Sunday, February 22, 2009

Moving to Higher Ground

Odds are if your great, great, great, great, (…all the way back to caveman days) grandfather heard a rustle in the grass in the night, he assumed the worst. Good bet there’s a predator out there, better take evasive action. Not to have taken immediate action in the face of insufficient information in this case would probably have meant you wouldn’t get to be his great, great, great, (…all the way to now) grandchild.

Much of our history involved this sort of thinking: reacting quickly to perceived danger instead of waiting until all the information was in. By the time our primitive ancestor waited for a lion in the night to reveal itself in full attack mode, he would have been lion dinner. And, we are descendants of those intelligent wary individuals, who, when they erred, did so on the side of caution.

Though we are a lot more intelligent, more capable of discerning and combating real danger, we too benefit from this precautionary faculty that some say is hard-wired into our brains. If we hear a rustle in the air that it (the air itself) is warming up, backed by an avalanche of data leaning in that direction, the better genius of our nature would tell us to take preventative action. Skedaddle or die. Waiting impotently for leaping lions and a solid month of 100 degree days in New York State is not who we are. That foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, not great minds that passed into future generations.

So it with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision this week to raise “…equipment such as pump motors and circuit breakers from 25 feet below sea level to 14 feet above sea level” (from (Bloomberg: City must adapt to global warming now -- Newsday.com, Feb. 22, 09) in New York City, we evidence that ancient faculty for prudent caution has not deserted us. The new report, “CLIMATE RISK INFORMATION NEW YORK CITY PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE FEBRUARY 17, 2009 says “Climate change poses a range of hazards to New York City and its infrastructure. These changes suggest a need for the City to rethink the way it operates and adapts to its evolving environment.”

I note this story about Mayor Bloomberg’s actions because it is the first time I have read about a major political figure doing something so concrete about the threat of Global Warming. Bloomberg is not wrangling with his staff about whether or not that ‘rustle’ of climate change heard throughout the world means we should wait until Earth becomes a Venus: he’s moving city equipment to higher ground. By the way, the mayor has also been gearing up New York City in many other ways, assuming the worst about Global Warming and also trying to mitigate those threats. Taking evasive action.

Instead of staring dumbfounded into the night, paralyzed by the great inconvenience of dealing with the climate change threat, the mayor of our state’s largest city is acting in the best tradition of a species intent on surviving.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Grannis: Updating "Bottle Bill" Is A No-Brainer - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Grannis: Updating "Bottle Bill" Is A No-Brainer - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation: "'Common Sense' Measure Will Keep Roadsides, Parks and Waterways Cleaner

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis today urged support of the 'Bigger Better Bottle Bill,' saying it would reduce litter, keep millions of containers out of our landfills, help in the fight against global warming and generate badly needed revenue.
'As Governor Paterson has made clear, New York faces a monumental budget deficit and must make many hard choices. But updating New York's 27-year-old Bottle Bill is not one of them,' Grannis said. 'Expanding the law to cover non-carbonated beverages such as fruit juice, water and sports drinks is long overdue.'"


FJR: So, this major story about recycling in our area comes from the DEC site itself. Where's the media on a visit by the head of the DEC talking about the new Bottle Bill? Nary a word to say about a real environmental issue? Can't be painted green in a warm fuzzy way that would please the media's corporate sponsors or pander to its dwindling audience? Interesting. Don't agree with my assessment of this story, then talk me down by responding with a sensible explanation of this environmental news dearth.

Bloomberg: City must adapt to global warming now -- Newsday.com

Bloomberg: City must adapt to global warming now -- Newsday.com: "Water levels around New York City could rise by 2 feet or more in the coming decades and average temperatures are likely to go up 4 to 7.5 degrees, according to a report released yesterday by a panel of scientists convened by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The city must adapt to global warming or risk having to rebuild facilities after flooding, Bloomberg said in releasing the report by the New York City Panel on Climate Change."

FJR: The mayor of NYC gets it. Does your mayor?

EPA May Reverse Bush, Limit Carbon Emissions From Coal-Fired Plants - washingtonpost.com

EPA May Reverse Bush, Limit Carbon Emissions From Coal-Fired Plants - washingtonpost.com: "The Environmental Protection Agency will reopen the possibility of regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, tossing aside a December Bush administration memorandum that declared that the agency would not limit the emissions."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Scientists: Pace of Climate Change Exceeds Estimates - washingtonpost.com

Scientists: Pace of Climate Change Exceeds Estimates - washingtonpost.com: "CHICAGO, Feb. 14 -- The pace of global warming is likely to be much faster than recent predictions, because industrial greenhouse gas emissions have increased more quickly than expected and higher temperatures are triggering self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms in global ecosystems, scientists said Saturday."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

You Would Think

You would think from watching, listening, or reading our Rochester-area media that almost nothing was happening with our environment. There might be something going on, say with global warming but only in a hazy nondescript sense. There might be an energy hike coming in the nebulous future or somebody might have done something nice for our beleaguered pets during this Recession. Oh, there is something about fuel cells and a pretty good article about using landfill trash for fueling our cars. And, I spotted a few green articles to delight; the ever hopeful. Overall though, this stubborn parochialism of our area’s media on our environment is like the one gets from Steinberg’s famous The New Yorker painting’s where beyond the range of NYC’s 9th Avenue nothing much really goes on. And, it must be assumed, much less do we care.

