Saturday, May 29, 2010

Climategate Revisited:

Climate Change should not be a political debate or a media blurb:  There seems to have been much damage to the credibility of climate scientist last fall during Climategate, but that was a media frenzy, kicked up by political zealots, and was nonsense on stilts.   

In the real world the efforts by scientist all over the world are trying to nail down Climate Change so we (all peoples on all continents) can address Climate Change properly.  Most scientists do not and have not doubted the reality of Climate Change for quite awhile. 

If we don’t understand the science of Climate Change and how science advances, we’re simply allowing the situation to get worse, not avoiding it.  

Read this short essay about certainty in the science world because we all have to ‘get it,’ not just scientists. - Certainty vs. Uncertainty: Understanding Scientific Terms About Climate Change | Union of Concerned Scientists "Understanding Scientific Terms About Climate Change Uncertainty is ubiquitous in our daily lives. We are uncertain about where to go to college, when and if to get married, who will play in the World Series, and so on. To most of us, uncertainty means not knowing. To scientists, however, uncertainty is how well something is known. And, therein lies an important difference, especially when trying to understand what is known about climate change. In science, there's often not absolute certainty. But, research reduces uncertainty. In many cases, theories have been tested and analyzed and examined so thoroughly that their chance of being wrong is infinitesimal. Other times, uncertainties linger despite lengthy research. In those cases, scientists make it their job to explain how well something is known. When gaps in knowledge exist, scientists qualify the evidence to ensure others don't form conclusions that go beyond what is known. " - Union of Concerned Scientists

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Walking as Transportation in Jeopardy

  It is really tragic that it is unsafe to walk in one’s community.  Have we really gotten to the point in our mad focus on building for our transportation infrastructure that we have set aside our responsibility for the most basic form of transportation—walking? 

Has it really gotten to the point where it is safer to get into one’s gas-guzzler to get to the convenience store around the block than walk or bike to it?  Already, we bus our kids to school many times when, years ago, they would have walked.  But, now it’s safer to pay the expense and bus them.  We are considering walking school buses to solve this issue, but shouldn’t we be redesigning our transportation infrastructure so that people come first, not our vehicles? 

On a bike? On foot? Then danger's afoot -- Page 1 -- Times Union - Albany NY A new study of dangerous intersections in upstate New York highlights eight Albany crosswalks as among the most dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists.  AARP studied intersections in five upstate New York counties, including Albany County. According to the report, between 2006 through 2008, 10 people were killed while walking or bicycling in Albany County, which is about 15 percent of all traffic fatalities there. Older people were more likely to be killed. Thirty percent of the fatal accidents involved people 60 or older, who make up some 18.5 percent of the county's population. All eight of the intersections listed in the AARP report are in the city of Albany. (May 21, 2010) Albany NY News - Times Union - Serving Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady, Troy

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Plan for Washington Grove Park:

Several residents who live near and around the city’s Washington Grove Park attended a meeting by city officials on the new work plan for resolving some of the issues that have built up over the years. 

The work plan includes: control of invasive species, replanting, trail recovery, park visitation, stewardship, and planning.  The meeting was not well attended, nor representative of concerned residents, because a couple of close-by neighborhoods (including The Upper Monroe Avenue Association UMNA) were not notified of this event. 

That’s too bad because there will be some changes, including taking down several large Norway Maple trees (invasive species), that will impact those who enjoy the park regularly.  

One attendee remarked that the public would better understand the efforts by the city, which include chain sawing large trees, if they were adequately informed and educated on the environmental and other issues in the park that are trying to be addressed. 

If you are concerned about the new measures taken by the city, Email Mr. Brian Liberti, City Forester with questions or comments, or call the Division of Forestry at (585) 428-7581. Also, to help the city identify resident’s use of this park, complete an online survey of how you use the park: City of Rochester | Washington Grove Park Visitor Survey.  

Check here for the city website on Washington Grove Park: City of Rochester | Washington Grove Workplan Development Washington Grove is a woodland area nestled on the eastern edge of Cobbs Hill Park . In 2008, a coalition of neighborhood associations, led by the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club, came together to develop a management plan for Washington Grove. The group worked to identify the users of the Grove, their needs and interests, and the problems facing the area. They produced a draft management plan and provided it to City officials for their review. On May 20th, 2010, the City will hold a community meeting to present its workplan for the Grove. The workplan will be posted here afterwards.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Environmental No No’s

Although environmentalists and the media speak freely of Climate Change, pollution, oil spills, invasive species and the like--though, dysfunctionally--there are two topics that often don’t get any press because they’re so toxic.  One is over-population and the other is the possible environmental links with manmade chemicals and cancer. 

