Friday, December 31, 2010

Can we ‘see’ our environment in a gadget-filled world?

 

RochesterEnvironment.com began early in the Internet age and is now 12 years old.  It was cutting environmental technology back when it was GreenSolitaire.org and trying to collect all local environmental web sites online. 

The Internet offered a new way for the public to become citizen examiners and news reporters because mainstream media wasn’t doing their job on monitoring our environment.  With continual corporate take-over of media and consolidations, then sports, crimes, and political shenanigans heading the news, reports about the state of our environment were getting fewer and far between. 

The Internet changed all that and allowed an interconnectivity and access to an incredible amount of resources that helped by-pass a dysfunctional media. But a technical revolution is still occurring and it may not bode well for environmental monitoring.  Recently, wireless connections to the Internet may have been compromised by the new FCC ruling.

Timothy Karr: Obama FCC Caves on Net Neutrality -- Tuesday Betrayal Assured Late Monday, a majority of the FCC's commissioners indicated that they're going to vote with Chairman Julius Genachowski for a toothless Net Neutrality rule. According to all reports, the rule, which will be voted on during tomorrow's FCC meeting, falls drastically short of earlier pledges by President Obama and the FCC Chairman to protect the free and open Internet.  The rule is so riddled with loopholes that it's become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users. (December, 21 2010) Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post

There may and probably will be limits to what you can access on the Internet.  Those left out may be environmental watchdogs, who are trying to give the public a real model, instead of a corporate model of reality. 

We cannot possibly live in a world where we do not have ready access to objective, scientific, and unfiltered environmental information. 

The real world and physics cannot be spun like a news article coming from a media with an objective they wish to frame. And, a local survey about Smartphone usage may mean that the Internet, instead of providing a technology for the public to be better able to monitor their environment, may simply overwhelm them with so many unnecessary and silly messages that they fail to see the outdoors at all.

Majority says smart phones are affecting the way they work | Rochester Business Journal New York business news and information “Two-thirds of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say smart phones are changing the way they work—with more than one-third of those selecting “very much” to describe the change.  The research firm IDC recently predicted that in 2011 the latest wave in technology, led by smart phones, will start to take over the market. The firm said an estimated 330 million smart phones will be sold worldwide next year, and within 18 months non-PC devices capable of running software applications will outsell PCs.” (December 30, 2010) Rochester Business Journal

The communication’s revolution we are now living in is great and we can connect to more people and more information than every thought possible—just a few years ago. 

But if all this leads up to where we cannot gage our environmental health because everything we should know about the outside world is being robbed by our attention to our gadgets, we are a species blinded to our environment. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Changing our buildings’ profile to the sun

 

One of the things that every city can do to reduce all those dark roofs, which absorb heat and radiate it back out to the atmosphere (not inside your house) is increase our urban roofs light reflecting qualities.  We could put light-colored shingles on our roofs.  Or, we can plant plants. 

Or, we place solar panels and lessen heat absorption and create electricity.  With new designs of existing structures, we could change our ways and work with Nature, instead of against it.  

Green Roofs are Starting To Sprout in American Cities by Bruce Stutz: Yale Environment 360 "Long a proven technology in Europe, green roofs are becoming increasingly common in U.S. cities, with major initiatives in Chicago, Portland, and Washington, D.C. While initially more expensive than standard coverings, green roofs offer some major environmental — and economic — benefits. " (December 2, 2010) Yale Environment 360: Opinion, Analysis, Reporting & Debate

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Climate Change disturbances

 

Check out this great interview with a climate expert on why we are seeing these big snowstorms, which only reinforce scientist’s conviction that Climate Change is happening and even more quickly than anticipated—despite the media’s ambivalence. 

There’s no way around it, Climate Change is not only going to be harder to live with, it’s going to be harder and harder for those media outlets who don’t want to accept it, to deny it. 

Major media outlets that misinform the public about Climate Change will have less and less credibility.  Work on Climate Change needs to get going, and the media should be reporting accurately on this issue.

From Snowstorms to Heat Waves, How Global Warming Causes Extreme Weather and Climate Instability "The East Coast is struggling to recover from the massive blizzard that slammed into hundreds cities and towns from the Carolinas to Maine. The storm was a grimly fitting end to 2010, which was characterized by extreme weather from start to finish with heat waves, floods, volcanoes, blizzards, landslides and droughts. While TV networks closely follow extreme weather events around the world, they rarely make the connection between extreme weather and global warming. We speak with Dr. Paul Epstein of Harvard University’s Center for Health and the Global Environment. " (December 28, 2010) Democracty Now! - daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 900 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the United States.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Forcing Climate Change measures

 

The Environmental Protection Agency is getting tough on tackling Climate Change (see below), despite a lack of will by Congress and the greenhouse gas emitters.  How forcing Climate Change measures will work, who knows?

You would think that an intelligent species as our own would finally recognize how fast Climate Change is occurring and how everyone on the planet has to change their behaviors to address it.  But I suspect that in the future the Climate Change issue won’t be as much about  man pitting himself against the ‘elements’ (racing to change the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere) as it will be man vs. man. 

Climate Change will be fought in the courts, instead of quickly moving to renewable energy and all the other things we have to do. 

Yet, there is a scenario that might galvanize everyone to change their behavior towards greenhouse gas emissions and lickety-split.  When everything else fails to convince the public that they have to change their buying habits, how they travel, and how they heat their homes, there is something happening on the horizon that will work.  Today’s news give a hint of the solution:

$5/Gallon Gas in 2012? - RochesterHomePage.net We could pay $5 for a gallon of gas by 2012.  That's according to former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister. (December 28, 2010) RochesterHomePage 

Believe me, nothing, not the United Nations Climate Change talks, governmental rules, environmental news stories, science, or articles like this will work to decrease the public’s use of greenhouse gas emitting fuels  like a dramatic increase in gas prices.  Then, things will change.

EPA moving unilaterally to limit greenhouse gases - Yahoo! News "WASHINGTON – Stymied in Congress, the Obama administration is moving unilaterally to clamp down on power plant and oil refinery greenhouse emissions, announcing plans for developing new standards over the next year. In a statement posted on the agency's website late Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said the aim was to better cope with pollution contributing to climate change. " December 24, 2010) The top news headlines on current events from Yahoo! News

Monday, December 27, 2010

Climate Change is our problem, not somebody else’s

 

The article below from the New York Times highlights how the media miss-understands the Climate Change issue.  For the media, Climate Change is the worry and the battle of the environmental groups, of various concerned parties. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Climate Change is going to affect everyone.  Going into next year, with many opposed to doing something substantial to reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, we are going to see less concerted action on combating Climate Change.   But to think that this will only be a problem for environmentalist’s who care about such things is inaccurate. 

There are going to be changes across the board because our climate is shifting our way of life.  I’ve been reading some articles that say maybe it’s better if the United Nation Climate Change efforts fail altogether for then business could just get on business as usual and that will take care of the problem.  There are other articles that say Clean Energy will take off on its own if the producers of clean energy stop anticipating handouts and subsidies from the government.  

But these kinds of articles are nonsense.  The oil industry, which is fueling our economies and Climate Change, is heavily subsidized.   Billions and billions of your dollars.  Climate Change will not go away with business as usual. 

Climate Change will not go away because the decisions we did not make earlier will ensure that we will have some Climate Change—because of the lag time. But we can reduce how much Climate Change we have to endure if we change our ways now. 

Trying to make lemonade out of the lack of public and governmental action on Climate Change is a dangerous delusion—one that will warm up the environment and make our ability to take care of this issue at our leisure and convenience impossible.

Next Year Offers Little Cheer for Those Battling Climate Change - NYTimes.com "AUSTIN, TEXAS — For advocates of action to prevent climate change, 2010 was mostly a year to forget. A blog about energy and the environment. Go to Blog It began with gloom, after the collapse of the Copenhagen climate meetings in December 2009. The mood darkened further as it became clear that cap-and-tradelegislation to combat greenhouse gas emissions would not pass the U.S. Congress. A sliver of hope came from a modest agreement at climate meetings in Cancún, Mexico, earlier this month, on a more solid multinational commitment to finding ways to cut emissions. Another development, bringing perhaps more relief than hope, was the rejection by California voters of an effort, backed by oil companies, to suspend the state’s landmark law to combat global warming." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

Friday, December 24, 2010

Buying electronic stuff this holiday and going forward

The time that those wonderful electronic gadgets spend with us are but a moment in the gadget’s life. As responsible citizens and consumers we must begin thinking of the complete lifecycle of all products we buy, including all those computers, cell phones, and other electronic stuff that is going to make our future world run.

