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 - 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 -

Monday, October 25, 2010

Not addressing major threats to a society’s existence is what causes societies to collapse.


We have so politicized everything in the US, including our environment that we cannot address the critical state our environmental health is in. 

A political party that does not, or cannot, accept Climate Change and therefore begin addressing it is a dysfunction party—by definition.

This isn’t merely an opinion; it’s a profound problem about our collected ability to confront the most important issue of our times.  Many are so blinded by the political pendants, and everything else associated with the political scene, that we are shooting ourselves in the foot. 

How are we going to get around this problem that a major party in our county doesn’t even believe in the science of Climate Change? 

How can a candidate work with communities, scientists, businesses, and our economy if they refuse to see the elephant in the room—our planet is warming up by our actions and it’s going to take a profound county-wide effort to mitigate the effects of climate change?  No political arguments or collective distain is going to get around the physics of climate change. 

What’s the point of being an intelligent being, if you cannot take responsibility for your planet and see that its environment (that keeps us alive) does not fail? 

GOP Victory May Be Defeat For Climate Change Policy The more carbon that gets released into the atmosphere, the higher the average temperature rises. That's a scientific fact. Human activities, such as driving, flying, building and even turning on the lights, are the biggest contributor to the release of carbon. That too, is a fact. And yet the majority of Republicans running for House and Senate seats this year disagree. (October 23, 2010)  NPR

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Elections and our Environment:


Elections coming up and time to vote for our environment:  Need some help?  Check here: 

"New York State's one-and-only environmental Voters' Guide is available online. Click here to read it! Each year EPL/Environmental Advocates’ green report card grades New York State lawmakers according to their votes on bills that could help or harm our air, land and water. The 2010 New York State Legislative Session was chock full of green heroes and villains, but there are a few who stood out above the rest.  Legislators of the Year honors are awarded to the public figures that have done the most to advance environmentally beneficial policy. And the Oil Slick award is given to the public figure that has done the most to derail New York's environmental protections.  Click here to find out who got top honors (2010 Legislator of the Year) and who was dis-honored with the “Oil Slick” award. This year’s scorecard features not one, but two Legislators of the Year, as well as a very special Oil Slick award for the state lawmaker who has done his best to kowtow to the oil and gas industry at the expense of New York’s drinking water. Can you guess who it might be? Click here to find out. The 2010 Voters’ Guide was made possible in large part thanks to your generous donation. And there's still time to support the Guide, click here to make a gift today.   Every legislator in New York State is up for re-election, and thanks to our green scorecard, New Yorkers from Buffalo to Long Island know how their legislators acted on environmental issues—for good or ill. Click here to see how your representatives scored in the EPL/Environmental Advocates' annual Voters’ Guide. " Environmental Advocates New York

Excellent event coming up with Bill McKibben in the area:


 2010 WNY Environmental Congress - GrowWNY "Be part of the conversation at the WNY Environmental Congress! With special guest, Bill McKibben, renowned environmentalist and author of Eaarth, on what it takes to build a regional environmental movement. When: Saturday, November 13, 2010 Where: City Honors High School, 186 E. North St., Buffalo, NY Join us as we discuss recent progress on efforts to improve our environment and how we can all work together to protect Western New York’s natural resources in 2011. The Congress is open to all interested participants – visit for additional information. Agenda 8:15 am Registration 9:00 am Program begins 12:30 pm Lunch* 1:30 pm Keynote address by Bill McKibben Please register by November 5, 2010. Click here to register online, or call the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo at (716) 852-2857. *There will be a $10 fee for anyone who wishes to participate in the lunch. " GrowWNY

Getting it on DEC Chief firing


Here’s an excellent article on why firing the DEC was such a bad move for our environment.

DEC Turmoil Underscores Challenge Facing New York’s Next Governor | New York League of Conservation Voters Restoring trust in critical environmental agency must be priority #1 | NEW YORK - Gov. David Paterson's firing of Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander "Pete" Grannis yesterday underscores the need for New York's next governor to swiftly prioritize fixing this critical agency, which has been badly damaged by staffing cuts and is now without strong leadership. (October 23, 2010)  New York League of Conservation Voters | Electing for the Environment

Friday, October 22, 2010

Put Mr. Grannis back on the job!