Over-population doesn’t get the media’s attention, because nobody knows how to approach it tastefully, even though we have probably over populated planet many times over.  Got solutions?  Get ready to be pillaged. 

On environmental links to manmade chemicals and cancer it is often so difficult to link the two (though, it does seem likely) that few dare to make the connections with cancers and manmade chemicals once they escape the lab.  Mysteriously, over the decades we have assumed that if we dump terrifically toxic chemicals into our land, air, and water, our environment will neutralize them.  How does that work?  (Even our oceans seem to be hitting a limit as to what it can dilute and dissolve.)  It’s one of those assumptions that may radically ramp up the incidences of cancer.  Perhaps it has:

President's Cancer Panel: Environmentally caused cancers are 'grossly underestimated' and 'needlessly devastate American lives.' — Environmental Health News "The true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated," says the President's Cancer Panel in a strongly reported report that urges action to reduce people's widespread exposure to carcinogens. The panel today advised President Obama "to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation's productivity, and devastate American lives." (May 6, 2010) Environmental Health News

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reducing Phone Books and Paper Waste:

Tired of seeing all those phone books all over your apartment complexes, on streets, porches, and public hallways?  These humungous books to find phone numbers were great in their day.  However, because of the increase in online search engines and cellular phones, which store phone numbers and allow for phone searches, we see no need to for phone companies to continually produce phone books in the vast quantities they have in the past. 

We understand that some disadvantaged poor do not have easy access to electronic searches and that some enjoy the coupons in the yellow pages, which are a major revenue source for Frontier.  One solution might be to let people "opt out" of receiving the full, large phone books and instead offer various sized smaller white books with just emergency or government numbers or smaller yellow books with coupons. 

Also, it is quite possible that some of the expense of all that paper, printing, and distribution would offset some of the income from phone book advertisers.  To opt out of phone books you don’t need, go here:

Yellow Pages Association | Environmental "Yellow Pages publishers want their products to be welcome in your home. Please contact the following publishers to adjust the number of directories you receive or to remove yourself from directory distribution lists. If the publisher you are looking for is not listed below, please check inside the directory and call the customer service number listed. Please note, only  U.S. publishers are listed in this search. " - from Yellow Pages Association | Home

Thursday, May 13, 2010

DEC – New Paradigm:

 We feel heartened to discover that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is taking Climate Change seriously.  So, seriously in fact they will “incorporate climate change considerations in all aspects of its activities.” Given the state of environmental affairs around the world, you would think any rational and responsible person, business, branch of government, everyone would now think Climate Change and incorporate it into all our affairs—if we want future generations to have a future that is. 

But, it is not written in stone yet.  Here’s a chance for you to weigh in on this matter: “Pursuant to ECL §30301(2)(z), written comments regarding this proposed Commissioner Policy will be accepted until June 11, 2010. Comments should be submitted to David G. Barnet, NYS DEC - Commissioner's Policy Office, 625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-1010 or e-mailed to climatechange@gw.dec.state.ny.us. The proposed Commissioner Policy is available by writing David G. Barnet at the address above or calling (518) 402-9234. A copy may also be found on the NYS DEC website at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/65034.html . Contact: David G. Barnet, NYS DEC - Commissioner's Policy Office, 625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-1010, Phone: (518) 402-9234, E-mail: climatechange@gw.dec.state.ny.us.”

ENB - Statewide Notices 05/12/2010 - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Notice of Availability of Proposed Commissioner Policy regarding Climate Change and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Action "Notice is hereby given that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) has prepared a proposed Commissioner Policy on climate change and NYS DEC action. In order to perform its core mission of conserving, improving, and protecting New York's natural resources and environment, the policy directs NYS DEC staff, to the extent applicable and within their existing statutory and regulatory authority, to incorporate climate change considerations in all aspects of its activities, including but not limited to decision-making, planning, permitting, remediation, rulemaking, grants administration, natural resource management, enforcement, land stewardship and facilities management, internal operations, contracting, procurement, and public outreach and education. "

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Environmental Cancer Data – What does it mean?

The New York State Health Department has gone out of its way to toss in as many caveats to the new Environmental Facilities and Cancer Mapping website as they can.  I understand and appreciate the need to explain to the public that just because cancer clusters cluster around various facilities, it does not mean that the facilities caused cancers. 

But, this is a start in trying to figure out the relationship between all that ‘stuff’ we are discharging into our land, air, and water—and the rise of cancer.  Much of the stuff we are discharging into our environment is known to be cancer-causing but what exactly happens to a substance once it leaves the vats in the lab and radiates out into the environment is often too complicated to ever understand without long-term and thorough research.  But, we should be on that. 