The resources needed for an electronic gadget, the making of the gadget and what happens to it when it leaves your stewardship, should be your concern. There are toxic materials in those gadgets and heavy metals and when not made and recycled responsibly are wreaking havoc on people’s health and our environmental health. There is a new e-waste law coming this April for New York State, but it will be phased in over time.

The Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Ac t- The NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act (PDF) (38 kb) (Article 27, Title 26 of the Environmental Conservation Law) was signed into law by the Governor on May 28, 2010. The law will ensure that every New Yorker will have the opportunity to recycle their electronic waste in an environmentally responsible manner. The law requires manufacturers to establish a convenient system for the collection, handling, and recycling or reuse of electronic waste. Manufacturers of covered electronic equipment will be responsible for implementing and maintaining an acceptance program for the discarded electronic waste, with oversight by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Laws are great, but they only go so far. If you want an environmentally healthy planet, you have to find out more about e-wastes, as it gets complicated. Check out this very informative interview:

After Dump, What Happens To Electronic Waste? : NPR "Many people will receive a new computer or cell phone this holiday season — and throw out their old equipment. And when old TVs and computers end up in landfills, the toxic metals and flame retardants they contain can cause environmental problems. Yet even recycling your e-waste, as it's called, does not always mean you're doing the right thing. " Fresh Air from WHYY : NPR

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Climate Change has far outgrown polar bears as a poster species

 

Concerns about polar bears because of climate change seems a strange concern because far more species and conditions are going to be impacted than polar bears.  Island nations are going to be sinking with people aboard. 

At the core of all environmental problems in the future will be Climate Change as our biology changes to stay in or out of the looming warmth.  Polar bears are important because they are keystone top predators in the arctic, but Climate Change has far outgrown polar bears as a poster species for Climate Change

The focus of Climate Change should be on the way it is changing every aspect of our environment, making environmentalism on this hotter planet different from before.  Instead of finding specific facts or species to highlight our continuing concern on Climate Change, the media should find a way to report on all our environmental issues with Climate Change at the underpinnings.  

This means as we try to combat Invasive Species, restore our Wetlands, solve our Energy issues, Climate Change will also be moving what we used to understand as a stable environment.  For example, how can we combat Invasive Species and return our local environment to a particular state, when the state of our environment will be warmer, with more extreme weather events?  The plants and animals that used to do just fine in our neck of the woods may not do so well in the future—and some of the invasive Species we are trying to get rid of may fair quite well.

Climate Change from now on isn’t another issue on our environment, it is the issue and the media needs to change to reflect that.

Climate Action Could Save Polar Bears - Science News Cutting fossil fuel emissions would retain enough sea ice habitat, study concludes | Cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough over the next few decades may stabilize the rapidly shrinking Arctic sea ice sufficiently to provide a sustainable habitat for polar bears, a paper in the Dec. 16 Nature reports. And if emissions do keep rising, another new study finds, the only species that has officially been declared threatened by the U.S. government due to global warming may still be able to hang on for a while in a few pockets of the northern Arctic. (December 15, 2010) Science News

Monday, December 20, 2010

Job layoffs, but we should be no less vigilant on our environment:

 

Though the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) will be losing many employees soon and that could “limit its enforcement of its regulations” (State layoffs lead to closures of facilities, programs | democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle) this does not mean the public and the media cannot increase their awareness and report to either the press or the DEC itself.  

The whole point of having a regulatory agency like the DEC is to regulate, especially in tough times, to make sure our environment is protected.  With its new online reporting form the public can assist monitoring by being vigilant.

Report an Environmental Violation Online "Report an Environmental Violation Online The New York State Environmental Conservation Police values the watchful eyes and ears of citizens concerned with our environment. Use this form to report suspected violations of New York State environmental conservation laws. Submitted forms are immediately forwarded 24/7/365 to DEC dispatchers. If an immediate response is needed, file your complaint by phone by calling the DEC Turn in Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) hotline at 1-800-TIPP-DEC (1-800-847-7332). 

It’s one thing to have environmental laws, it’s quite another to make sure you have the personnel to make sure they are enforced.   Sure, there are other departments both in the public and private sector losing jobs, but this issue is not about fairness and job cuts—though the NYS DEC cuts have been disproportional. 

It’s about our environment and making sure all the people, however they affect our environment (while fishing, hunting, drilling, disposing of waste, developing their property, building new buildings) keep to the environmental rules. 

Once violated, many environmental situations, the reductions in a plant or animals species or a well contaminated by lax monitoring, cannot be recovered when our economy recovers. 

State layoffs lead to closures of facilities, programs | democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle 'Pete Grannis was fired as commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection in October after an agency memo was made public that was critical of layoffs there. The agency has had to cut 209 workers — about 6.6 percent of its current staff — by year's end. About 150 are expected to come through layoffs. The DEC had 3,775 full-time employees in April 2008, but will have about 850 fewer full-time employees at year's end. Grannis, who is now working for the special-interest group Environmental Advocates, said the DEC would likely have to limit enforcement of its regulations and slow its permitting process."  Democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle | Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The irrelevance of zoos

 

Zoos have always had nothing to do about wildlife and our environment and much to do about entertainment.  We might be able to pick out some useful facts about wildlife and get the public to learn about wildlife, but wild animals are best left where they are. 

An animal’s existence and its environment are one.  Remove an animal from its environment and put it in a zoo and you have an isolated fragment of an environment staring back at you from a cage.  Animals shape and are shaped by their environment and have no meaning in a zoo. 

Even if you hold that we can preserve animals as we overdevelop our environment so we can bring them back when their numbers get low, this reasoning ignores Climate Change.  The chance of an animal being able to return to the environment it evolved in is even more remote because Climate Change will have further changed its environment to one that the animal may not survive in at all. 

Far better than the money spent on zoos, where animals remain but curiosities, it would be prudent to use that money to preserve the environment from which they came. 

And, as far as zoo being learning centers for the public on our environment and wildlife, that is a delusion.  What we should be doing, instead of all this fascination with zoos and how their inhabitants are dealing with old age (a luxury they rarely experience in the wild), is preserve our dwindling untouched environments and perhaps view wildlife through cameras or webcams where viewers in a cold northern city can learn how tropical monkeys are vital to the environment they helped create and how vital their environment are to them. 

Our present state of zoos, isolation chambers for the ecologically disenfranchised, have no meaning in the modern world except as strange artifacts of earlier times. 

Zoos teach us the worst possible lesson we can learn about our environment: that we can remove it, isolate it, and go on with our lives indifferent to our environment.   We cannot.

 Aging animals on the rise at Seneca Park Zoo | democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle Among the active, spry animals at the Seneca Park Zoo lives a considerable population of senior residents. You might not spot them at first. But the black and white ruffed lemurs, ages 16 and 25, have step stools in their exhibit to help with climbing. And the spider monkeys, ages 35, 36 and 38, have teeth so worn that their fruit must be peeled and their monkey chow soaked in Tang or juice to soften it before eating.  (December 18, 2010) Democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle | Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York

Friday, December 17, 2010

Writing contest on your outdoor experiences

 

Good project by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to increase awareness of our environment.  Maybe it’s an opportunity to reflect on what you experience outside knowing that it is going to be continually changing by manmade development and Climate Change. 

I know, this essay contest is about ‘positive’ outdoor experiences, but at the same time, they didn’t say anything about being delusional.  When it comes to reflecting on and reporting on our environment these days, shouldn’t we do so with the knowledge that it is changing rapidly?  That the foundation of our lives, our environment, is not the stable, never changing, environment we like to believe in, but actually something in grave danger of neglect and subject to Climate Change? 

Simply writing positively about our environment is ignoring the true state of affairs and decreases the chance that we will put pressure on official agencies like the NYS DEC to be out there in force protecting what’s keeping us alive. 