We were saddened this morning to learn about the firing of Mr. Peter Grannis, Commissioner for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Pete Grannis, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, was fired effective immediately Thursday in the wake of an agency memo that was critical of layoffs planned at the agency.”DEC chief fired in wake of fight over layoff order | | Democrat and Chronicle

Of all the state departments that should not be cut, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is the one agency we have that has the power to protect our environment.  Peter Grannis, the commissioner of the DEC, has been truthful about the how critical it is that his agency not be cut and he should not be fired because of his honesty and integrity about so critical an issue.

Getting Mr. Grannis back in office will demonstrate to the pubic how important this government is about our environment—which we cannot abandon during a downturn in our economy. In fact, more rigorous and robust attention to our environmental regulations should occur during this time of belt-tightening because this is a time when there will be increased attempts to ignore or flout environmental regulations.

Mr. Grannis has been a great leader in getting information about our New York State environment to the public and trying in these trying times to do what his department has been charged "To conserve, improve and protect New York's natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being."

Please contact Governor Patterson’s office and implore him to reinstate Mr. Grannis to office.  Click here to go to the Governor's contact information

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Glimpse Climate Change in the Adirondacks


Check out this interesting essay by a local expert on Climate Change how the Adirondacks are being shaped by Climate Change.

Journey to a Future Climate - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation "Journey to a Future Climate Exploring climate change in the Adirondacks By David W. Wolfe, PhD It's mid afternoon in late May, crazy hot for this time of year (upper 80s), and we are sloshing our way through Spring Pond Bog, the largest open bog in the Adirondacks. The weather has brought the black flies out in full force, loving the heat and humidity, and loving us even more. I'm with a colleague of mine from Cornell, plant ecologist Jonathan Comstock, and we are being led by the legendary Adirondack naturalist, Jerry Jenkins. Jerry knows this state park-from its soaring peaks to bog wilderness areas-probably better than anyone else alive, and he's taking us to see some of the areas that are most vulnerable to climate change. "Conservationist Magazine - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Good article on how bicycles are slowing integrating themselves into our transportation.


Other cities around the US are embracing bicycling as real transportation and Rochester to is slowly making progress. 

Check out Upper Monroe Bicycle Boulevards

“On Sunday, May 23 at 1 PM in Cobbs Hill Park over forty bicyclists began a bicycle boulevard demonstration ride through Upper Monroe neighborhood in Rochester, New York. They were not racers, or members of a single bicycling club, or recruits for a charity ride.  They were just ordinary folks finding out what a bicycle boulevard would look and feel like in our area.”

Read on… Bike Paths - Bicycle Lanes - The Daily Green

Bicycles are becoming more popular transportation around the country, as infrastructure for them improves. Around the U.S. new bike lanes and paths are all the rage, helping cash-strapped cities simultaneously green operations and trim budgets -- adding bike lanes is far less costly (to taxpayers and the environment) than building new roads.

Also, the nonprofit League of American Bicyclists reports that real estate values increase with proximity to bike paths.

"People enjoy living close to bike paths and are willing to pay more for an otherwise comparable house to be closer to one," the group reports, citing examples from Indiana, California and elsewhere showing that homes near bike trails command a premium upwards of 10 percent. (October 17, 2010)

When not to recycle

It might seem odd to suggest there are times when you should not recycle, but indeed there are times.  Recycling those old electronic dinosaurs piling up in your attic or furniture way out of style should not be done hastily.  Recycling is a dish best served serene: when you are ready to do it properly.

Many folks pile years of old stuff into the attic thinking that one day they’ll get around to recycling it all.  Out of sight, out of mind.  But what usually happens is that instead of finding a time to recycle properly, crunch time comes and the stuff goes to the curb and eventually into the landfill.  Like making funeral arrangements, grieving for the sudden loss of a loved one is not the best time to shop for caskets.  You’re vulnerable to suggestions you might not be in a less stressful time in your life.

That’s what happens with a lot of the stuff we accumulate.  You plan to have that garage sale or give a lot of those old TV’s and furniture to charity but suddenly you have to move.  You lose a job.  Or, someone at the top of your company’s food chain decides you gotta move to the other side of the continent—and he wants you there this week.  Or, the specter of a divorce rears its ugly head and then only the dedicated and few will take the time to recycle properly.