We should stop assuming that because it is difficult to discover a causal relationship between a particular manmade chemical and a particular cancer (in say, rats) that it is impossible or we shouldn’t be investigating.  We need to know what is happening in our environment. I applaud the New York State Health Department for coming out with the Environmental Facilities and Cancer Mapping and appreciate it’s a start in discovering the relationship between our environment and cancer—not the end. 

Environmental Facilities and Cancer Mapping "The New York State Environmental Facilities and Cancer Mapping project is designed to answer questions many New Yorkers have about cancer and environmental facilities in their communities. It provides an interactive map which shows the numbers and types of cancer within small geographic areas. It also shows the locations of environmental facilities within the same geographic areas. This project also provides information on cancer, its possible causes, and how to interpret cancer data."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Healthy display of Vehicles:

Despite the ominous dark and windy weather many came to view what had to be one of the longest displays of alternative vehicles at one time in one place in our area.  Thanks to the Democrat and Chronicle for advance notice on this project to show the public what vehicles future possible alternatives to gasoline vehicles there are now available.

And thanks to the many who braved the weather and donated their time to bring their own or their organization’s vehicles to RIT, our host, this program was a great success. Change in how we get around and we develop our communities (people first, vehicles not first) is coming.  And, many got a glimpse of something new under the hood.   

'Green' vehicles can be viewed today | democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle Co-sponsored by Rochester Institute of Technology and the Center for Environmental Information, the fair is intended to suggest new modes of short-distance transportation as gasoline prices fluctuate and concern grows about environmental and climate problems. "We want to give the public an idea what the choices are in the future," said Frank Regan, chairman of the environmental center's alternative transportation committee. (May 8, 2010) Democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle | Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Getting beyond waste

Waste is a human conceit: If we cannot find an immediate value for something, we toss it somewhere, bury it, or burn it. However, in Nature there is no such thing as waste. Everything has a role or it would not exist.

Hopefully, as we move into the future, we’ll get over the notion of waste. We’ll consider Zero Waste, where everything we produced gets thought about ‘from cradle to cradle,’ from the moment we use a resource to create a product to the moment we are done with the product. Then we won’t be trashing our resources or littering the planet.

This is not wild idealism. The new Green Business model has adopted this concept of Zero Waste because it means leaner, more efficient businesses. What business can afford to waste money?

Speaking of re-thinking waste, the New York, State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) just announced a measure to reduce waste. “DEC Releases Plan to Put New York on a Path ‘Beyond Waste’: New Direction in Solid Waste Management Focuses on Reducing Packaging and Waste and Using 'Greener' Materials.” In "Beyond Waste: A Sustainable Materials Management Strategy for New York", the plan “sets forth a new approach for the state - a shift from focusing on "end of pipe" waste management to reducing waste from the start - that will help minimize waste, increase the use of materials that can be reused or recycled, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase green jobs.”

But this wise use of our resources and producing less waste isn’t going to just happen. The DEC needs feedback. Your feedback. It’s your planet, why let someone else trash it?

In The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard presents a 20-minute web-film that explores the often hidden environmental and social consequences of America’s love affair with its stuff. Currently, the film has been viewed over 10 million times on-line and in thousands of schools, houses of worship, community centers and businesses around the world.”

Other states and countries are changing their policies towards waste. They are creating a cleaner, healthier environment, and more jobs. Check out Beyond Waste and attend one of the several hearings coming to a place near you. If you cannot attend one of the hearings, you can write in your response. “Comments should be submitted to Ed Dassatti, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Solid and Hazardous Materials, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7250.” You can comment through July 6.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Environmental Disaster Unfolding

One of the problems with trying to convince the public of the danger and immediacy of environmental issues is that they usually unfold so slowly that they go unnoticed or we get bored.  No such trouble with the Gulf Oil Spill.  It’s happening now and unfolding before your eyes. 

Question arise as to whether environmentalist should take advantage of this calamity, making much of this incident with ‘I-told-you-so’s’  After all, said one senator, “Accident’s happen.”  Accidents do happen. 

But, accidents like the ones your mother tries to prevent when she tells you not to run out into the streets are preventable.  Very preventable. 

Drilling for oil in delicate ecological areas opens up the real possibility of a major disaster.  There’s little margin for error and so accident do happened and have continually polluted our environment. 

Others say environmentalists should grow up and realize that even if we do go ‘whole hog’ and adopt renewable energy, we are still going to have to drill and get our oil to run our present energy needs for the next 30 years.

But, here’s the thing: Nature doesn’t assume that human population has to grow exponentially and we all have to have a place to plug in all our devices.  Nature, the laws of physics actually, doesn’t assume any special rules or exceptions to human existence at all.  If we don’t change how we treat or planet immediately and become sustainable—we won’t (by definition) be sustainable.  Our economy, our wishes, our sense of justice, are all subservient to the laws of Nature, they always have been. 