Anytime, in these extraordinary days for our environment, when one spins the state of our environment, we all suffer from delusion—thinking our environment is OK when it is not.

DEC Kicks Off "Great Stories From The Great Outdoors" Contest - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Contestants Share Positive and Inspirational Experiences The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is calling for writers to share inspirational stories of experiences in New York's great outdoors by entering the "Great Stories from the Great Outdoors" contest. Stories can range from the simplest walk through the woods to meeting a challenge through an outdoor activity. The contest is open to all and runs through February 2011. Each month, DEC will select stories and post them on the DEC website. A prize will be awarded for the top story each month. Complete contest rules are available online. Through the Great Outdoor Stories contest, students, sportsmen and women, outdoor enthusiasts, campers and hikers can reflect and share the importance of the natural environment in their lives. Entries can range from a few sentences to a maximum 650 words. All story entries must be received by February 28, 2011. Submit stories online or by mail to: Carole Fraser NYS DEC Universal Access Program 625 Broadway, 5th floor Albany, NY 12233-4255

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More on ‘going nuclear’

 

As our area’s public considers (though not in a very concrete way at all) the various forms of energy we will adopt in the future, there are many aspects of the energy issue we should consider: Climate Change, pollution, affects on wildlife and biodiversity, and how dangerous it is. 

Of course, we aren’t having much of a public dialogue on Energy and how future energy will affect our lives and our environment, but it would be a good idea. 

The market place, or the invisible hand of the market, is not a good way to plan the future as the invisible hand doesn’t give a hoot for the environment. 

This all matters because if we quietly choose nuclear power because it’s clean and easy on the Climate Change issue and we don’t address how dangerous it is, we could end up dealing with health problems for a long time if there is an accident. 

An accident at a nuclear power plant is different from a solar panel falling off your roof (though, I have never heard of one doing that):

40 years later, Nagasaki bomb still causes disease | Reuters "(Reuters Health) - Survivors of the World War II atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki continue to fall ill today as a result of the radiation they received, a surprising Japanese study shows. Researchers testing survivors between 1985 and 2004 found people who had received high levels of radiation from the bomb blast were eight times more likely to develop a rare blood disease than those exposed to low levels. "It adds evidence to the fact that radiation even at moderately low doses is hazardous, and the diseases you can get aren't only cancers," said David J. Brenner, who heads the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in New York, and was not involved in the study. " (December 14, 2010) Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | Reuters.com

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

No nuclear problems in the local media:

 

When you watch the local news everyday as I do, a curious fact surfaces.  Despite all the news about hydrofracking and the turbulence of wind power in our area, one rarely hears a peep about nuclear energy. 

I can understand why a lot of groups would want to suppress news about local nuclear power issues (because it becomes a convenient default energy source when they fight renewable energy and say they care about Climate Change), but I don’t understand why our local press doesn’t monitor what is going on with nuclear power more closely.  Maybe, they are afraid they’ll sound like Chicken Little by raising the specter of Chernobyl at even the mentioning of a nuclear problem—I don’t really know the reason. 

What I do know is that if the media isn’t keeping a close watch on this very potentially dangerous energy source, the public cannot make wise energy choices. 

The press has no trouble mentioning every bird that hits a wind turbine blade, but freaks at mentioning a nuclear event or protesters nearby concerned about trafficking nuclear material pass our neighborhood.  These are just a couple of nearby media that are watching nuclear power events:  

Company postpones nuke generator shipment on lakes - WSJ.com

and

 DEC: Thousands of gallons of oil leaked into Hudson after Indian Point fire | LoHud.com | The Journal News

Monday, December 13, 2010

Climate talks are over for now, what was accomplished?

 

Hard to tell if anything concrete has been accomplished by the Cancun Climate Change talks in Mexico for the last two weeks. The media has a tendency to see all environment events like they do with sports events: There are pitched battles between various sides (who seem remote to us) with winners and losers.

However, there are no real sides in these world-wide climate talks because we are all in this together. No one is going to win a trophy for getting their way and going back to a place that isn’t going to be warming up.

Also, just for a world community to be talking about Climate Change is quite a change from the usual way of doing things, which is to dismiss something so intangible to many people as Climate Change.

In other words, just to be talking about Climate Change is a victory of sorts. Though, at the end of the day Climate Change is science. If we put more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, the place warms up.

If we talk and do nothing about a lowering the greenhouse gases to a level we evolved in, we are going to find that major changes are going to take place.

My feeling from reading about this year’s Climate Change talks is that we just pushed the problem further from our attention and closer to inevitability.

193 nations sign climate-change package "CANCUN, MEXICO - Delegates from 193 nations agreed Saturday on a new global framework to help developing countries curb their carbon output and cope with the effects of climate change, but they postponed the harder question of precisely how industrialized and major emerging economies will share the task of making deeper greenhouse-gas emission cuts in the coming decade. The package known as the Cancun Agreements has salvaged a U.N.-backed process that was close to failure, delivering a diplomatic victory to the talks' Mexican hosts. But it also highlighted the obstacles that await as countries continue to grapple with climate change through broad international negotiations. " (December 12, 2010) Washington Post - Politics, National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines - washingtonpost.com

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Job cuts in an economy that needs people working to actually work (that is, function as an economy) is not good.

 

But not keeping our environment healthy and sustainable while folks become more desperate is even worse.  With the loss of environmental investigators, there will be more violations. 

Who’s going to fill the role of watching that some don’t poach or fish and hunt without licenses?  Who’s going to be the watchdog on our environment, keep our water’s clean, keep our endangered species protected, when they lose their jobs? 

And will our media even watch to see what happens when our environmental watchdogs are fewer?  Feels like we’ve just been blinded to our environmental state.

About 900 N.Y. workers get layoff notice | democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle "Officials have also warned that the layoffs could lead to other park closures, as well as longer lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles and fewer environmental inspectors. " (December 11, 2010)  Democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle | Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just released, online form to report environmental violations

 

The New York State Department of Conservation’s new online form to report environmental violators will increase public participation on keeping our environment healthy. This project to help New Yorkers become engaged in their environment is a critical component in monitoring the state of our environment—especially in these days where many bodies of government that we need to sustain our environment have been losing workers due to budgetary concerns.

DEC "TIPP" Program Goes Online - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Once Telephone Only, "Turn in Poachers and Polluters" Now Available via Web The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced the launch of an online form for citizens to report environmental violations. Report an Environmental Violation Online, the new web page assists those who can provide thorough and relevant information about an alleged violation. The form prompts the complainant to describe what occurred, when it happened and where the violation was witnessed. Complainants may remain anonymous or confidential. Detailed initial complaints assist DEC Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) in a timely and complete investigation of complaints and potential arrests against those who are violating environmental laws. "This is an expansion of DEC's successful 'Turn in Poachers and Polluters' (TIPP) Hotline," said Peter Fanelli, DEC Director of Law Enforcement, referring to the long-established telephone tip system. "Citizens have always played a vital role in helping DEC enforce state environmental laws and regulations. This new web tool gives them one more option for alerting us to potential problems." (December 7, 2010) New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Of course, what will strike many is that this type of activity is sometimes called ‘snitching.’

What comes to mind about our reluctance to squeal (there are a lot of pejoratives on reporting to authorities) is the movie”Harry Brown”

“Set in modern day Britain, HARRY BROWN follows one man's journey through a chaotic world where teenage violence runs rampant.” Harry Brown Movie

In the movie, we revel in the violence that an old codger can still inflict when his neighborhood has disintegrated into a modern version of hell. It’s popular now to be the quiet man until things get so bad that one is compelled to whip out one’s gun or launch into an impressive martial arts maneuver and wipe out the bad people. In movies this is great stuff—a cathartic dream of Justice for the kind of violence that most mature adults might feel, but don’t actually tend to engage in, in real life. The underlying sadness of the movie for me is that events did not have to descend into violence. If Mr. Brown had been an active member of his neighborhood and worked with his neighbors to curb the trend towards anarchy in his neighborhood, he probably wouldn’t have had to become a gun-slinging vigilante to get his neighborhood back.

