Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rochester’s 350.org Coverage

Judging from the media response around the world, the 350.org event has been a hit: October 24 Press Release | 350.org “350.org To Stage Largest Day of Environmental Action in History | 5,242 Simultaneous Events on Climate in 181 Countries.”

“Citizens, scientists and world leaders in 181 countries will take to nearby streets, mountains, parks, and reefs today to demand strong action on climate change, in what will be the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history. 5,242 rallies and creative demonstrations will take place, all of them centered on the number 350, to draw attention to 350 parts per million (ppm), which an overwhelming number of scientists now insist is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

However, judging from our local media response to the several 350.org events, not much happened: a Rousing Dud. (Disclaimer: Because I did not rush out and buy up all the paper versions of our local media, or frantically tune into all the TV and radio stations either, ((because they are insufferably myopic and merely pander to their corporate sponsors)), I am basing this observation on what our local media has posted on the Internet today—October 25, 2009.)

Maybe I posted this article too soon and the media just hasn’t gotten up to snuff yet on how this world-wide event played out in Rochester. Maybe, they’re all scurrying around in their backrooms, honing 350.org coverage so it will be a real sizzler when it comes out. Maybe.

But, I’m not on any of the local media’s editorial staff. So, what do I know? Maybe, getting world-wide attention focused on the planet warming up just is too far out of the comfort and profit zones of our local media. That must be the case because there are lots of sports, criminal activity, political carping, and lots of sports coverage on our local media. Really, a lot of sports. Sports are in, imminent environmental collapse is out.

Only as an observer (another disclaimer: I was a participant) did I see over sixty bicyclists ride from downtown Rochester to the RIT campus. Then, I witnessed for myself a great rally with the RIT president and his college in full support of the sea change needed on the matter of Climate Change and a full day’s programming to show that our community gets it on 350ppm. I witnessed lots of people taking photos and videos and uploading them to 350.org. To be fair, our local media wasn’t completely hopeless. I see one media with one article on one 350.org event for our area: RIT Marks International Day of Climate Action “It may not always be the right weather for a bike ride around here, but as they say wait 5 minutes and it'll change. The rain Saturday morning didn't stop a group of environmentally conscious riders from hitting the trail. The purpose: to mark the International Day of Climate Action.” (October 25, 09) http://rochester.ynn.com/

Yet, all in all it’s very troubling. One of 350.org’s purposes (the other was to get our politicians’ attention focused on the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference Copenhagen 2009) was to make enough noise to make everyone take notice of the danger point we have passed for a sustainable environment. That is, to both circumvent the dysfunctional media and get in the face of a corporate-manipulated press that is disinclined to speak about the fact that the planet’s atmosphere is warming up due to humanity’s activities.

Our planet is warming up due to our way of life. This is as clear as those annoying pop-ups on every mainstream media’s web page, as clear as the ubiquitous sports scores that flash across those flat screen TV’s, and as eye-catching as the endless violence that inundates local media stories: Those charged with informing us with the information we need to live sustainable are not doing their job.

If you did attend one of the area’s 350.org events, and you still welcome a challenge, why not contact your local media and ask them why they didn’t cover Rochester’s participation in this world-wide event?

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Bottle Bill Regulation:

Like the new regulations or not, there will be less plastic bottles littering our state and less going into our landfills because this sort of legislation works. It works simply because people may throw away what they perceive as trash, but they won’t throw away money. Many people scour our city streets for deposit-able bottle to supplement or have an income at all.

However, the recent rash of stories on the new bottle bill regulation is not on the benefits to our environment that removing a zillion plastic bottles from our land will bring about-- it is the new regulation’s effect on local businesses. Think about it: What is more important the health of our environment, or the keeping the way we run our economy? (The Recession how is that working for you?) We can alter how our regulations will affect business; once our environment gets compromised by pollution, it’s the dickens getting it back on track.

Here’s the real issue: If we spread the repercussions of changing our economy to include the health of our environment—say, increasing deposits on all potential recyclable products and adequately compensating those businesses that must reclaim these bottles by spreading out the economic effects of the changes in new regulations--there wouldn’t be so many wrongly-focused articles on environmental regulations and environmentalists verses businesses.

If we all got engaged in our environmental situation and all took responsibility, we would affect change for a sustainable economy and environment without many the few take the hit.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Is Your Drinking Water Being Protected?

If you haven’t been reading the series of article on the state of our clean drinking waters from the New York Times Toxic Waters - Series - The New York Times, here’s a chance to hear all about it. 

