Saturday, May 30, 2009

Our Chemicals, Our Environment

This kind of analysis, checking to see what new chemicals we produce are having what effect on our health provided by the federal government, is what our government should be doing. We cannot rely, as we usually do, on industries to self-monitor their pollution and certainly we cannot depend on them to proactively seek out the possible repercussions of their new chemicals on our health and environment. In this country, as opposed to other countries, the burden of proof of the toxicity of industrial chemicals is on those whose complain, not on those who produce them.

So, having our government ramping up their studies on the relationship between manmade chemicals and their health ramifications is right on. ToxCast™ Program National Center for Computational Toxicology US EPA In 2007, EPA launched ToxCast™ in order to develop a cost-effective approach for prioritizing the toxicity testing of large numbers of chemicals in a short period of time. Using data from state-of-the-art high throughput screening (HTS) bioassays developed in the pharmaceutical industry, ToxCast™ is building computational models to forecast the potential human toxicity of chemicals. These hazard predictions will provide EPA regulatory programs with science-based information helpful in prioritizing chemicals for more detailed toxicological evaluations, and lead to more efficient use of animal testing. --from National Center for Computational Toxicology US EPA

How Does that Drilling for Natural Gas Thing Work?

Might want to think twice or three times about drilling for natural gas in our state. Some communities have not fared so well Check out this regional environmental issue from investigative reporters who have done their homework Officials in Three States Pin Water Woes on Gas Drilling - ProPublica "But a string of documented cases of gas escaping into drinking water -- not just in Pennsylvania but across North America -- is raising new concerns about the hidden costs of this economic tide and strengthening arguments across the country that drilling can put drinking water at risk. " (April 26, 09) ProPublica - Journalism in the Public Interest

Energy A Moral Iissue:

As we turn on our lights, run our air conditioners, and charge our gadgets we do so mostly by burning coal. Coal pollutes and adds dramatically to manmade global warming. So, when we decide not to conserve electricity or not to allow a renewable energy source near our home, we condemn many to the hazards of mountain top removal. That wind turbine won’t be in our backyard, but that blasted mountain top which tailing will pollute that wants and disfigure the lands will be in somebody else’s backyard. Morally, though, we all live in the coal fields because we use the power of coal and won’t allow a better power source to run our lives.

"We All Live in the Coal Fields": West Virginians Step Up Protests as EPA OKs New Mountaintop Removal At least thirty people were arrested in West Virginia Saturday as protesters marked a new phase of Operation Appalachian Spring, a campaign to end mountaintop removal mining. The protests came just a week after the Obama administration gave the green light for forty-two more mountaintop removal permits in a major victory for the coal industry. We speak to journalist Jeff Biggers, author of the book United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture and Enlightenment to America. Biggers says mountaintop removal is a national issue, not a local one, as many perceive." (May 29, 09) Democracy Now! Radio and TV News

Going Green:

We all have to go, but there are a lot of us: People out thinking out of the traditional coffin and ways that won’t harm our environment. This might seem preposterous and heretical to a fundamental right of us all to be buried with dignity, but with 6.5 billion of us wanting our own space—forever—is going to get crowded and its unsustainable. Better that we think ahead and get some new ideas on traditional burying methods:

Here’s one: Dirt: Dying Green in NY on Vimeo "Natural Burial is a rising trend within the green movement. Already quite popular abroad and in California, Natural Burial is fast making its way to the east coast. "Dying Green" isn't just for hippies anymore. Motivated not only by ecological concerns, but also economic and emotional ones, "Dirt" explores the ideas behind green burial itself, its availability in NYS, and a host of the quirky movers-and-shakers behind the cause."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

High-Speed Rail Through Rochester

If high-speed rail runs through the Rochester area, our transportation modes would change dramatically. Find out more about this issue and make comment to the government: FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION : PASSENGER RAIL"President Obama proposes to help address the nation's transportation challenges by launching a new and efficient high-speed passenger rail network in 100-600 mile corridors that connect communities across America.
The Strategic Plan outlines the President’s vision that would transform the nation’s transportation system by rebuilding existing rail infrastructure while developing a comprehensive high-speed intercity passenger rail network through a long-term commitment at both the federal and state levels. This plan draws from the successful highway and aviation development models with a 21st century solution that focuses on clean, energy-efficient rail transportation. "

See Climate Change:

If you’re from Missouri, you probably want us to ‘show you’ the effects of climate change, instead of listing article after article. Because of the nature of large-scale, long-term changes inherit in climate change this proved a challenge for the public who didn’t own their own intergalactic satellite.