Knowing where to discard your spent stuff is important.  Not all of your old stuff goes to one place—unless, of course, you allow it all to be land-filled.  In which case, your progeny, those who come after us, will have to figure out how to detoxify our environment after throwing everything—organics, electronics, wood, steels, and plastics, into a great big hole in the ground.  However nicely the hole is lined and vented for fuel, this stuff cannot break itself down into something useable.

Better to devise a plan to Donate Recycle Reuse (DRR) .  Find out ahead of time, before crunch time, where to get rid of your old stuff.  There are many places in the Rochester, NY area to recycle and it’s worth your time and our environment to find out.  We are especially fortunate to live in an area where there are a lot of electronic recycling events, a hazardous waste program, and pharmaceutical collections.  

In the future, we may choose what products we buy according to how they will be disposed.  For example, what if when you bought a new sofa a company would deliver your new sofa, take your old one, and promise to recycle it properly?  Wouldn’t you be more likely to shop there first for a sofa?  Until then, continually recycle stuff and don’t let it accumulate until crunch time.  Even better, would be to achieve Zero Waste and never create waste in the first place.  Many are working on that.

There are, of course, those who don’t recycle, don’t intend to, and don’t want to talk about it, period.  They want to buy stuff and then throw it out—like folks used to do until we found out that just isn’t sustainable.  In a closed system like Earth’s environment, you cannot really throw anything away—it stays in the system in one way or another.  Some ways are extremely toxic.

When the fairy dust settles over elections, it’s our environment that matters

After it is all said and done and the November elections are over your vote (even if you don’t vote) will affect our environment.  We’ll get the environment we deserve.

When we vote for our favorite candidate, the one with the best looks, with the ideology that matches ours, the one who had the most money to put on the most ads, the one who assuaged our anger, who allayed our fears, or who adopted our prejudices, we’ll be voting on our environment.   That’s because our representatives decide for us on key environmental issues—regardless of the factors that got them elected.  It’s the way it works.

If you don’t vote, because of apathy, or you’re too busy, or whatever, you will get the environment that those with enough energy to walk down to the local polling booth and flip some switches desire.  Remember: Here in Rochester, NY we know the value of the vote because Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton used to bless our area with their uncompromising, life-long struggle for women’s suffrage.  It didn’t come easy and Anthony didn’t see it happen in her lifetime.  Our Democracy shrinks when you don’t vote.  

In the Rochester, NY area those in office will determine our water quality, our transportation (high speed rail), urban sprawl, air quality (it’s failing), whether Climate Change is addressed, whether Brownfields are cleaned up, whether our lakes and streams get protected, and what kind of energy we end up with in the future.  Our representative, by their decisions, their votes, and their power to represent you, will decide the quality of your future—as they always have.

Where does your candidate stand on NYS DEC being gutted, drilling in the Marcellus Gas Shale, Climate Change, cleaning up the Great Lakes, public funds for environmental reporting, protection of wetlands, or promoting clean energy options?  Need help on the issues and who to vote for?  You cannot do better than these people, who have done a lot of the leg-work for you:

League of Conservation Voters“The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is a national non-profit organization that works to turn environmental values into national priorities. To secure the environmental future of our planet, LCV advocates for sound environmental policies, elects pro-environment candidates who will adopt and implement such policies, provides the state LCVs with the resources and tools to accomplish and sustain their mission. ”

You’re thinking maybe, yeah, I should vote on environmental issues but that is going to have to wait because there are more important and pressing issues.  Granted it’s a mess out there, but there aren’t more pressing issues than our environment.  No environment, no you.  And, our environmental health has already been kicked down the road so far and for so long; we are reaping the consequences of those who didn’t vote for the environment before us.  We cannot drink our water without filtering it, we breathe air that has failed several years in a row for ozone contamination, and our region continues to warm up.  Environmental problems don’t just go away, they come back to bite the next generation.

Consider our environment when voting.  Our environment is low on voters list, but however you vote, our environment will be affected by the policies of those who win.  Don’t just vote for your selfish self-interest--or better yet do that.  Vote in such a way that those who you vote for will give your children a healthy environment. 