Toxic Waters: Regulatory Absence Allows Chemical, Coal and Farm Industries to Pollute US Water Supplies "Toxic Waters: Regulatory Absence Allows Chemical, Coal and Farm Industries to Pollute US Water Supplies We speak to New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg about the latest in his investigative series “Toxic Waters,” which examines the worsening pollution in the nation’s water systems." --from democracynow.com

Sunday, October 18, 2009

350 Why It Matters

“350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide—measured in ‘Parts Per Million’ in our atmosphere. 350 PPM—it's the number humanity needs to get back to as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change.” –from Understanding 350 | 350.org

Several events are going on in Rochester this coming Saturday for the 350.org and we hope you will attend one. If enough people demonstrate in a positive way that they acknowledge the problem of Climate Change and are willing to make their voice heard, it might make a difference. It’s all on 350.org.

I personally think it matters that we act in some concerted effort now to raise our voice because of the cloud of indifference that wafts over environmental matters. So much irrational and ideological dust has been kicked up over global warming that we have lost the moral point. It goes like this: Only in the last couple of decades has there been overwhelming evidence that we –Homo sapiens—are affecting the planet’s environment.

Up to this point, only a few believed we were doing great damage. But the majority of humanity didn’t really think our puny little species and our busy machinations could actually steer the course of the planet’s biology enough to affect how it all works. Now, no well-informed person can deny that we’ve not only trashed the place, we are on Earth’s board of directors. Way beyond our Peter Principle.

This changes everything. Morality itself takes on a new meaning because our choices aren’t simply about us or our personal salvation. Our choices have a tangible affect on the workings of our planet, even threatening our future and the lives of other beings on this planet. So, if you follow my logic, our sense of Morality must include our responsibility to our environment because we now realize we can actually change it.

It’s a profound idea. This wouldn’t have occurred to Aristotle, Plato, Marx, or even Darwin because they didn’t have computers and satellites to access the data from a far enough vantage point to reach this conclusion. Our ancestors would not have deduced from watching a campfire in a cave that several millennia later, with billions of people and zillions of fires, we can raise the temperature of the planet, so they had better cool it. But, our generation does know.

In the same way that other great ideas have transformed the way we view the world—evolution, monotheism, fire, agriculture—manmade Climate Change will forever change how we see ourselves. Once you realize that we are altering the planet, you must, like a Kantian imperative, acknowledge your responsibility.

One way to act on that responsibility is to attend a 350.org event and get heard by the rest of the world.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Top Ten Things You Can Do for Rochester’s Environment

Sure there are lots of top ten lists around. So why not one on the things you can do for your local environment—that system that keeps us alive and thriving? But, this list is different from the usual stuff. It’s not one of those really easy, warm and fuzzy lists of fun activities you can do in your spare time. It’ll be transformative.

This list assumes you are ready to take responsibility (as a member of the only species capable of doing so) for your presence at this critical time in our planet’s history. And, it isn’t about just your personal fulfillment thing—our environment isn’t politics, religion, a fad, or a cause; it’s science all the way down. Pollute the planet, stuff happens. Finally, in order for the effects of this list to be effective a lot (I mean billions) of humans need to do them too. In the deepest practical sense, everything you do (where you live, what you eat, what you buy, what you throw away) matters to our environment. Ready folks, here we go:

1. Be engaged with the issues surrounding our local environment by monitoring the media, books, reports, and the Internet using the laws of Nature as your guide to monitor how our lifestyle is affecting our environment.

2. When you consume anything--food, water, cars, gadgets, whatever—do so as though you were demonstrating how to consume for the rest of the world—considering the lifecycle of the products you buy, how they are made, how they are used, and how you get rid of them.

3. When you have someplace to go, consider all your options in order of their affect on our environment: walking, biking, car-pooling, mass transit, and lastly a personal vehicle.

4. Conserve energy until we find a non-polluting, renewable energy source.

5. Vote. If you’re doing good for our environment and your representative in government doesn’t get it, you’re just making yourself feel good without much effect.

6. Recycle, reuse and encourage your local government to create a place where recycling just about everything is the norm.

7. Think twice before using toxic chemicals that make your yard look like a golf course and your house like a hospital.

8. Consider other species (plants and animals) and their role in sustaining our environment. Some are annoying and critical. Some are cute and a burden.

9. Adopt green business practices: your business will save our environment and be able to compete with the rest of the world.

10. Communicate your concerns about the state of our environment to everyone. Sustainability isn’t going to work unless everyone gets on board quickly.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Could we be the new Green Leaders?

Could our region be leading the way to clean up Brownfields and creating sites for renewable Energy?

Green Shoots from Brown Fields: Scientific American Uncle Sam looks to eliminate the biggest hurdle to expanding renewable energy--the need for suitable sites to place commercial-scale wind and solar farms--by reusing hundreds of old mines, landfills and industrial sites When the Bethlehem Steel mill in Lackawanna, N.Y., finally shut its doors for good eight years ago, it took away thousands of jobs and left behind a polluted and unsightly mess. Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American

Friday, October 09, 2009

Coyote Dread:

Because the issue of the Eastern Coyotes among us has come up in the news, I wanted to make a reference to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation who reminds us the coyotes are an ‘integral part of our ecosystem.’  As we have exterminated most of the top predators in our area in the last couple of centuries (bears, wolves, cougars used to rule), we have a proliferation of deer and our environment has altered a lot. 