Becoming a responsible citizen and joining efforts in your community to take care of your community through work, joining, talking, and acting is not as flashy as pulling out a military weapon and killing everyone in sight. But life is not an action game. In fact, life is not a game at all. It’s, well.., life. If our environment descends into chaos and un-sustainability, you won’t get it back with a pistol, or a game cheat that will restore your character to life and reset all things that went bad.

If citizens are engaged in the running and shaping of their world by paying attention to the news, shaping the news, and volunteering to help to keep their community safe and healthy, it is much less likely that the bad people can come into your neighborhood and take over. In the same vein, if the public takes responsibility to learn about the environmental issues affecting their region, they can help prevent their water going bad, their air becoming un-breathable, or their planet warming up.

It has become too fashionable to be complacent about important issues, like our environment, and then kick into gear with a last-minute explosion of violence to solve our problems. That might work in the pre-designed world of fiction, but in the real world if you let that corporation or a bad guy dump toxins into your water source, poison is what you get to drink.

We don’t hear much about the Cancun Climate Talks here in the Rochester, NY region.

Sure, Cancun, Mexico is far away down south, but Climate Change is happening all over—even Rochester. Check this list to see what possible changes will occur in our area because of Climate Change.

Too keep up on the major story of our times that will affect Rochester, NY too you have to go to Cancún climate change conference 2010 | Environment | guardian.co.uk and DemocracyNow!—who is spending the week reporting on why the rest of us should care about the planet heating up.

This is the trouble with present-day media: they are incapable of reporting on our environment because it isn’t flashy and splashy the way most of the nonsense we parade across our local headlines. Climate Change will affect Rochester, NY businesses, families, our water quality, how we use energy—almost every aspect of our lives. Yet, we our media continues on as if this major planetary feature isn’t part of the news we need to know, the background of everything we will be doing. Our media should be reporting on what our educational facilities are doing to educate the young on the warming world that will be theirs soon.

Our media should be tracking how businesses are shaping their businesses to deal with a warming world. In fact, many of the products we use, especially the way we use energy, affects not only the planet’s atmosphere but the lives of the underdeveloped countries ability to survive—and they know it.

But, most of us in our neck of the woods don’t. We still attend to a media that thinks that our little world isn’t an integral part of the rest of the world: We don’t have a media that continually looks at major stories around the world, like the present Climate Change talks, and shows how they are connected to all aspects of our lives.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Important chance to learn about Bats, the role they play in our environment and the serious case of the White Nose Syndrome that is decimating our bat populations.

RMSC: Science on the Edge Lectures Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 7:30pm Alan Hicks White Nose Syndrome: The Darkest of Days for New York BatsHear about the history, current status, and future of the mysterious "White Nose Syndrome" that is threatening the very existence of cave dwelling bats across New York and an ever-expanding portion of the continent.

Alan Hicks is a Mammal Specialist in the Endangered Species Unit of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

How is solar power doing in our region and what can we expect going ahead?

A Conversation with Ron Kamen: Accelerating Solar Energy in New York

"December 15, 2010 at 11:30 am Cornell ILR 237 Main Street 12th Floor, Buffalo New York 11:30 to 12:00

Registration and Lunch 12:00 t0 12:15 Welcome and Introduction 12:15 to 1:30 Presentation and Questions SEATING LIMITED : RSVP REQUIRED

Register at A Conversation with Ron Kamen: Accelerating Solar Energy in New York

Ron Kamen, President of the New York Solar Industries Association (NYSEIA,www.nyseia.org) will discuss the state of New York’s solar energy industry and green economy.

Mr. Ron Kamen is also Senior VP of Earthkind Solar (www.earthkindenergy.com), the leading solar thermal energy company in New York. Ron began his career as an energy policy expert in the 1980s when he worked to create Demand Side Management programs that gave the utility industry a financial incentive to invest in energy efficiency, spurring New York’s current multibillion dollar efficiency programs.

In the 1990s, Ron developed energy efficiency projects with Fortune 1000 companies and government entities, and from 2000-2006, he played a key role in creating New York’s wind power market, helping propel growth from 50 MWs to over 1,000 MWs of wind energy today.

Mr. Kamen will speak on the NYS Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPS), and the statewide campaign to accelerate solar energy development by securing a NYS commitment to install 5000 megawatts of solar electric and 2000 megawatts of solar thermal in the near term.

His talk will explain these policy initiatives, compare the Feed-in Tariff approach, and suggest some possible directions for Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo’s energy and green jobs policies. After his remarks there will be ample time for discussion. "

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Environmental reporting on today’s Earth

After publishing an environmental article on one of those newfangled online media platforms for a paltry recompense, I was informed by the editorial staff that my news article was not a news article. My news article, I was admonished, did not meet their criteria for a news story. In the future, would I please ask myself these critical questions? “Is the story based on information made available in the last 72 hours? Is the story reporting facts rather than conveying an opinion? If the story is on an upcoming event, is the event relevant to enough people to be a news event?”

I thought about these criteria for an environmental news story. They sound reasonable and appropriate. I mean, this is what we are used to: some environmental street theatre by a group with a message who are at a particular place, at a particular time, doing something peculiar. Or, a public official puts out a press release saying he’s going to fire a whole swath of environmental workers. Or, a train or truck full of toxic sludge careens into a stream and befouls it. And finally, in some rare instances there are environmental situations that do occur within a 72-hour time frame, full on facts, and relevant to a lot of folks. The BP Oil spill was such an event. It made great news.

But you have to ask yourself, do these criteria for environmental news make sense anymore? How can a reporter report on Climate Change, invasive species, pollution, lead poisoning, water quality, Brownfields, wet land, air quality, food’s effect on our environment, environmental health, or the general demise of our environment under this set of rules? Yes, the reporter can wait until she can hook a report, an incident, a press release, or some other relevant qualification in order to publish an article on these issues, but more often than not, the news that we need to know about our environment does not fall into the neat and pretty way present-day editors determine what constitutes a news story.

Climate Change and most of the other environmental issues of our day are occurring at a different rate than what we expect from mainstream news. How do you report on continuing world-wide (including our region) but slow-moving disasters? How do you keep the public’s attention on something as boring and yet as critical as the state of our environment?

Aren’t environmental reporters hamstrung by the way media works nowadays? They must contort environmental news into something the media can attend to, a specific event that has scintillating relevancy to a large number of their reader’s interests –instead of reporting on the information itself and explaining to the public why it matters that their planet is warming up—whether they like it or not. We are hasty folks who expect instant gratification from our media--something new, jarring, and titillating.

Yes, there are formats where environmental news and information is continually presented: magazines, special TV programs, independent films, websites like RochesterEnvironment.com, and even some newspapers that devote a special section to it—usually in the back. But this misses the point. If the public has to go to a specialized area to get environmental news, they probably won’t because it has the quality of being specialized, i.e. peculiar,—not mainstream news that becomes the default for the news most people get. Almost everyone, even the most illiterate and uncaring, tend to find a way to check some mainstream news. If Lady Gaga does a no-no, everyone knows.

Here’s the real tragedy: If an environmental news story doesn’t reach the front pages of mainstream media in a splashy way, the vast majority of the public won’t even know the issue exists. That means you create a public who thinks that the state of their environment doesn’t matter. The public won’t shop for the most environmentally-friendly products. They’ll continue to work for employers who pollute. And, they’ll keep voting for politicians who provide them with a comfortable and benign environment instead of the real one—one that takes no prisoners. They’ll keep using energy that warms the planet. Absurdly, too many believe our environment can be marginalized and avoided, like collecting stamps, because it only seems relevant to those few who have an interest in it.

Somehow, within the short time frame that the media has to reach most of the public, we have to find a way for the majority to know what is actually going on in the real world. The real world is warming up, and we must be watching it every day, no matter how boring or unsexy. Climate Change, for example, the most critical issue (environmental or otherwise) of our day and even though it is happening far quicker than climate scientists predicted, it doesn’t occur as timely and as ‘newsworthy’ as mainstream media can manage. Maybe when an Antarctic glacier the size of Texas drops into the ocean and immediately sends the ocean water level up a couple of feet, then the media will be out in force. But when that happens it’s going to be far too late to be any use to the public except as a sad note in history that could have been prevented.