Bees are disappearing because of pesticides—or not?

There are at least two versions of what is causing the loss of our honeybees, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  Because honeybees are critical to our agriculture and our environment, we need to solve this great mystery as to why so many bees are flying away and not coming back.

Trust me, you may not have a particular fondness for honeybees, but they are important:

“While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, the term colony collapse disorder was first applied to a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in North America in late 2006. Colony collapse is economically significant because many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by bees.” Colony collapse disorder - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One version of the cause of CCD:

“A recent study conducted by Penn State University published in the Public Library of Science (High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for Honey Bee Health) found widespread and “remarkably high” levels of pesticides and other toxicant contamination of beehives and food sources including fungicides in pollen. Dr. Chris Mullen, lead author of the study said “The pollen is not in good shape. The study reports that 121 pesticides and metabolites have been found in wax, pollen, bee, and hive samples.”  - from “EVERYONE SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE VANISHING OF THE BEES” – GrowWNY

Another version of the cause of CCD.

“A fungus tag-teaming with a virus have apparently interacted to cause the problem, according to a paper by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana in the online science journal PLoS One. Exactly how that combination kills bees remains uncertain, the scientists said — a subject for the next round of research. But there are solid clues: both the virus and the fungus proliferate in cool, damp weather, and both do their dirty work in the bee gut, suggesting that insect nutrition is somehow compromised.” – from “Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery”- New York Times

As you will notice, these two versions of the cause of CCD are radically different.  One says that “pesticides and other toxicant contamination” are involved; the other does not mention pesticides.  One study suggests that something in Nature has gone awry for the bees; the other suggests that manmade contaminants are the cause.  Why are two different version of this critical matter coming out at the same time?

Could it be that one source has the latest information and the other source just hasn’t caught up?

Most answers to environmental problems are most likely a myriad of interrelated factors caused by both manmade and natural influences.  It didn’t used to be that way.  A couple of hundred years ago there wasn’t enough humans and human technology to make much of a influence on our global environment—though our ancestors did manage to chop down or burn a lot of forests, kill off numerous top predators, and pollute some rivers.

But nowadays, we humans have a profound effect on our environment; and, as in the bee CCD issue, we will always have to consider both the laws of Nature and humanity’s influence on any environmental issue. I hope the press considers this and doesn’t get too hung up on protecting any one business or ideology.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pro-active environmental Studies:

This Canadian study (see below) is an example of the kinds of environmental studies we need.  What is amazing about this study to examine whether household chemicals survive our waste treatment plants (that were not designed to do this kind of filtering) is not the findings of the study. 

The findings are that waste treatment plants do not filter out manmade chemicals very well.

What is amazing is that the study was done in the first place.  And that is amazing because these kinds of proactive, obvious studies should have been done long ago and continually.

This issue about pro-actively monitoring mankind’s effect on our environment is a subject that is mostly avoiding in mainstream media. Why is that?

Our waste treatment plants cannot and were never designed to filter out the myriad of manmade chemicals we use and flush into our major lakes, which are our drinking water sources and much more.

The truth is that we don’t know what manmade chemicals are in most of the stuff we use and throw away; don’t know how these chemicals interact with each other and natural chemicals when they enter our waters; and, we don’t know because we haven’t been checking.

But that’s delusional: Why would we have assumed that our water treatment plants could have ever filtered these chemicals out? Why is this issue just occurring to folks after we have been dumping and flushing these pharmaceuticals and other chemicals for decades?  What we do know is that most of us carry inside of us many manmade chemicals; they

are called the ‘body burden.’  How do you think we got this stuff inside us? We are we still so complacent about these issues of pro-actively monitoring our environment, when every time we do check we find our waters filled with manmade stuff that shouldn’t be there?  I think those who come after us will be very annoyed at our aggressive ignorance, where we just didn’t want to think about what is in the stuff that our generation uses and throws away.

