Chronicle Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Bottled Water System?

Is it possible that our attitudes towards bottled water, which competes with our own tap water for public use, will change? When you buy water from someplace else and it comes in a plastic container and then landfill that plastic container aren’t you saying you have no faith in your public water system and you don’t care about the billions of more plastic (that aren’t even depositable) containers going into the ground?

Buying a facet and filling your own container of water to drink from Monroe County’s and Rochester’s water system is about as good as water gets—and that facet will pay for itself in about a couple of minutes.

CityNews: MPPs Defeat Province-Wide Water Bottle Ban But Leave Door Open To Future Edict A suggested ban on the sale of plastic water bottles in Ontario was struck down in the legislature Thursday amid mixed messages from the Liberal government that left the door open to a possible ban in the future. (Nov 6, 08)

Friday, November 07, 2008

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 11/07/2008 | Bush officials moving fast to cut environmental protections

McClatchy Washington Bureau 11/07/2008 Bush officials moving fast to cut environmental protections: "WASHINGTON — In the next few weeks, the Bush administration is expected to relax environmental-protection rules on power plants near national parks, uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and more mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Editorial: Find compromise on fish virus testing | | Sheboygan Press

Editorial: Find compromise on fish virus testing Sheboygan Press: The decision to delay the implementation of proposed rules to contain a deadly fish virus is the right one. "The Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's rules require testing and inspections of farm-raised and bait species susceptible to viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS. The virus has caused a number of large fish kills in the Great Lakes region."

FJR: Interesting article on a major fish disease throughout the Great Lakes region that has mostly been invisible in our area's media.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Brazil's endangered-animal list swells - World environment-

Brazil's endangered-animal list swells - World environment- Now 627 creatures in danger of extinction, up from 218 two decades ago "BRASILIA, Brazil - Brazil's new list of endangered animals is nearly three times as long as the last list 20 years ago, Environment Minister Carlos Minc said Tuesday, blaming development and deforestation for the change."

Monday, November 03, 2008

Bush team rushes environment policy changes | Environment | Reuters

Bush team rushes environment policy changes Environment Reuters: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the U.S. presidential candidates sprint toward the finish line, the Bush administration is also sprinting to enact environmental policy changes before leaving power."