Well, now you can borrow NASA’s satellites and watch them watch our planet’s ice move, water levels rise, and storms move. So, before leveling an opinion about whether we can witness climate change happening, check this amazingly assessable data from NASA and see for yourself—even if you just from New York. Climate Change: NASA's Eyes on the Earth "Eyes on the Earth – Earth-orbiting spacecraft and instruments developed my NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory currently study all aspects of our planet – oceans, land, atmosphere, biosphere and cyrosphere. They provide critical data about the rate and extent of global climate change."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Green Jobs – We’re Hearing Things...

You can discuss all day long about what a ‘green job’ is and some have (Green Jobs - A GLOBE-Net Perspective), but mostly it’s an occupation that employs while making our way of life sustainable. Let’s not get too ivory tower about this notion as people are desperately looking for job now and, as a concept in progress, it matters little if today’s blue collar job, with a little retro-fitting, becomes tomorrow’s green job. Bigger changes to the job market are coming.

The proposed high-speed rail (TRANSPORTATION: Fast-tracking high-speed rail ) might create a lot of blue-green collar jobs if the public can get their heads around a new system that would compete nicely against vehicles and planes for longer trips. We are hearing that a high-speed rail system connected with bus rapid transit could reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase efficiency and safety. Not all change is bad.

We are hearing about people thinking out of the box: starting businesses with new green products that only need some public education to generate interest. We’re hearing about a climate change bill in Congress coming up in June that could level the playing field so new forms of energy can complete with the old.

We are hearing about educators wanting to get their high-school students ready for a new green economy by including new training for teachers. And we are hearing about growing renewable energy companies that are creating new jobs nearby--Wind turbines becoming growth industry in Ohio. We know that the Internet is exploding with new databases for finding green jobs (Green Business Jobs Rochester, NY environmental jobs Rochester RochesterEnvironment.com) and new recycling business opening up and newly trained interns looking for green jobs, or maybe even just helping out and spicing up that green resume. (Take on an intern with a degree in the environmental field and green up that business of yours this summer.) People designing new Killer Aps (GoodGuide Ratings of Natural, Green and Healthy Products Green iPhone Apps ZapRoot 086 ZapRoot) are emerging as high-tech eco-problem solvers. So, we are hearing a lot of hints that the green job thing is real.

No, we are not hearing about a magical green gate that has suddenly opened and anyone wanting a green job merely has to walk though it for financial security and a clean planet. But, things are certainly stirring. All sectors of the economy, workers holding on to their old jobs, workers out of a job looking for a new one, kids coming out of college, and adults going back in, are all talking greening up the business world. So, we’re hearing more about how the time is ripe for a sea change in our economy and our planet’s health and we are following more threads that seem to be leading to more green job opportunities.

Maybe it’s why we are not hearing a lot of despair—because there’s a change a’ coming to the job environment and there’s hope that this time around we’ll get it right. Products and services that afford us a living on a planet that is thriving-it’s the way it should be.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Recovery | Green Jobs

This just in from NYS. Good service to subscribe to if your interested in the road ahead for the formulation of green jobs.

Economic Recovery "Governor Paterson and New York's Economic Recovery Cabinet are pleased to announce the start of a new service. Beginning today, and continuing on a regular basis, the Economic Recovery Cabinet will provide compiled reports with Stimulus-related news, announcements, and grant opportunities. The first issue is attached at the bottom of this e-mail. Subsequent issues will follow by e-mail, and will be available for download from our website, www.recovery.ny.gov from a dedicated archive page."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Not Like Sports News

Unlike sports news coverage, where the lead unwinds quickly delivering a slow ball or a fast ball down the base line towards an awaiting teammate to complete a play that either mesmerizes or infuriates a crowd of enthusiasts, environmental news coverage is by comparison often droll and leaves the reader with the haunting sense that they’d been complicit in a world-wide conspiracy they did not desire or even contemplate beforehand.