Chemicals survive waste treatment to be released into environment: study - Winnipeg Free Press "Chemicals in household drugs and cleaning products routinely survive waste treatment and are released into the environment, where little is known about their effects on land, water and human health, according to a government-funded study. "What are really needed are risk assessments," said Hugh Monteith, a research consultant who conducted the recently released study for the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. "The whole ecosystem needs to be assessed for the effects of the materials that are present in here." " (October 14, 2010) Winnipeg Free Press - Breaking News, Sports, Manitoba, Canada

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why are some manmade chemicals safe in one country and not in another?

One has to ask oneself how it is that the same manmade chemicals being used in one country can be perfectly safe while in another it is not safe. 

Are we really that different from each other? Or is it that in some countries the corporations are more powerful that in other countries and so in one country its government and its people have to prove that a manmade chemical is unsafe before it is pulled from the market? 

Or, is it that in some countries its people and environment come first and manmade chemicals used in their products have to be proven safe before they are put into products that consumers will use and that will eventually get dumped into the environment?

It’s very puzzling because there doesn’t seem to be any kind of shell or bubble over one country that protects them for the effects of a manmade chemicals and not another.  If there is, it’s a hidden secret kept so well that none of us know about it. 

Even so, you would think if there was a secret shell over countries so they can use potentially dangerous stuff that would otherwise harm another country, that this bubble or shell could be sold for a lot of money.  Then, a lot of people could make a lot of money selling these special protective shells and it would protect all of its people in their countries from the stuff other countries are doing, like taking water from a river, or fouling the air, or using dangerous manmade chemicals. 

But, without these protective shells it’s very hard to understand how physics works this way because since Nature and the laws of physics have no way of knowing that one country is different than another.  To Nature all us countries look the same.      

Canada Declares BPA to Be Toxic - "OTTAWA — The government of Canada formally declared bisphenol A, a chemical widely used to create clear, hard plastics, as well as food can liners, to be a toxic substance on Wednesday. The compound, commonly known as BPA, has been shown to disrupt the hormone systems of animals and is under review in the United States and Europe." (October 13, 2010) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

Friday, October 15, 2010

Natural gas for energy is trumping wind, solar, coal, and even nuclear power:

That the market forces are responsible for a dramatic shift in the cost of energy, making natural gas the winner, may strike most as comforting.

The invisible hand of the market is deciding for us the cheapest way to get energy in the future for our homes. But this is not good news because even though we know the planet is warming because of the use of fossil fuels we continue to allow our responsibility to our planet and other life to be subjugated to market forces.

If we were responsible folks, we would demand in large numbers that public funding go towards renewable energy and not let the best energy price wind. This idea is not so radical; it’s based on our environment and our survival instead of what the market will bear. Remember, Nature will only bear the laws of physics.

Regardless of the price of energy, if you put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the place warms up and this effects everything (not in a good way) and everybody on the planet.

Natural gas elbows its way to center stage | Business news | - Houston Chronicle NEW YORK — By unlocking decades' worth of natural-gas deposits deep underground across the United States, drillers have ensured that natural gas will be cheap and plentiful for the foreseeable future. It's a reversal from a few years ago that is transforming the energy industry. The sudden abundance of natural gas has been a boon to homeowners who use it for heat, local economies in gas-rich regions, manufacturers that use it to power factories and companies that rely on it as a raw material for plastic, carpet and other everyday products. But it has upended the ambitious growth plans of companies that produce power from wind, nuclear energy and coal. Those plans were based on the assumption that supplies of natural gas would be tight, and prices high. (October 13, 2010) Houston news, entertainment, search and shopping | - Houston Chronicle

Monday, October 11, 2010

The story about clean energy that is not being told.

Too many articles about wind and solar energy in our region launch out the position that these renewable energy sources cannot possibly meet our energy needs because they are so wind and sun dependent. 

This is a crucial argument that allows the public to dismiss and not demand that renewable energy to become a major factor in our energy equation in our region.  What is missing from these reports is that with the co-advance of energy storage both wind and solar can and must be a major factor in our energy supply in our region. 

The press does the public no service when it does not counteract arguments that renewable energy is woefully inadequate when they don’t mention storage.  If the public realized that public funding and support for energy storage, along with other green energy advances, could significantly increase our clean energy, we might have a chance to mitigate or slow down greenhouse gases that we emit using the present fossil fuel burning sources that we use now. 