If it wasn’t for our ability to mine the Internet’s vast journalist resources, we here in Rochester would probably be completely oblivious of Nature’s machinations. For alas, there is much going on. How about how the recovery funds might affect our New York State environment department? Or, those peregrine falcons in our region that are on the rebound. Does it mean we’ve cleaned things up? What about the new studies of the Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) virus that has ravaged the Great Lakes and might have had its genesis in our area? Or, what about the new study that just came out on the rise of trans-fats (from our junk food) in Great Lakes herring gull eggs?

The bottle bill, which could greatly reduce trash about our area, is coming to a head soon and could greatly affect funds for our area’s environment. Most surrounding media covered it, but not ours. BTW: one of my favorite loony arguments against the bottle bill is this: What if we pass the bottle bill, begin using the monies for the Department of Conservation and then people lose interest in recycling? Well, Mr. corporate-compliant media isn’t it the government’s job to make sure our economy works in sync with our environment, not against it? [I know, to pure free-marketers this seems like the ravings of a lunatic, but think science and sustainability, instead of a selfish desire for more money.] And, in the media outside our area there were stories on bird studies about how climate change is already affecting our area, and one from near-by Canada about how climate change could eventually drain the Great Lakes. Not to mention, that the NYS DEC just issued the “Final Scope for Marcellus Shale Study.” Poking around underground in our area for more gas could conceivably affect our water, land, and air. But, nary a word from the Rochester press core.

This vast hole in our media’s environmental coverage is probably as not sinister as it appears. Although in the past eight years we have become inured to our government’s complacency and denying anthropomorphic environmental change, much of this dearth in local coverage on our environment has more to do with the perception that in order to make more money and stay afloat ,our media must pander to what they believe will sell news. The extraordinary changes occurring in our environment, even in the Rochester area, does not seem to be one of those beliefs. Yet, you would think that our local press would realize that everything we do in this area and hope for must include a healthy environment—and that the public would want that actively monitored, not pushed under the threshold of our attention. You would think that if the army was in country and one of its unit’s sentinels fell asleep while on duty, he’d be replaced.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eating less meat could cut climate costs - environment - 10 February 2009 - New Scientist

Eating less meat could cut climate costs - environment - 10 February 2009 - New Scientist: "Cutting back on beefburgers and bacon could wipe $20 trillion off the cost of fighting climate change. That's the dramatic conclusion of a study that totted up the economic costs of modern meat-heavy diets.
The researchers involved say that reducing our intake of beef and pork would lead to the creation of a huge new carbon sink, as vegetation would thrive on unused farmland"

Monday, February 09, 2009

NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - New Study Shows Climate Change Largely Irreversible

NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - New Study Shows Climate Change Largely Irreversible: "A new scientific study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reaches a powerful conclusion about the climate change caused by future increases of carbon dioxide: to a large extent, there’s no going back.

The pioneering study, led by NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon, shows how changes in surface temperature, rainfall, and sea level are largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are completely stopped. The findings appear during the week of January 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Teach Environment-In

Last Thursday, I attended one of our area’s colleges involved in the National Teach In On Global Warming, February 5th. The mission of the teach-in was to enjoin ”thousands of colleges, universities, high-schools, middle schools, faith groups, civic organizations and businesses” to “determine if our descendants will inherit a prosperous or an impoverished planet.” Pretty heady agenda.

The goal was to get everyone to realize that “We stand at a unique moment in human history. The window for action on global warming is measured in months, not years. Decisions that we make—or fail to make—in 2009 will have profound impacts not only for our children and grandchildren, but for every human being that will ever inhabit the face of this earth from now until the end of time.” Almost makes our Recession an afterthought. Think of it: Humans realizing that they must charge of their planet’s machinations. Doesn’t this define Environmental Ethics?

Though largely ignored by the press (if you came across local coverage of this nation-wide event, drop me a line), many of us from outside the university world did attend the activities. My original plan was to stay about an hour or two, but I got engaged and stayed the whole day. There was tabling for recycling, a table for measuring your carbon footprints (I calculated mine right after the university’s president did his), attending classes on environmental ethics, listening to environmental poetry readings, watching environmental films, joining in webcasts, attending workshops, and whole lot talking and listening. My favorite event was the “Teach-in.” What could be more fun for an old philosophy student than discussing important matters with college professors?