Go here to get a glimpse of catastrophe, and please refrain from thinking about human political reactions to this. It’s not a ‘spin doctor’ moment.  It’s Nature at work achieving a balance. Gulf Disaster "The Center has launched a Gulf-Crisis Web site that we'll update daily with information on how big the spill is, where it's hitting shore, what species are suffering the impacts, how the rescue effort's going, what we're doing, and how it's all driving home the critical need to reverse Obama's decision to open up new areas to offshore oil drilling in Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and along the Atlantic Coast. " - from Center for Biological Diversity

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Update on the Year of Biodiversity:

Many species around the world are rapidly becoming extinct and there is a call for governments internationally to take this issue as seriously as they do Climate Change.  Given responses of governments around the world on that issue, it probably won’t be enough.  International failure to meet target to reduce biodiversity decline Pressures on the natural world have risen since the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity, say conservation groups | The world has failed to meet the target set by international leaders to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by this year, experts will announce next month. (April 29, 2010) Latest news, comment and reviews from the Guardian | guardian.co.uk

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Rochester’s failing air quality

Ho Hum. The Rochester, NY area and Monroe County get another failing grade for ozone pollution, an ‘F’, from the American Lung Association’s The State of the Air 2010 “. Here’s the skinny: “The State of the Air 2010 shows that the air quality in many places has improved, but that over 175 million people—roughly 58 percent—still suffer pollution levels that are too often dangerous to breathe. Unhealthy air remains a threat to the lives and health of millions of people in the United States, despite great progress. Even as the nation explores the complex challenges of global warming and energy, air pollution lingers as a widespread and dangerous reality.”

It’s a yawner for most folks as it goes on year after year and no one is getting worked up about it. No marching in the streets. It barely gets local news coverage. Environmental news of this sort is like riding in a jet and feeling a sudden drop in altitude. You look around and no one else seems to be paying any attention, so it must be OK. Relax, take a deep breath.

But, that’s part of the problem. Taking a deep breathe might be difficult on a high ozone day. Check it out: “Ozone in the lower atmosphere is an air pollutant with harmful effects on the respiratory systems of animals and will burn sensitive plants...” (Ozone – Wikipedia)

We’ve become so inured to air pollution that it barely registers in our brain. (Smog, oh that.) Though, there were times when it used to. Decades ago, when urban areas were so filled with air pollution from coal and wood burning in both industry and individual households, the public demanded something be done about it. At times it got really bad: “During the week of December 4 though 10, 1952, London suffered the worst recorded air pollution disaster anywhere, bringing early deaths to 4,000 people.” (Something New Under the Sun, by J.R. McNeil).

Then laws got passed. Pollution controls got tighter. Smoke stacks got taller, which sent the stuff higher and further away. Coal burning in the cities was replaced by the less (overtly) polluting oil and gas burners.

Then about fifty years ago, vehicular traffic (which had, of course, been around for a while) finally got to the point where it has become the great air offender. As a result, pollution controls were required for vehicles, and (when gas prices went up) engines with better miles-per-galloon showed up at the car dealers. But obviously not enough of them. With Nature there isn’t a mark for trying.

What makes the present air quality problem so difficult to solve is that, unlike slapping a few industries with lawsuits for polluting as we did in the past, the problem now is us. All of us who drive gas-guzzlers are adding to the problem of air pollution in our cities. Driving a personal vehicle even for short distances (which constitutes most travel) is so ubiquitous that it seems like one of those inalienable rights. And maybe it is, but even in school, if you constantly get a failing grade, someday they throw you out.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Another warning about our hubris:

The BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill should be a warning about allowing large-scale human operations that might endanger our environment.  It should be a warning about the possibility of mistakes, but it probably won’t be.  What will probably happen is that in this case there will be large scale environmental damage.  And, then there will be finger-pointing and blame and a political tempest that will cloud the larger issue: mankind doesn’t know enough about the operations of our planet to interfere with the operations of our planet. 

Murphy’s Law: “That anything can go wrong and will go wrong at the worst possible moment.”  It isn’t about “I told you so.”  It’s about acting responsibly as we continue to grow and desire more energy.  When we act out of desperation, as drilling for energy when the possibility of large-scale disaster or adopt energy sources like nuclear that allows no margin or error, we are putting our existence on a hair trigger.  Rather, we should move towards renewable energy, get our population growth down, and think about what our way of life is demanding of a planet disinclined to care.  How many disaster web sites like this will the future hold, where we have to observe us reacting to a crisis?

Federal Response to BP Spill in the Gulf of Mexico | US EPA This site is an online resource for anyone seeking information on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is intended to track EPA's ongoing work in the area and help answer questions about the incident. We will continue to update as information becomes available.