Climate Change is going to be affecting Rochester, NY and there are going to be many consequences—few of them good. Mainstream media should adopt a new attitude and help the public get the message that these changes are very real and will affect the lives of its readership. Presently, the news doesn’t make any sense because it’s only about what the editor’s think the public wants to hear and doesn’t upset their sponsors. This isn’t news, it’s delusional. The old “who, what, where, when” just isn’t going to do anymore, especially on our environment. We are living on a planet whose environment we can no longer depend on to operate as it did before. We are greatly influencing our environment by almost everything we do and buy. The media must reflect this reality, not hold to the old one that can be dismissed as something too large for us to change, or one that can take care of itself.

Actually, our environment can take care of itself—though you might not be able to survive on it.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Don’t give up on Climate Change talks before they start

The Cancún Climate Summit, despite everyone’s low expectation, is the hottest thing going on with Climate Change next week. 

It’s worth your attention to find out how the world reacts to Climate Change and what to expect from our leaders.  Too often we tend to think of major events like the Climate Change talks as if they are sports events, or a political event, and so if there isn’t going to be a real contest then no one cares— if the outcome has ‘low expectations.’  

Well, the Cancún Climate Summit is not a sports event.  It’s not a political contest about who has spent the most money for the most likely candidate.  It’s humanity’s reaction to their actions and physics. 

It is an attempt by the countries of the world to address the most pressing problem of our age—our planet warming up by the things we do, warming our homes, fueling our vehicles, producing our food, and just about everything else .  One way to stay informed is to tune into Democracy Now next week.  They plan to report on the Cancún Climate Summit from Cancún. 

Democracy Now! A daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 900 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the U.S.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How will Climate Change affect our area?

 

We are going to have to look at large studies, like this my NASA, to find out how our region is going to be affected by Climate Change. 

Odds are our local media either doesn’t have the money for investigative reporting, or the desire (because too many of their customers don’t believe in Climate Change), or the bandwidth to deal with the most important news of our region—because they are reporting on a lot of other stuff like sports news.  

Too bad, how are we in the Rochester, NY region going to get ready for Climate Change if we don’t know what to expect?  So, until our local media gets on the job of getting this important information to the public so they can plan and work in the real world, we must ferret out what we can from Climate Change studies that include our area. 

NASA Study Finds Earth's Lakes are Warming - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory “In North America, trends were slightly higher in the southwest United States than in the Great Lakes region. Warming was weaker in the tropics and in the mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere. The results were consistent with the expected changes associated with global warming.” (November 23, 2010) NASA - Home

Climate Change talks and low expectations:

 

The media has informed us that there are low expectations for any substantial measures for nations to deal with Climate Change at the United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Cancun. 

So, I guess if there are any kind of substantial agreements at the talks, the bar for expectations is set so low, that any kind of agreement will look favorable. 

If the media is correct on the talk and the Cancun talks produce no binding agreements of any merit, what we can do is use these talks as another marker.  As time goes on and we collectively show that we are incapable of addressing Climate Change, we can use these major UN meetings as markers that we can use for future generations.

These ‘markers’ will be points where if we had done something, a sea coast might not have had to overrun a community because of sea level rise, or a hurricane five somewhere down the road wouldn’t have happened.

The expectation from the Cancun talks shouldn’t be just measured as ‘low’ by the media, the talks should also include the expectations of what will happen because of the lack of agreements.  There are real consequences of countries dragging their feet on not taking measures to reduce Climate Change and the media’s description of this event, shouldn’t try and make it look like a sports event, where the outcome doesn’t really matter.  As a result of not taking action, real effects of Climate Change are going to occur.

Climate change talks face crucial test As representatives from nearly 200 nations prepare to gather for United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Cancun this week, a central question looms: Can they achieve enough to keep the negotiations alive? No one expects the two-week meeting, which begins Monday, to produce a pact that would commit the nations of the world to curbing climate change. Such an agreement seemed possible a year ago, when the last round of negotiations concluded in Copenhagen. At that session some of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters struck a deal: Industrialized nations would cut their emissions and by 2020 and would mobilize $100 billion a year in aid for the poorest countries suffering the effects of global warming; in exchange, major developing countries agreed to international scrutiny of their own emissions cuts. (November 27, 2010)  Washington Post - Politics, National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines - washingtonpost.com

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Seas Rise due to Climate Change will affect all New York State coastlines

 

Here’s the deal: Climate Change will causes water levels to rise because of glacier melt.  This will not only affect small islands (IPCC Report: Climate Proofing Small Islands ), making some of the disappear altogether; it will affect New York State. 

“EVERY NEW YORK TIDAL COASTAL COMMUNITY WILL BE AFFECTED BY SEA LEVEL RISE -Sea level rise will have dramatic implications for New York’s coastal communities and their natural resources, affecting the entire ocean and estuarine coastline of the state. Every community along the Hudson River from the federal dam at Troy to New York Harbor and along Long Island Sound and the Atlantic coastline will be affected.”

Though not affecting Monroe County specifically in the report, it will affect Monroe County because so much of the effects of Climate Change due to water levels rising are so widespread, including public health, hazards of sea level rise, fresh water resources, ecosystems affected, public works and infrastructure, communications, energy, transportation, solid waste, and drinking water supplies.

Instead of reading arguments in blogs and social media about whether Climate Change is one of those maddening delusions that your enemies have cooked up to push your buttons, why not read a real account of what your New York State officials are considering to do to address this very real occurrence—in your backyard. 

Read this full account of what could very well happen in our area due to Climate Change and what might be done to address it.

New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force Report to the Legislature "The New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force was created by an act of the New York State Legislature (Chapter 613 of the Laws of New York) in August 2007. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis, Chair of the Task Force, assigned Special Counsel Robin Schlaff to establish and chair a steering committee. Kristin Marcell served as steering committee vice‐chair. The steering committee, comprised of state agency staff and representatives of non‐governmental organizations (NGOs), spent an extraordinary amount of time researching, discussing and deliberating issues addressed in the report. Members of the steering committee coordinated the work of five work groups: Community Resilience, Ecosystems and Natural Resources, Infrastructure, Legal and Public Outreach. Each work group included representatives from academia, businesses, NGOs, environmental justice and community groups, and federal, state and local agencies. This report is the result of their efforts, and the Task Force gratefully acknowledges their contributions. Projections of sea level rise affecting New York State were provided by the Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research based on work undertaken for the New York City Panel on Climate Change. "New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Shipping radioactive material past our shores

 

Interesting, but there’s nary a peep from our local media on the shipping of radioactive material across Lake Ontario and through the St. Lawrence Seaway.  

"The generators would start the journey on Lake Huron and travel down the St. Clair River to Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence Seaway and across the ocean to Sweden. "

You’d think the public would want to know that one of the cost of having nuclear power is that something has to be done with the waste, including transporting it.  The transportation route could be near us. 

The Canadians seem to care about this issue, why don't we?

Decision soon on radioactive shipping cargo | thetimesherald.com | The Times Herald The debate about a Canadian power company's plan to ship 16 radioactive steam generators to Sweden via the Great Lakes could be coming to an end. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is expected to decide by mid-December whether Bruce Power will be allowed to move the generators. Some people monitoring the issue said a decision could by made by the end of the month.  (November 23, 2010) thetimesherald.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What it means to be an activist in Rochester.

 

This article (below) is a great tribute to one of our great environmental health leaders in our community.  Judy Braiman of Rochesterians Against the Misuse of Pesticides (RAMP) has been a tireless advocate for making our way of life sustainable. 

We should expect that businesses act in such ways that they do not pollute or create products that cause people harm. 

And, we should expect our local, state, and federal governments to enforce regulations so harm does not come to the public and to our environment. 

And, we should expect the media to be vigilant in ferreting out and discovering any issues dealing with our environmental health.  But, at present we cannot. 

At present the burden is on the public to find out for themselves whether or not new products are dangerous or new chemicals toxic to us and our environment.  We have to depend on great activists like Judy Braiman to be our watchdog, when we should be depending on our businesses, our governments, and our media to consider our environment and our health first.