However in both, sports and environmental coverage facts are not enough. In both, facts are critical; their accuracy should not be in dispute. But, facts alone don’t tell the whole story. In sports coverage there’s the daily drama, the bad boys beating the impossible odds and their wicked opponents must be whipped into such a sublime pitch of fervor that those opposed and fans enthralled near swoon. There are clear winners and losers. The winners must be goateed to gloat and the loser must retain enough dignity to come back and fight another day. Makes for exciting reading. Makes you want to follow up and tune in the next time these warriors get together. Makes for good media sales.

Environmental news coverage treats facts differently. Yes, the facts must be there, accurate and testable, but their intent must be to get the reader to see the importance of the big picture. Often not that fun. It’s not a game of winners and losers (or shouldn’t be); it’s important feedback about whether or not our way of life is working. And while environmental news coverage may never get the vast readership sports coverage does, with little of the drama and heaps of those dire consequences, here are some tips that might make environmental coverage, which some editors insist on inserting into an otherwise palatable chunk of daily reporting, more interesting:

Ask yourself, is the environmental news new? (Both sports and environment news share the burden of teasing something new out of the same old field of play.) Does it indicate a growing trend or an ebbing one—a condition where we are striving towards a solution or one threatening to come back and bite us? Does the news come from a credible source? (Even so, you should cross check it with other sources, maybe even data sources at a university or a reputable institution.) Does the story provide sufficient background to understand its import, its relevance to the overall health of the planet? (In sports, a come-back kid is bit more tantalizing that the same ole competent outfielder catching the same ole fly ball.) Does it have enough facts or so many facts that you cannot see the forest for the trees—the trees being the larger picture of our planetary environmental health? Is the story objective or biased by ideology, political, or economic zealotry?

I should mention one big difference between sports and environmental news coverage that may not be immediately obvious those wondering how the media will look after the Recession. If our local media failed altogether, someone would probably pick up the ball and deliver a blow by blow account of any game large enough to attract a crowd—by radio or podcast if necessary. If the bottom drops out of local coverage of environmental news, no one might pick up the ball at all. If you haven’t taken your eye off the ball of the media’s plight in this Recession, then you know that this is almost the case.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Love Canal - A new online resource

One of the most notorious Brownfields, Environmental history was made nearby at Love Canal. Now you can view an expertly constructed web site that documents the tragedy with photos and records. Love Canal Collections - University at Buffalo Libraries

Will it ever get cleaned up?

Sadly, it is not hard to believe that the clean-up of the Hudson River due to PCB pollution is still choked by delays. Here’s how these big pollution events seem to go. A corporation for one reason or another pollutes a body of water. Maybe it was an accident, maybe it was OK to pollute years ago, whatever, there’s always an excuse. Then, there has to be a sufficient cry of outrage to get our waters cleaned up, or it just doesn’t get to the court’s radar. Then, it goes to court and really smart people in law (but not very bright on our environment) wrangle over the merits of the case.

And, maybe once in a great while the people win and the waters have to be cleaned up. But, sometimes the company has gone bankrupt. Then, there are delays. There are delays because no one is ever satisfied that the courts have made them clean up their mess. Then, once is a very great while the case will go through all the appeals, all the nigglings at the law, everything—but there still will be delays.

The poisons sit because removing the poisons is complicated, expensive, and disruptive to people's lives. In a way this all sounds sensible as this is the way corporations and our laws work—you just have to wait for the wheel of the law to turn wherever they are going to turn. Trouble is Nature and the laws of physics are not so democratic. If you put a lot of poisons in the water, stuff happens.