My point is that when it comes to coyotes there are much misinformation and prejudice about this creature whirling about—sometimes resulting in coyote killing contests.  This is not how we should be reacting to ‘integral part of our ecosystem’ in this time.  We should be reacting as stewards of our environment, which we are now.

Get the factsL Coyote Conflicts - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation The Eastern coyote is firmly established in New York. They live in New York as an integral part of our ecosystem. People and coyotes can usually coexist if the natural fear of people that coyotes have is maintained.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Climate Event in Rochester, NY

Oct 24th It’s the Environment folks! If you are looking for a local event for the 350.org string of environmental events (October 24th) check out RIT’s program [4214] 350 Climate Action Festival | 350.org

What is 350.org? Mission | 350.org “350.org is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis--the solutions that science and justice demand.”

No more Open Burning:

Long needed, I was surprised to see this new state regulation from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) just appear on the DEC press releases.  I haven’t seen a mainstream media item on this, but it’s big news.  Preventing the open burning of household trash in outlying communities, in light of what we know about Dixons and other air pollutants and global warming should have been enacted a long time ago.

So, without much fanfare and unlike the brouhaha over the new bottle bill, this regulation, this new regulation should  fill a gaping hole in our state’s air quality laws. 

Check out: New Regulation on Open Burning Takes Effect Oct. 14 - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Taking a step to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has extended restrictions on the open burning of residential waste effective Oct. 14. The open burning of residential waste will be prohibited in all communities statewide, regardless of population, with exceptions for burning tree limbs and branches at limited times and other certain circumstances (detailed below). Previously, the ban applied only in towns with populations of 20,000 or more. The New York State Environmental Board approved this state regulation on Sept. 1. (October 5, 09) Press Releases - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation [more on Air Quality in our area]

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Great Conceit

In this wonderful and expert article on bird migration [City Newspaper “A bird in the hand” 9/30/09], something hauntingly familiar struck me from the section: “Why protect birds?” Birds have a right to live; birding helps our economy because birders buy binoculars; birds are an early-warning system, etc. I’ve come across this apparent need for reporters and scientists to justify the need for other species in many articles on our environment: why we need biodiversity (lots of different species), why we need wolves, why bears, whales, or those darn mosquitoes, whatever. Basically, I guess, the assumption is why the rest of us who are driving around in our hot new clunkers, making a living, or watching the latest ‘reality’ on TV, and doing just fine should care about birds, which may not be our ‘thing.’

Here’s what strikes me: To pose such a question in the media at all reveals a great human conceit that humankind should relieve itself of. Feeling compelled to prove the existence of birds is like having to explain the existence of the third floor in a high-rise. Answer: You don’t get to live on any of the above floors if there is no third floor. Birds and other species don’t simply exist at our pleasure; they and our environment are One. Birds are so woven into the fabric of our present environment as to cause serious structural damage if they were somehow removed.

This great conceit that we humans can casually sit back and calculate and consider the worth of the other biological components on this planet is sheer irresponsible lunacy. We forget ourselves, what we learned in biology, and who we are. The media and the public should take responsibility for informing themselves on how this planet operates (because we are at the helm as never before) so we don’t have to keep explaining why other creatures are valuable. That birds are important is an absolute no-brainer. Our culture should have advanced to the point where implicit in every article on other species is that they are not at the mercy of our false belief in the preeminence of our economy.

I’ll unpack that last point. Our economy doesn’t rule, Nature does. Denying the critical role of birds would be like the crew on a space ship suddenly seized with the fancy that it didn’t need air and began jack hammering the oxygen tanks. Birds are not only really neat, our environment will be different when they are gone—and you probably won’t like the results.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Where's that pollution?

A report (37 pages) that should be on your reading list this week is the new report by the International Joint Commission because it's about "programs to abate, control and prevent pollution from municipal sources entering the Great Lakes System.” The report’s object: The objective was to survey existing programs aimed at controlling surface-water pollution and to provide an overview of the current situation."

And, he current situation is not pretty.  Not only is one of the largest fresh water systems in the world, which is in and is our backyard, being compromised, the municipal sewage overflow, which is integral to our environmental health (a point that doesn’t usually get high prominence in mainstream media because they don’t know how to quantify it) is also affecting the fishing and tourist industries—which do get a high profile in our mainstream media. Anyway, if you don’t have time to read this report, you should see that your congress person does.   

International Joint Commission - News room IJC Releases 14th Biennial Report WINDSOR, Ontario - The International Joint Commission today released its Fourteenth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (Article VII), the International Joint Commission reports to the federal, state and provincial governments biennially concerning its findings on their progress toward achieving the Agreement’s general and specific objectives. The Commission’s report, which is released to the public, is also to assess the effectiveness of programs and other measures undertaken pursuant to the Agreement