The fossil fuel industry gets billions of tax right-off for their industry, why aren’t billions being used for increasing the efficiency of energy storage?  Why is this important link not being made in our mainstream media continually along with the argument that renewable energy is not sufficient for our needs? 

Is it neglect, not caring, not being informed, or a downright attempt to keep those pushing for energy that is warming our planet to continue doing that?  Is this the way our press should be informing us of what we need to know about the importance of the energy/environment/climate change issue? 

Shouldn’t we see more articles like this one from the New York Times on this critical component of clean energy—storage?: I.H.T. Special Report - Global Clean Energy - The Challenge of Storing Energy on a Large Scale - "SAN FRANCISCO — Renewable energy sources like solar power and wind have been in the spotlight lately, as have ways to improve control of the power distribution system through information technology. But another crucial component of developing a climate-friendly, secure and affordable supply of electricity — large-scale storage — has received little attention. " (September 29, 2010) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

Friday, October 08, 2010

Environmental news around Rochester and around the world

I had a great time when I attended the recent UN Journalist Conference on Environmental sustainability on Monday, October 4th, 2010. Mayor Duffy spoke about our beautiful New York State and the recent sale of Hemlock and Candice lakes. We heard from environmental reporters from all over: Autigua & Barbuda; Russia; Togo; Bahrain; Uzbekistan; Zambia; Bosnia & Herzegovina; Haiti; and Mozambique. The conference was sponsored by those wonderful folks at United Nations Association of Rochester.

What I got from the conference: Disinterest in by the public on environmental concerns seems to be drearily widespread. Other stuff gets front-page coverage on the world stage—sports, movie star scandals, highway accidents, and political squabbling—just like here in the US.

You have to ask yourself, ’what’s with that?’ Why do we need to know about this other stuff and not about the state of our environment? How did we get to the point where people suffering the most horrific consequences of bad environmental policies and practices all over the world still refuse to demand that their media tell them about their environment? Would they really rather be told about the latest sport score on the front page, instead of a story that might profound effect their ability to survive? We are evolving into a very interesting species: a species that refuses to take responsibility for the very environment that they are changing and need to survive.

Part of the answer comes from what one foreign reporter said, “It’s not our job to tell our audience what is good for them.” Instead, she continued, “It is the job of the environmental groups to point out Climate Change and the like and serve up the facts to the media and make it interesting to the public.” (That’s what I heard her say anyway.) Ok, if that’s how it works (again, all around the world) then why do environmental groups have to do literary summersaults and street theatre to get the press to publish environmental news? In other words, even when many environmental situations (like a company slowly poisoning a river) demand attention, why doesn’t the press act? Why does front page news have to compete with stuff that doesn’t really matter, like the media’s creation of Sarah Palin as a front-page superstar that goggles up critical news space?

Maybe it’s because rich and powerful people own the press and they don’t like their news organizations spilling the beans about some of their unsavory environmental practices? Or, maybe the state doesn’t want to look like they are indifferent to the public’s plight because of their environmental neglect. Something’s’ going on: something’s the cause of such global indifference to environmental collapse.

Who knows? It’s hard to say exactly why there are not reports on things we don’t know, like what toxins a company is allowing to seep into our land and water. Maybe Donald Rumsfeld, the former Defense Secretary during the heady days of the Iraq invasion, said it best, “There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns; there are things we do not know we don’t know.” Unknown unknown - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia But we would know if we had a press that went out and investigated possible environmental problems, becoming proactive and taking responsibility for informing us on important news.

One glimmer of light was when a reporter at the conference said that the Internet in his country was not as heavily controlled as TV or radio. The older population sticks with what they know: Television. But the younger people go to the Internet and don’t even watch the TV. Maybe there’s hope for the public ‘getting it’ on our environment if the new press on the Internet can deliver. Time will tell. We’ll either perish or prevail depending on the level of engagement we have with our environment.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

When the cat’s away the mice will play

In a time of recession, budgets will be cut, people will lose lobs, and it will hurt.  We get it.  However, this message often gets directed to some and not to others.  Usually, the oppressed are the recipients of this austerity message.  Regardless of who caused the recession (because holding those accountable seems impossible because they hold so much power), we make our corrections on the backs of the poor, government workers who keep our infrastructure going, the least likely to be able to fight back, and always our environment.