Judy Braiman of Pittsford a relentless voice for consumer safety | democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle After four decades of consumer activism, Judy Braiman is still passionate about her cause. Her efforts have drawn national attention and prompted product recalls, new laws and other changes to protect the public. Along the way, she's frustrated some business and government officials who see her as an extremist, and she's been kicked off some advisory groups. "I take pride in that," Braiman said. The petite Pittsford grandmother of 10 today announces her 40th annual review of unsafe toys and other products at local stores. (November 23, 2010)  Democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle | Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Dialogue on Climate Change:

 

Listen or read about how scientists have gathered to combat the litany of mistruths the public has on Climate Change.  Climate deniers have been having a field day confusing the public and the media on the science of Climate Change and scientist want to clear the air with the facts. 

In a way, this is a sad commentary on our times that scientists have to go head-to-head with those who didn’t learn their ninth-grade Earth science and have taken their frightful ignorance to mainstream media.  But there you are, a public and a media who don’t what to talk seriously about the most important issue of our day, Climate Change, and have dropped the dialogue to the level of online squabbles. 

The truth is that many serious folks who are charged with protecting the public are moving ahead on Climate Change by beginning preparations for Climate Change.

New Yorkers Learn the Troubles Posed by Sea Level Rise Flow Far Beyond Manhattan - NYTimes.com NEW YORK -- New York state is beginning to take the threat of sea level rise attributed to climate change seriously as a new government prepares to settle in next year. Starting Monday, state officials in Albany will gather with members of the public to discuss a recently released 93-page report that recommends major changes to development planning and conservation along coastlines from the tip of Long Island all way up the Hudson River Valley. (November 19, 2010) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

You can read about how New York State intends to address Climate Change and even make comment on the plan, instead of going backwards and arguing about what most of the scientists in the world already know: Climate Change is happening.

New York State Climate Action Plan - Interim Report - November 9, 2010 | This Interim Report is presented by sections and chapters and, following this list, as a compiled report in three sections.  The public comment period for this report will extend for ninety days, beginning on November 9, 2010 and ending on February 7, 2011. Instructions for submitting comments electronically are provided at http://www.nyclimatecomments.us .   

And, this is where the public dialogue should be on Climate Change, acting, not arguing about whether Climate Change is happening.  That horse has left the barn; but for those who still need to be mollycoddled through the facts on Climate Change that they should already know they will get help:

John Abraham and Scott Mandia - Climate Science Strikes Back | Point of Inquiry "For the community of scientists who study the Earth’s climate, these are bewildering times. They've seen wave upon wave of political attacks. They're getting accustomed to a public that grows more skeptical of their conclusions even as scientists grow more confident in them. No wonder there’s much frustration out there in the climate science world—and now, a group of researchers have organized to do something about it. Their initiative is called the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, and it pledges to organize dozens of researchers to help set the record straight. "  (November 19, 2010)  Point of Inquiry

Friday, November 19, 2010

The trouble with waste water treatment plants:

 

This is one of those critical environmental issues that we here in the US seem totally incapable of addressing—can our wastewater treatment plants handle what we are throwing at them?  We know that our waste water treatment plants have to let raw sewage go into our waters in some major storm events, due to overflow.  They can only handle so much volume.

We know that these waste water treatment plants were not designed to handle pharmaceuticals and a myriad of manmade chemicals and products that go through them every day. 

We haven’t even had major testing as the Canadians have and brought this issue to the public’s attention.  We are deluding ourselves that we are keeping our waters save and healthy. 

I’ve heard talk of sending hydrofracking fluid waste through these systems too.  I cannot verify this, but if true this is really far beyond the kind of stuff waste water treatment plants were designed for, which are supposed to filter our waste before they go into our drinking and fishing waters safe.  

It’s bad when our economy tanks and we have to struggle to live and retire.  It’s going to be really bad if our environment tanks because we are too busy with other matters to focus on it.

Study tests sewage for drugs Truckloads of stinking Windsor sewage have begun rolling down Highway 401 to be tested for drugs at the Environment Canada laboratories in Burlington. The federal environmental agency is just one of many parties involved in an ambitious new study centred on Windsor that is looking at painkillers, perfumes, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other contaminants making their way into the Great Lakes, the primary source of drinking water for millions of people.  (November 18, 2010) Windsor Star - News

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The future look of news:

 

As the face of the media changes, we are interested in what forms it will take?  Will the new media be able to report in-depth on our environment?

Will the new media have the funds to pay for serious environmental investigations or will they merely help spread what few media have sufficient funds to do serious environmental reporting.  These are serious matter for the future of both the media and keeping ourselves informed on our environment. 

At present, it doesn’t look good.  The public seems disinterested in the very life support system that keeps them alive and the media seems very interested in pandering to the public’s interest in other things—sports, fashion, car accidents, etc. 

Here is one model the new media that has a section on Global Warming.  Check it out:  

The Real News Network "is a television news and documentary network focused on providing independent and uncompromising journalism. Our staff, in collaboration with courageous journalists around the globe, will investigate report and debate stories on the critical issues of our times. We are viewer supported and do not accept advertising, government or corporate funding."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Removing Rochester’s mountain tops

 

When we switch on the lights in our homes, we often forget the moral implications of such a common, humdrum act. We flip on lights without thinking; but, that switch is not a magical box. That light switch is connected to wires, which in turn are connected so some source of electrical power: natural gas, hydro electrical, diesel, coal, nuclear, geothermal, wind, solar, petroleum, or biofuels. Usually, something has to burn and something has to turn to create electrical power that runs the power for lights that we switch on. (Solar power has other issues but burning fossil fuels and turning turbines are not two of those.)

According to NYSERDA and the New York State Power Authority the electricity generated in New York was in 2002: 26% natural gas, 25% nuclear, 15% coal, 15% hydro, 9% petroleum, 8% net imported, 2% biofuels - HYDROGEN FACT SHEET -New York State: Case Study

Only two percent of our electrical energy comes from renewable sources—wind and solar. NY's Green Power Program So, when we flip that light switch we are mostly choosing to burn fossil fuels and warm up the planet, or blow the top slick and clean off of somebody’s mountain. We don’t like to think of these things, the simplest little thing we do in our daily lives having big moral implications, that we are just doing what everyone else does unmindful of their consequences, but it is becoming increasing obvious that almost everything we do has environmental implications. Implications that we can no longer ignore because our collective buying habits, how we dispose of trash, how we use products, and how we power our stuff affects our environment. Earth with over 6 billion humans (and growing) has drastically changed this planet’s ecosystems in just 200 years from humanity’s growth and development, an unprecedented change in the 4 billion years of life on this planet. (Think of the very short time our species has occupied this planet ((about 5 million years)) compared to how long it took our environment to evolve in 4 billion years of life.)

We, meaning New Yorkers, have to start thinking of how we get electricity in a larger way. We may not have mountains with coal in our backyard, or easily assessable natural gas deposits, but we do use energy from these natural resources—and so this implicates us in the moral equation. Many of our neighbors have to suffer the consequences of continuing to burn coal for energy. Right now New Yorkers are screaming over the spectacle of having noisy wind turbines far off-shore, but that’s nothing compared to a mining blast or heavy equipment tearing off the head of a mountain, and the toxic tailings pouring into your nearby streams.

If you burn something, a fossil fuel like coal, oil, or natural gas, you are releasing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. It is causing Climate Change. Also, in order to get at fossil fuels you often have to dig, drill, or blast. These present moral problems, there is no way around it. This moral argument isn’t a conspiracy theory cooked up by a bunch of leaf-chomping greenies. It is physics linking our actions with the health of our planet. Environmental issues are not special interest—they are the issue of our times. Check out this discussion Thursday evening on ourand I’ll see ya there:

Deep Down, an Independent Lens film | WXXI Thu, 11/11/2010 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm "WXXI's Community Cinema invites you to a free screenings of the Independent Lens feature film Deep Down. Join us Thursday, November 11 at 7 p.m. as WXXI's Community Cinema presents a screening of Deep Down. The event is free and open to the public. The screening will be held at WXXI's Studios and followed by a panel discussion with Ed Przybylowicz,  Marcellus Shale Committee; Frank Regan, RochesterEnvironment.com; and Margie Campaigne, Sierra Club. " WXXI | Go Public.

What can we expect from Governor Cuomo on our environment?