Check this out: Barrier drops to PCB dredge -- Page 1 -- Times Union - Albany NY ALBANY — Saratoga County officials have dropped part of a lawsuit seeking to halt the Hudson River PCB dredging project in a dispute with the federal government over a safe supply of outside drinking water from Troy. (May 9, 09) Albany NY News - Times Union - Serving Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady, Troy

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Pandemic of News

Media coverage and official preparedness of the looming swine pandemic has been so comprehensive and apparently competent that there was even some praise left over for the Bush Administration ”for stockpiling 50 million doses of antiviral medications” that helped get efforts off the ground quickly this time. Though there were tragic loss of life and mistakes, this was not the 1918-19 Flu. People, via TV, radio, print, and (of course) the Internet, got informed. Around the world, people hunkered down for the worst. Once prodded by ‘missteps’ as we were with Hurricane Katrina, there are indications that our species is capable of massive coordinated actions towards a real threat. Just like forest creatures communicating and acting on the heat and crackle of a wildfire.

So, like animals sensible enough to produce offspring, we are good at acting quickly once danger is perceived. Good to know. But, what we seem especially poor at is long, drawn-out catastrophes. They challenge our attention and patience. We get bored quickly; we habituate to things that move around, but don’t come straight at us. Exasperatingly, our modern-day eyes and ears--the media--thrives on the New! too. AIDS, Climate Disruption, the (billions of) poor and hungry—even though just as deadly and tragic as the moment they breakout, challenge all of us to stay focused on what matters.

This is a problem, one that bumps us against our ability to react properly to real dangers. For while we are recognizing that Climate Disruption caused by anthropomorphic tampering (us by the billions doing stuff), much of what we are doing is disjointed and ineffective. Political views rule. Economic realities rule even more. We are ‘greening up’ but too many are getting bored by all the ‘greeney’ stuff. They’ve heard that before, it’s getting old, people are habituating.

Nevertheless, we are living amidst a slow-moving (in human time) catastrophe. Eventually, our environmental problems will catch up with us. Even if you can outrun a sea level change, your children may not. Brownfields are going un-cleaned. We’re still spending (federal stimulus) billions on fixing roads for gas-guzzlers and gnashing our teeth about the specter of a wind turbine near our country estate—while the planet traps CO2 and methane gas like Venus. (You don’t want your spaceship to land there.)

All while the media gently weeps about its own loss of (humongous) profits. (Last week a reporter asked President Obama if the newspaper industry too would get a bailout.) This is all nonsense on stilts. Regardless of how the news paradigm will look tomorrow, we will need a media that investigates and reports completely and honestly about the state of our environment—continually. Walter Pincus (Newspaper Narcissism) says with some authority: “Our press is not protected in order to merely echo the views of government officials, opposition politicians, and so-called experts."

If the media wants to survive, they are going to have to handle long-term critical issues in-depth. Clamping down on news aggregators (like Google and Yahoo), who are allegedly niggling away at Internet profits won’t solve the media’s systemic problem. When serious news is conveyed in a competent way, customers will come. Here’s a model for a media comeback: Climate Change is a Pandemic—it’s just slower.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Green Jobs for the common folks?

Lots of the federal stimulus money coming to our state. How much is going to green jobs to make our environment more sustainable? The figures are coming in and it’s clear, our government is inordinately fond of highways.

“The stimulus legislation delivers substantial support for infrastructure projects. At the national level, this includes $48 billion in funding for transportation capital projects ($8.4 billion for mass transit, $27.5 billion for highways and bridges, $9.3 billion for rail, $1.3 billion for airport improvement projects; $1.5 billion for discretionary surface transportation projects). Of this total, New York is expected to receive at least $1.25 billion for the mass transit and $1.1 billion for highways and bridges. The Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Cabinet will be working with State agencies and local governments to aggressively seek funding from other sources of transportation funding. The legislation also includes $16.8 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and technologies, including research and development. New York will receive $126 million through the State Energy Program and $31 million in alternative energy block grants. It provides $4.5 billion for energy research and development projects nationwide, including $2.0 billion for energy storage technologies, which could provide funding for the Governor’s proposed battery storage consortium. New York State is also projected to receive $435 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund; $85 million from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund; and $404 million to help weatherize the homes of low-income individual.” --Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