Oh, what’s a teach-in? “A "teach-in" is similar to a general educational forum on any complicated issue, usually an issue involving current political affairs. The main difference between a teach-in and a seminar is the refusal to limit the discussion to a specific frame of time or an academic scope of the topic. Teach-ins are meant to be practical, participatory, and oriented toward action. While they include experts lecturing on the area of their expertise, discussion and questions from the audience are welcome.” from Teach-in - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I came away from my teach-in day realizing that in spite of the media’s dismissal of the event, there are a world people concerned about our rapidly changing environment. Professors get it. Business people are starting to get it, though how deep their green façades drill down into industry’s practices is problematic. Students get it, for they have never lived in a world where it wasn’t known that anthropogenic climate change rules. Back in day, only an enlightened few believed humans could actually affect something as incredibly colossal as our planet’s environment in any meaningful way.

Shelving our environment is quickly changing as evidenced by Thursday’s national teach-in. Try as they may, those who deny the scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change are finding little traction for their views at the university level. And, disdainful as they might be, the media, which barrages us with ads, economic gloom, sports, political shenanigans, and the delusion that environmental concerns are not important because they don’t have a section in their newspaper on it, the media itself is being transcended. Already becoming marginalized by the Internet, teach-ins, and its own self-absorbed attempts to pander to a market that no longer listen to them, the media is merely fiddling around while the rest of us are trying to put out the planetary inferno.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Switch to Digital TV Wins a Delay to June 12 - NYTimes.com

Switch to Digital TV Wins a Delay to June 12 - NYTimes.com: "Twelve days before the expected end of analog broadcasting, television owners received a reprieve on Wednesday. It appears probable that Americans will have four more months to upgrade their old sets before a federal deadline requires stations to switch to digital TV."

FJR: Maybe too, the recycling market will rebound by that time so that old TV you throw out won't go in the landfill.

Not all green jobs pay well | Reuters

Not all green jobs pay well Reuters: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration has high hopes that millions of 'green' jobs will be created by investing billions of dollars in renewable energy, but a report on Tuesday warned not all those workers would earn good pay."

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Green Jobs Delusion?

We are hearing much lately about the heralding of green jobs. Green jobs will put people to work and ‘fix’ our environment. It all sounds exciting in the sense that it is hopeful instead of not hopeful. During our Season of Recession, hope is not discontent. “President Obama just made a big step toward the green goals he set on the campaign trail, announcing a task force that would address an economic stimulus for the middle class that focuses on green jobs” from Green Jobs First Topic For Biden's New Task Force – 01/31/09 The Huffington Post.

However, in this recession there are not a whole lot of jobs to begin with let alone ‘green jobs.’ I know, I’ve been looking for them. What you get when you search for ‘green jobs’ in the online job search sites is something akin to what you would get if you typed, “losing weight” or “happiness.” Is the green wave of jobs delusional? Something we really want but isn’t there? After all, you get an infinite number of links to “green jobs” because “green jobs” have been peppered into the Meta codes (secret search code words used in web sites to hijack search engines) and incorporated into the text of all these sites. Not because you will find employment there, but because it will get people to stop at their site. So, are green jobs—making money helping the environment via a concrete title, like ‘software engineer’—real? Not even the Great Google can find a green job if it doesn’t exist.

I think they do exist in the corporeal world if you mean a chemical engineer who is able to develop photovoltaic cells or an installer who installs solar panels; instead of satellite dishes or that new HDTV you just bought. I am not so sure they exist if you mean someone who has been trained explicitly for a green job with credentials in this field. Much of what I am hearing is ‘shovel ready’ municipal projects that have long been in the works and now will be labeled ‘green.’ Is the new job revolution merely a metaphoric green façade on traditional infrastructure upkeep?

At this point, you are probably thinking that I’m merely playing with semantics. Green jobs may be simply a euphemism for employment that can be labeled environmentally friendly. For, there are green buildings inspectors who are trained to inspect the quality of a building’s energy efficiency and along with it are credentials in the form of a certificate that you can include in your resume. These people can likely find a green job. Alternatively, there are people who have in their life experiences (volunteer work for environmental groups or being an environmental educator, like a forest ranger) labored for a sustainable environment and they (without some other degrees or credentials) are unlikely to find a green job.

This tortured use of ‘green jobs’ is not simply semantics: I believe green jobs are out there and they are force to be dealt with, like the Internet. In the Rochester area, the Center of Environmental Information has already developed an Upstate Green Business Network, which “is a network of businesses, institutions and organizations that share a mutual concern for the state of our environment.” Also, I have created a web page that deals with the latest news on green jobs coming in our area and long list of business ready to train and place you in a green job, called Green Business.

What a career councilor at an area college told me is that I should get ready for the next great wave of employment moving into the job sector. A couple of decades ago there were no degrees in computer engineering, but those who worked with computers were readying themselves for the emerging markets. When the computer market exploded, they were ready to take advantage of the boon. But, for the majority of those now seeking this particular turn in the job market, we need training programs that result in credentials we can hold in our hands and take to an employer.

My thought: Green jobs are here now and more are coming—like a tsunami. Be ready. Brush up your resume and use those experiences you have earned to move in a new direction, a sustainable course for both you and our environment. Start by going here and telling Vice President Joe Biden, chair of President Obama’s task force on creating a strong middle class, your ideas on how green jobs can help you and our environment: A Strong Middle Class. Opportunity is knocking, answer the door.