Friday, June 25, 2010

Reveal Fracturing Chemicals:

Knowledge will set you free from making bad decisions: I cannot imagine how the public or their representatives can vote intelligently on drilling in the Marcellus Gas Shale (or anywhere else for that matter) without knowing what chemicals are being used in the hydrofracking process.

Trade secrets or not, potentially dangerous chemicals that could potentially contaminate our land and water should be clear and open to public scrutiny before making any decisions of this magnitude.  Public safely and the protection of our environment come first—no more argument.

Dems, Natural Gas Industry Negotiating Fracking Disclosure Plan - NYTimes.com Rep. Diana DeGette and the natural gas industry are actively negotiating a plan to require public disclosure of the sometimes toxic chemicals that drillers use to flush gas out of the ground, according to sources on both sides of the talks. The Colorado Democrat has authored a much tougher bill calling on U.S. EPA to regulate fracturing. Now she is trying to hammer out a deal with industry representatives, but the industry is reported to be split about whether to cut a deal with Democrats or hope that Republican gains in November's midterm elections will stamp out any regulatory efforts. (June 24, 2010) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Press and Climate Change:

Finally, a long-awaited article on the credentials of those scientists speaking to the press on Climate Change.  For years the public understanding of the science behind Climate Change has been muddied by the press’s search of ‘objectivity’ who always seem to be able to find scientist strongly agreeing with the evidence that leaned towards a view that our planet is warming up due to anthropogenic change, and those who didn’t.  

It made for great press and kept one of the most critical issues of our times in tied in what appears to be unnecessary knots.  But, has the press actually gone out and assessed the credentials of the scientists?  It doesn’t seem so and this has been a great failing of the press. 

Long after a consensus by most of the world’s scientist weighed in on the side of Climate Change the press has sown the seeds of doubt.  Doubt is good to a point.  But, doubt can also make the public incapable of understanding something as important and complex as Climate Change.  

This means it made it easier for communities to vote against measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions.  The public finds it convenient to consider energy options, like wind power, without considering Climate Change—so the arguments in the public arena are reduced to aesthetic ones, instead of reasonable ones in the light of Climate Change.  

Without the press reporting accurately Climate Change and the credibility of those backing this science the public does not feel compelled to act on future environmental choices with the most important and critical factor in their decision making. How are we going to make intelligent choices that involve our environment, like drilling for oil, unless the press takes a more informed attitude on science and begins to frame Climate Change issues more accurately?  Climate Change at present is the elephant on our news pages: everything related to public discussion on energy, and other environmental issues should be done so with Climate Change in our minds. We need a more mature press that understands the difference between science and opinion.

Study questions credentials of climate-change skeptics The hundreds of academics who sign warnings for politicians to delay action on slashing greenhouse gas emissions do not have the same expertise as those who say human activity is causing global warming, says a new study to be released Tuesday in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Scientists. "Despite media tendencies to present both sides in (the causes of global warming) debates, which can contribute to continued public misunderstanding regarding (human-caused climate change), not all climate researchers are equal in scientific credibility and expertise in the climate system," said the study, Expert credibility in climate change. (June 21, 2010) Vancouver Sun | Latest Breaking News | Business | Sports | Canada Daily News

Friday, June 18, 2010

Climate Change Changes:

As we take Climate Change more seriously, we consider more ramifications of what these changes will be.  Many of the changes, like in earthquakes, will take place not just in our environment, but in our man-made infrastructure that not included Climate Change in its development.  What other things that man has developed will come under threat because of Climate Change?

Climate change could affect marine infrastructure - CTV News The federal government is trying to come up with ways to protect millions of dollars worth of vulnerable infrastructure and coastline, years after it was urged to adapt to the effects of climate change. Ottawa has solicited a study on how some of the 1,000 small craft harbours that are critical to the fishing industry could be affected by rising sea levels, storm surges and a loss of shorefast ice -- all linked to climate change. June 13, 2010) Climate change could affect marine infrastructure - CTV News

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Climate Change Deniers Delight:

One has to wonder, giving the consensus of most climate scientists around the world, why denying the science of climate change is so popular. Certainly, Climate Change threatens people’s way of life and some people’s ideology is at risk. 

But at the end of the day, doesn’t it seem prudent to examine the news and the reports on what is probably the greatest environmental threat to our planet with an open mind?  I mean, not everything is political.

Something like Climate Change, though difficult to tease from the evidence in a weather and climate system so complex as Earth’s, takes some doing, but it does come down to reasonable assumptions based on evidence. 