In good times (booms) and bad (recessions), the thing to do to balance the budget and magically save us from ourselves, from our pollution and neglectfully ways, is to trash our environment: we get to pave it, develop it, drill it, pollute it, shoot it, and forget it altogether.  But, that’s suicidal.  Gutting  New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the agency responsible for protecting our environment in lean times and good, means when the cat is away, the mice (industry, individuals) get to do whatever they want with our environment.

Here’s the DEC’s mission:  "To conserve, improve and protect New York's natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being. DEC's goal is to achieve this mission through the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, public health, economic prosperity and social well-being, including environmental justice and the empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives.”

Rationally, the thing to do would be to increase the staff at the NYS DEC.  When things get tough, people start trashing the environment.  They take shortcuts; they dump when they should recycle; staff, who are supposed to make sure industry and government don’t misbehave, are getting the pink slip.  Desperate schemes, like drilling for natural gas to provide jobs and make money and warm the planet with more greenhouse gases, gets less scrutiny and less environmental enforcement.

Here’s the situation: Environmental groups decry DEC budget cuts - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow “Environmental groups say Gov. David Paterson is hobbling the state’s ability to protect its natural resources by ordering hundreds of job cuts at the Department of Environmental Conservation. Paterson has called for cutting 2,000 of the state’s 200,000 employees by year’s end. Budget divison [sic] spokesman Eric Kriss says Wednesday each agency has been given a target for total staffing. That number is just more than 2,900 at the DEC.” (September 30, 2010)  Note that the governor proposes to make his entire job cuts through DEC cuts only, and this actually leaves 900 additional job openings across the rest of the state’s staff.

But you can do something about it says Environmental Advocates New York: “The Governor recently ordered New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to lay off 209 employees by the end of the year. Added to the hundreds of staff who have taken up the Governor’s early retirement incentives and those lost due to the hiring freeze over the past four years, New York’s environmental agency has lost nearly one quarter of its entire workforce since 2007. The DEC monitors air and water quality and cleans up oil and toxic chemical spills—but only if it has the staff to do so.  The agency has been cut 15 percent this year, and now is looking at a disproportionate number of layoffs, too, more than any other single agency. These cuts leave the DEC with its lowest staff levels since the 1980′s, despite an increase in responsibilities. It’s like the Governor is asking the environmental agency to clean up New York’s hazardous waste with a toothbrush and a garden hose. Gutting environmental enforcement can’t be the way

Go here to act: Save the DEC: Tell Gov. Paterson NOT to Cut Staff at NY's Enviro Agency

Friday, October 01, 2010

Transportation, our environment, and your job search

When looking for a job (a green job perhaps) in these recession-filled days of few job offers and low pay, consider the cost of transportation in factoring your desired compensation.  

In other words, if you can find a job you can walk, bike, or bus to you can get a job that does not pay as much as you would need if you had to own, maintain, and purchase a car. 

When searching for an employment position, calculate that you can work for at least $5,000 a year less if I don’t have to own a car to get to it.  (Calculate more if your vehicle is one of the hulking monstrosities that doesn’t even come close to the suggested miles per gallon quotient.)

You won’t need to pay repair bills, or licensing fees, fuel that warms the atmosphere, insurance, and you won’t have to save for a new car to replace the one you are going to wear out getting to and from your new job.  Our environment and you will be healthier if you can walk each day to your job, instead of maintaining that behemoth in your garage, just drooling for more fossil fuel.  

Figuring out the earnings you will need from your new job will give you a distinct advantage if you don’t have to pay so much just to get to your job.  Think about it: If you need to own a car to work, it’s going to suck critical earnings from your new job.

Just imagine if everyone considered the cost of transportation to their employment; we would not need high taxes to maintain roads, bridges, accident insurance, and our health bills would go down. Our neighborhoods would be people centric, instead of car dominate and we wouldn’t have to compete for living space with drivers speeding to work to make those outrageous car payments.  

Behold the bicycle:  People for Bikes " is dedicated to channeling that passion to improve the future of bicycling. Our goal is to gather a million names of support, to speak with one, powerful voice—to make bicycling safer, more convenient and appealing for everyone."