 

Now that Cuomo has been elected as governor of New York State and our very own Mayor Duffy to Lieutenant Governor, how will things change for Rochester’s environment? Check it out:

Cleaner Greener NY “The protection and improvement of our environment is more than an investment in the quality of life for New Yorkers, it can also benefit our economy for years to come.”

Because I’m helping to develop a bicycle boulevard project throughout Rochester’s neighborhoods, I’m especially interested in Governor Cuomo’s Transportation goals:

“We must explore alternative vehicles and environmentally friendly public transportation throughout the State.  This includes upgrading our rail system for high speed rail, the development and adoption of alternative fuel vehicles, retrofitting of public transportation system, including the acquisition of hybrid buses, to improve the environment, and encouraging pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure to ensure New York’s streets are safe and encourage these forms of transportation.”

I like the words “bicycle infrastructure”.  Will Cuomo keep his promise?  If he does, that means alternative transportation, safer streets for walking and bicycling, less polluting vehicles in the Rochester area.  Most of the trips we take with our vehicles are under six miles from our home.  We should be bicycling or walking those routes (if we can) and reducing greenhouse gases being released in our neighborhoods--making these modes of transportation safer.  Check out what is already being accomplished on bicycle boulevards in our neighborhoods.

Upper Monroe Bicycle Boulevards “On December 2, 2009, the Upper Monroe Neighborhood Association (UMNA) Executive Committee voted to support the Bicycle Boulevard concept in the City of Rochester. This decision may herald a healthier, friendlier, and safer neighborhood for us all, even if you don’t bike.  What are bicycle boulevards? “Bike Boulevards are: Low-traffic neighborhood streets that have been optimized for bicycling;” (bta4bikes.org).  The goal is to provide attractive, safe routes through the neighborhood for bicyclists.  See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyfiCUPV9PI  for a comprehensive discussion of the concept.”

The moral connection to your gadget:

 

Buying, using, recycling, and discarding electronics involves you. Just released yesterday, the new Story of Stuff people have released The Story of Electronics

In this short film you learn about the problem of electronics and how they contribute to our toxic waste problem.  We as a society need to see how products we buy are part of a continuum where our buying and using the product are only but  a few of the stages of the life of a piece of electronics.  If we don’t get the message that what we buy matters we won’t be able to affect how items like electronics affect our environment.  And remember in  New York State a new law on the subject of ‘take back’ goes into effect on April 1st,  2010

Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation “Beginning April 1, 2011, manufacturers of covered electronic equipment [those covered by the law] will be required to accept the following: computers, televisions (as well as cathode ray tubes), small scale servers, computer peripherals (monitors, electronic keyboards, electronic mice or similar pointing devices, facsimile machines, document scanners, printers), small electronic equipment (VCRs, digital video recorders, portable digital music players, DVD players, digital converter boxes, cable or satellite receivers, electronic or video game consoles)” more... 

We don’t know much about this new law, how it will work, or how it will be enforced, so stay tuned to RochesterEnvironment.com.  When we find out, you’ll find out.

The Story of Electronics The Story of Stuff Project worked closely with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition to develop and distribute The Story of Electronics. ETBC is a coalition effort launched in 2001 to promote green design and responsible recycling in the electronics industry. ETBC works to protect the health and well being of electronics users, workers, and the communities where electronics are produced and discarded by requiring consumer electronics manufacturers and brand owners to take full responsibility for the life cycle of their products, through effective public policy requirements or enforceable agreements. To learn more about ETBC and get involved click here.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Solving Climate Change city by city

 

At the national level and many other levels, it seems impossible, despite the immediacy and severity of Climate Change, to get anywhere solving the Climate Change problem. The public and business and our public officials seem to believe that there are too many more important problems to be solved before Climate Change can be properly addresses.

They are wrong. There won’t be other problems if we don’t solve Climate Change. A planet overheating is going to disrupt everything. Maybe, instead of wholesale governmental effort to solve Climate Change, there will be a city-by-city effort to make the kind of large-scale changes that are needed—like:

 C40 Cities - Climate Leadership Group “C40 is a group of large cities committed to tackling climate change. On this website you will find news and updates on current C40 initiatives, information about each of the cities involved, and links to useful documents.”

In Rochester, NY we are working on that with the:

City of Rochester | Green Team “Mayor Duffy set up the Green Team to ensure that the City maintains and enhances its long-standing commitment to preserving, protecting, and restoring our natural resources. Representatives from every department provide expertise to guide the development of City policies and practices that are consistent with our Environmental Mission. ”

Wouldn’t it be good to connect Rochester’s Climate Change effort with all the cities around the world and work on this planetary issue together? Check this out:

Cities as Hubs of Energy and Climate Action - NYTimes.com "A pair of energy and development specialists from the mayors’ offices in New York City and Los Angeles are going global.  Jay Carson, a former deputy Los Angeles mayor and aide to both Clintons, and  Rohit Aggarwala, the former chief sustainability advisor to New York City  Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, are going to work for  C40 Cities, a  coalition of cities in rich and developing countries working to initiate and share ways to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and boost resilience to impacts of climate change. " (November 7, 2010)  The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

Friday, November 05, 2010

Energy Warning

 

This news item each year always amazes me: a four-minute siren test in case of a nuclear plant accident. It amazes me because one doesn’t hear a peep from the public on what this siren means. (It means that a very dangerous energy source that requires iodine pills for radiation leaks so your thyroid gland doesn’t get cooked, and the haunting spectacle of an accident and fallout that could last years, decades, or maybe more could occur.)

Siren Test in Ontario Next Tuesday "Ontario, N.Y. - If you hear a siren blaring next Tuesday - don't panic! It's just a test. The Ginna Nuclear Power Plant on Ridge Road near Lincoln Road will be testing a notification system for four minutes starting around 9 a.m. “(November 04, 2010) 13WHAM.com

There are so many other less dangerous ways to get energy than nuclear energy. There have been ‘issues’ with nuclear energy (check these latest Energy News) and none of them catastrophic, thank goodness. But, you have to ask yourself each time these sirens go off—is it the big one? Did the best and brightest make a mistake? This issue may be more significant, as there may be another nuclear power plant consider for our area.

Second reactor eyed at Ginna French company has acquired land near the Robert E. Ginna nuclear power plant in Wayne County and the Nine Mile Point plant in Oswego County for possible new reactors. Electricite de France SA said it has purchased Constellation Energy Group's (November 2, 2010) Democratandchronicle.com

Despite the fact that a major nuclear accident is possible at any nuclear power plant anywhere in the world and the particular way in which a nuclear accident would be catastrophic, you’d think we’d seriously consider other ways to get energy. Because even if there is only a slight, only a teeny-weeny chance, of a nuclear accident that spews nuclear radiation into our environment, the people around the facility won’t like it at all. Your property value won’t just go down, it will disappear.

You’d think we’d try everything else before settling on nuclear power. But we go on hoping everyone does everything right at our nuclear plants, no one cuts any corners and no one keeps anything from the public so they can get an accurate idea of the measure of danger a nuclear plant could achieve. But we don’t do that. We close our eyes and plug our ears and gamble on an energy source that could be very dangerous in a very long term way, rather than adopt renewable energy like wind and solar—sources of energy that seem to galvanize legions of groups who cannot stand the sound of wind turbines or the sight of a bunch of solar panels gaily collecting free, un-polluting sun rays for your favorite gadgets.

Granted, the sounds of a neighborhood after a nuclear power accident would be quieter than a wind turbine blade swooshing through the air, but not in a good way.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The end of plastic shopping bags and Freedom:

This article about the possible banning of plastic shopping bags makes one think a wholesale practice that is not good for the environment can eventually end.  Of course, we are not Canadians and we get very touchy about someone (the government) telling us what to do. 

What in these extraordinary times when our past environmental practices of pollution are catching up with us, are the alternatives?  How do we get the US population to understand the problem of plastic bags, or even care, and start using reusable bags? 

Many, many Americans won’t do it just because someone suggested living environmentally friendly annoys them.  It’s interesting.  Some day American are going to have to face a very vexing dilemma, that is, to examine what they consider their Freedoms and how to solve environmental issues.