Yet, given the slightest excuse many will fall back on any number of excuses to disbelieve in Climate Change and continue rant that it’s conspiratorial nonsense and a few science emails or a heavy snow storm in winter disproves it.  

Here’s some reverse conspiratorial stuff as to why those disinclined to believe in the science of Climate Change are continuing to do so—in spite of all evidence to the contrary:   Global Warming Deniers and Their Proven Strategy of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway: Yale Environment 360 For years, free-market fundamentalists opposed to government regulation have sought to create doubt in the public’s mind about the dangers of smoking, acid rain, and ozone depletion. Now they have turned those same tactics on the issue of global warming and on climate scientists, with significant success. (June 10, 2010) Yale Environment 360

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wind Turbines if not near Rochester, where?

I have to admit I don’t ‘get’ the strong opposition to off-shore wind farm projects proposed in our region, in the Great Lakes. “Five Proposals Begin NYPA Review Process For Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project - Environmental And Economic Development Benefits Expected” New York Power Authority: News Release.

Where do those who oppose these projects prefer to get the power they need to run their lives? Off-shore oil? Certainly, it must be obvious in the face of the BP Oil Disaster that our oil addition is jeopardizing our way of life, our environment, and is far more capable of trashing our waters than wind turbines.

The subsidies, via tax breaks in the millions, for the oil industry make any financial nod we give to renewable energy look paltry indeed. Should we get that power we need from the gas shales in our area (recently the Utica gas shale has been added to the Marcellus gas shale as candidates for local gas drilling)? Drilling for natural gas by hydrofracking has the potential to seriously disrupt our groundwater supplies.

I could understand wind power opponent’s anger and contempt of wind power in our area if they suggested a reasonable alternative to our energy needs—even if they suggested conservation so they don’t use the power that comes from oil, which is polluting and warming our planet, and nuclear, which is still dangerous and so complicated that there is no room for error.

If they really cared about the ‘noise’ issue of wind farms, why don’t they care about the noise of removing mountaintops that comes from mining coal? Is it because that noise and tragic stream pollution haunts the lives of others and not theirs? If they really cared about bird and bat deaths, why don’t they campaign against free-roaming house cats, glass buildings, and automobiles which kill millions of more birds than all of the wind turbines in the world?

As far as the aesthetics or the beauty of the Great Lakes goes, what will the Great Lakes look like when Climate Change, fueled by our fossil-fuel addition, the glacial water supply to them eventually dries them up?

How is the anger against placing renewable energy in the form of wind farms off-shore in our region to be measured against the anger of those people whose lives have been ruined by tearing apart their land and water for coal, oil, and natural gas?

It is because we just don’t care about anyone’s environment except our own neck of the woods. We just want to flip on the switch to turn on our lights (mostly fueled by the burning of coal and natural gas) and drive our vehicles no matter where that energy comes from, as long as it’s not in our backyard or along our shores?

And how come in these days of educated enlightenment don’t we see that we cannot protect our neck of the woods, our environment, if we don’t help protect other environments around the planet? In a matter of days, we have all seen with our own eyes the rapid spread of a single oil spill in the Gulf into other areas—and continues to spread? When will we begin acting on environmental matters with the whole planet in mind?

The longer we avoid making tough choices on our environment, which may mean accepting wind farms off-shore in our area, the fewer choices we are going to have about our energy needs in the future. We have already so made our economy, jobs, and energy needs linked to oil and natural gas that we have little choice but to continue drilling for oil and mining for coal for sometime into the future. And, whether we like it or not, we will have to endure the consequences of that.

Are we going to continually argue facts and figures best suited to our viewpoint and refuse to see how what we do in the Rochester, NY area has a profound effect on everyone else in the world, including ourselves?

Wind turbine opponent speaks in Greece | democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle If there was any question about where Alan Isselhard stood on the issue of offshore wind turbines in Lake Ontario, it was answered by the very first thing he said. "We want to see the offshore turbine project defeated. That's what we're after," Isselhard said Thursday evening to about 125 people crowded into the small sanctuary of Lakeview Community Church on Edgemere Drive in Greece. (June 11, 2010) Democratandchronicle.com | Democrat and Chronicle | Rochester news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Rochester, New York [more on Wind Power in our area]

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BP Oil Spill Enlightens Us:

If there is one thing amongst the environmental and economic tragedies of the BP Oil Spill, is a glimpse of how the public can see and understand the depth and breadth of a widespread environmental situation.  