GOV SITE - GOVERNOR PATERSON SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER TO PHASE OUT THE STATE’S PURCHASE OF BOTTLED WATER

GOV SITE - GOVERNOR PATERSON SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER TO PHASE OUT THE STATE’S PURCHASE OF BOTTLED WATER: "GOVERNOR PATERSON SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER TO PHASE OUT THE STATE’S PURCHASE OF BOTTLED WATER

Executive Order Will Improve Environment and Save Taxpayer Dollars

New York Becomes Second State in the Country to Eliminate Purchase and Use of Bottled Water

Governor David A. Paterson today signed an Executive Order to phase out New York State’s purchase and use of bottled water at State agency facilities. This announcement, made by the Governor at “Earth Day Lobby Day” in Albany, marks another important step New York State is taking to improve the environment while simultaneously saving taxpayer dollars. Today’s actions make New York the second state in the country to eliminate the purchase and use of bottled water."

Communities are Greening up

I’m coming across more and more project to help communities go green-become environmentally friendly, that is, from the public, to business, to government. Here’s another great project: How Green is My Town? - a project of Grassroots Environmental Education Our two-year quest for the answer to this question led us on a journey around the virtual world, and along the way we discovered inspiring people and outstanding organizations all holding pieces of the puzzle - creative and practical solutions to some of our most pressing and vexing problems. Their ideas and programs fill the pages of our web site, and we are deeply grateful for their efforts. "How Green Is My Town?" is a project of Grassroots Environmental Education, a non-profit organization based in Port Washington, New York. The project was made possible in part by the generous support of the Rauch Foundation.

Sign of the Times

Certainly, it’s a sign of the times when a major news service decides to devote an entire section of its news service to Green Business news: Green Business News Reuters.com. Business, industry, corporations, etc. should have always included our environment in their business practices. In the future they will be so merged as to be one—this is because they always have been.

It’s just that for a zillion reasons, business have not treated our environment as anything but an infinite and free resource or a drain to pour their chemicals down. (Rather than argue this point, go to RTKNet: The Right-to-Know Network rtknet.org: The Right-to-Know Network type in your city and find out how much toxic waste was released into your environment by industry since 1982.)

So, now business will not only be cleaning up their act, they will be providing jobs so we the people can make a living cleaning up the planet and keeping it clean. While this great change in business and media thinking is to be applauded, so much devastation to our environment has occurred before we have gotten to this point.

Monitor our environment/Monitor environmental reports

One of the main themes of RochesterEnvironment.com is that our major or mainstream media is not doing its job on informing the public of our environmental situation on a continual basis. Not only do environmental stories, which are indicators of concerns we should have about our way of life and whether it is sustainable or not, get published rarely compared to frivolous stories, but there is a steady decline in dedicated environmental reporters.

Without local dedicated environmental reporter continually probing for pollution effects, local indicators of climate change, water quality, air quality, etc., we, the public and our political leaders, are left without important information we need to live sustainably. We cannot make informed choices about our environment if we don’t know what is going on. Environmental news is not just another issue; it’s about the survival of our way of life. Our industrial, 6.5 billion peopled world is changing radically everyday and we need to know how.

With that said, RochesterEnvironment.com does not have the expertise to judge the quality of individual environmental reporting in the media—when it does occur. But, others are qualified, and their voices should be heard by the public.

Please, think of checking this site often: Media Reviews — Environmental Health News EHS scientists and fellows critique media coverage. --from Environmental Health News:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

RTKNet: The Right-to-Know Network | rtknet.org: The Right-to-Know Network

RTKNet: The Right-to-Know Network rtknet.org: The Right-to-Know Network: "the redesigned Right-to-Know Network, an information hub helping advocates push for improved access to government held information on the environment, health, and safety"

EPA Moves to Require Greenhouse Gas Reporting | OMB Watch

EPA Moves to Require Greenhouse Gas Reporting OMB Watch: "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken the first crucial step toward creating a transparent and accountable climate change program by proposing a greenhouse gas registry. The registry would require thousands of facilities from a broad range of industries to record and report their annual emissions of greenhouse gases. A comprehensive registry is a prerequisite for any future efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."