I wonder how Canada will tackle this issue:

Solid Waste & Recycling Magazine - Bill seeks to ban plastic shopping bags in Canada As reported by Canadian Press, an Ontario MP has introduced a private member's bill that will seek to ban plastic shopping bags across the country. London-Fanshawe MP Irene Mathyssen said many Canadians have already switched to reusable bags or leftover shipping boxes that are made from recyclable cardboard. "I can remember a time when there weren't plastic bags and we managed very well," she says, then describing a recent trip to Europe where she saw people using portable shopping carts instead of plastic bags. (November 1, 2010) Headline News from Solid Waste Magazine

Monday, November 01, 2010

The body burden and your health:

 

Though the issue of chemicals, manmade chemicals, ending up in the human body, called the body burden, doesn’t get much press these days, it probably will in future days. 

Much is being heralded by groups and businesses to find the cure for cancers and other disease which profoundly affect our health.  But what I find curious is that the monies to find cures for many of our diseases are not focused on the most likely causes of the increases in cancer and disease—our environmental health. 

In this country, and not around Europe, the burden of proof that new products and chemicals produced by industry might be dangerous to the public must be proved by the public (and not the other way around). 

We as a society are strangely disinclined to investigate our environment to look for manmade toxins and discover if they are actually responsible for the increase in human diseases. 

Considering all the toxic stuff we have released into our land, air, and water for decades you’d think much of the monies spent on the cure for this disease or that would focus on environmental investigative reporting to rule this obvious cause out. 

But we usually don’t.  Even though, I think studies like the one below will become more common as the obvious link to many of our new rash in diseases increases and the power to thwart these studies diminishes.

Senate panel examining how chemicals in daily life affect kids' health - CNN.com (CNN) -- Pregnant again after two miscarriages, Molly Gray was desperate for answers that could help prevent losing a third baby. When she heard about a small study to test the blood of pregnant women for chemicals, she signed up. The result was shocking: Gray's blood tested high for mercury, a heavy metal that can cause brain damage to a developing fetus. A Senate subcommittee Tuesday will examine how chemicals that Americans are exposed to in daily life might be harming the health of children, including those developing in the womb. CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News  (October 25, 2010)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Memo

 

The most salient point about the firing of Peter Grannis of the New York State Department of Conservation and the memo that got him fired is that our government still thinks something else comes before our environment. Of course many individuals and various alleged media outlets think there are more important issues, but trust me: if your environment fails, so does everything on your ‘to do’ list.

This reported justification for the firing of the DEC head was that he spelled out what the gutting of the DEC personnel will mean to the DEC’s ability to monitor and police our environment (which many probably see as merely a belt-tightening issue). But this issue is really about maintaining the quality of our local environment in a time of economic stress. There’s no other way to see this. However this issue is spun in the press, the end result is compromising our environmental health by removing 209 more people who monitor and protect our environment. When you short-change the DEC, there will be environmental abuses.

Leaked Memo Depicts Bare-Bones Regulatory Environment for NY Gas Drilling - ProPublica (10/26/20100 “The leaked memo that led to the dismissal of New York's top environmental official last week depicts a severely understaffed agency that has struggled to adequately perform its duties over the past two years and is ill-equipped to supervise natural gas drilling. All of the meat has been snipped free of the bones, and some of the bones have disappeared," wrote Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis in the memo. "Many of our programs are hanging by a thread."

As you read the memo (written as the result of a request from the governor’s budget commission) and leaked (not by the chief), you get a sense of what gutting the DEC further will be like. For a moment, try not to see the memo as an indictment against anyone, but as a list from which to check as the DEC loses personnel whose job is to monitor and protect our environment.

“According to this memo, here are some impacts New York has already experienced and can expect to see more of because of cutbacks to the DEC budget:

· The agency is cleaning-up fewer petroleum spills;

· Inspections and enforcement activities have dwindled;

· There is less oversight of mine safety and oil and gas drilling;

· Efforts to plug leaking abandoned wells have been cut;

· Backcountry patrols by rangers and conservation officers have been significantly reduced;

· DEC's fish hatcheries may be closed, resulting in a reduction in economic activity supported and induced by fish stocking;

· Cuts to the Minerals Division will mean fewer staff available to review applications and oversee activities related to Marcellus Shale;

· Elimination of the DEC's voluntary brownfields program, will shift their focus to remediation only on State Superfund sites;

· Clean-up and redevelopment of contaminated lands will take additional time;

· Reviews and approvals of industrial, commercial, and residential development projects (especially [sic] in regional offices) have slowed; and

· Priority infrastructure initiatives will be affected (such as a second Peace Bridge in Buffalo, high speed rail corridors and major renewable energy projects).”  DEC Memo Urges New York to Limit Cuts to Agency Budget - GrowWNY

This isn’t “Oh, boo hoo for the DEC, let’s get real; everybody is suffering in this recession.” This is the profound insight that we need to adopt if we are to be a sustainable community: We should not think our economy’s performance is in any way more important than the environment:

“The natural environment, encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species” Natural environment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It would be fool hardy for a stricken traveler on a long journey in a scorching desert to gulp down the entire contents of his canteen; in the same way we must protect and preserve our environment, most especially when our economy is floundering.

Recycling Electronic Waste (e-waste) responsibly

 

The days where New Yorkers can simply march their e-waste to the curb and forget them are coming to a close.  There’s a new law in town:

Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation “Beginning April 1, 2011, manufacturers of covered electronic equipment [those covered by the law] will be required to accept the following: computers, televisions (as well as cathode ray tubes), small scale servers, computer peripherals (monitors, electronic keyboards, electronic mice or similar pointing devices, facsimile machines, document scanners, printers), small electronic equipment (VCRs, digital video recorders, portable digital music players, DVD players, digital converter boxes, cable or satellite receivers, electronic or video game consoles.”

But rules and regulations are not enough.  We have to be sure that all these e-gadgets get recycled properly by people who know what they’re doing.  Otherwise this happens:

Following The Trail Of Toxic E-Waste - 60 Minutes - CBS News “60 Minutes Follows America's Toxic Electronic Waste As It Is Illegally Shipped To Become China's Dirty Secret |This story was first published on Nov. 9, 2008. It was updated on Aug. 27, 2009. 60 Minutes is going to take you to one of the most toxic places on Earth -- a place that government officials and gangsters don't want you to see. It's a town in China where you can't breathe the air or drink the water, a town where the blood of the children is laced with lead. It's worth risking a visit because, as correspondent Scott Pelley first reported last November, much of the poison is coming out of the homes, schools and offices of America.”

Standards must be created so that a way to assure the public that when they do recycle their toxic electronic waste it is done so properly.  

Find out about e-stewards and find out if where you recycle your e-waste they are e-steward certified—or if they are certified who has certified them and what it means.   Sound like a lot of trouble to go through?  Not once certification and monitoring and policing the waste stream are made sustainable.

e-Stewards "The e-Stewards Initiative is a project of the Basel Action Network (BAN), which is a 501(c)3 non-profit, charitable organization of the United States, based in Seattle, Washington. It is against the backdrop of the growing e-waste crisis that the e-Stewards Initiative was born. Without appropriate national and international legislation or enforcement in place in many regions, it is unfortunately left up to individual citizens, corporations, universities, cities – all of us – to figure out how to prevent the toxic materials in electronics from continuing to cause long term harm to human health and the environment, particularly in countries with developing economies. "

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

True Green vs. Fake Green.

 

No doubt businesses are greening up their products.  It’s the wave of the future not just because more people will buy their stuff (they will), but because non-green products that negatively impact our environment and our health are becoming intolerable.  Sounds good so far, but the devil is in the details. 

Finding out how to check to ensure that the products you by are indeed green (environmentally friendly, that is) is no simple matter.  There are few world-wide standards that can be used for industry that covers the myriad of ingredients in products, how they are used, and what happens to these products when they are discarded.  So, moving forward on green products is going to be difficult.  Having said all that, outright ‘greenwashing’ should be reduced and pointed out to the public when it occurs.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

Misleading Claims On 'Green' Labeling - WSJ.com Confused by all the "green" claims of products on store shelves out there? There's good reason to be. According to a study due out Tuesday, more than 95% of consumer products examined committed at least one offense of "greenwashing," a term used to describe unproven environmental claims, according TerraChoice, a North American environmental-marketing company that issued the report. (October 26, 2010) Business News & Financial News - The Wall Street Journal - WSJ.com