There’s no end of web sites and TV shows that provide graphs, aerial photographs and videos, animations, photos from space, shoreline and below-the ocean waves videos of the disaster and potential disaster sights.

This disaster is unfolding in a time frame that allows for continual updates and commentary, interviews with scientist, people put out of jobs, and people who are waiting for the oil plumes to touch their lives.

What it means: The public can grasp visually the effects our choices are having the on the planet, in this case our choice to remain addicted to fossil fuels.  There’s too much information now about the BP Oil Spill for even the most stubborn anti-environmentalist to deny the scope of this disaster and frame the public’s miss-understanding of it. We are changing the planet and we can witness this, via the coverage on the BP Oil Spill, in a way that is clear and present in the public’s consciousness.  

The coverage: Gulf Coast Oil Spill: News & Videos about Gulf Coast Oil Spill - CNN.com | EPA Response to BP Spill in the Gulf of Mexico | US EPA | McClatchy | Oil spill Gulf of Mexico BP Transocean Halliburton Deepwater Horizon cleanup environmental impact beaches tourism | Gulf Oil Spill : Pictures, Videos, Breaking News | Gulf Oil Spill - ProPublica

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

New York State has a lot of gas:

Just when we thought we had an idea of how much natural gas lies beneath our feet (mostly, we thought it was in the Southern tier) more has been found. The Utica Shale includes northern New York and probably means a lot more environment vs. economy vs. energy issues (which are really one issue) for us to consider.

For those in our region who thought the natural gas issue was in somebody else’s backyard, we learn, as we will continue to learn, that all environmental issues are in everyone’s backyard.  Manmade borders like states, personal properties, and countries are mere human conceits and only cloud our understanding of how our environment

Deep, lucrative Utica Shale formation extends play to Southern Tier | stargazette.com | Star-Gazette Marcellus Shale development may be just the beginning. The massive gas-bearing shale formation that extends from West Virginia through the Southern Tier of New York, lies above another formation of equal or greater size, called the Utica Shale. The Utica formation runs from the heart of Pennsylvania through Quebec, and its potential is enormous. stargazette.com | Star-Gazette | Elmira news, community, entertainment, yellow pages and classifieds. Serving Elmira, New York (June 5, 2010)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Accepting Fish Contaminants:

That our Finger Lakes fish are filled with these manmade toxins is more than sad: PCBs, mercury (some of this may be natural occurring in water) , Mirex, dioxin, and DDT.  Having to select what fish that can be eaten and learning how to prepare what little can be eaten should not be acceptable. 

If manmade contaminants are showing up in our fish (and we should be continually checking) everything in the world should be done to fix that and clean our waters.  A change of attitude where we do not tolerate any contaminants in our water should be the norm, not the present situation where we shrug our shoulders and say this is the way things are.  No, this is a sign that our way of life in heading towards collapse. 

The environment will be what it is, fit for our way of life, or so hostile that it’s fit for only a few cockroaches (who are pretty hardy).  Accepting environmental degradation is only a human conceit, like thinking the fire that is burning the building you’re in won’t reach your room.   

Health Advice on Eating Sportfish and Game - Finger Lakes Region - " Fish from fresh waters are more likely to be contaminated than fish from remote marine waters because many fresh waters are close to human activities and contamination sources. Anglers (and others who eat fish caught by friends) often eat fish from a limited set of waters because they tend to return to favorite fishing locations. When those fishing locations contain fish with higher contaminant levels, the people who eat them will have higher contaminant exposures. " - from New York State Department of Health

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Advisories as Commonplace:

We are so used to seeing these sporting fish advisories (see below), limits on what fish and how many can be eaten because of toxins and other contaminants, that we barely notice them. 

But these are compromises that we make to our environment.  The thing we need to remember is that this facility in our minds that pollution can be commonplace is a convenient illusion that has nothing to do with the way Nature works.  Nature doesn’t simply obey the laws of physics; Nature is the laws of physics. 

The pollution in our fish means manmade chemicals are now a part of our wildlife and we really don’t have any idea of what are safe levels of toxins for our own health if we eat them, or what it means for our environment as a whole.  So, we put out fish advisories and some heed them and some don’t  And mostly, we ignore the danger and the warnings about the implications for our health and our environment health these advisories represent because it’s so commonplace for us to do so.  We are continually fooling ourselves about our environment.  

State Health Department Issues Annual Fish Advisories New Advice Applies to Onondaga Lake and Other Lakes and Ponds ALBANY, N.Y. (May 28, 2010) - The New York State Health Department (DOH) today released 2010-2011 health advisories as part of its annual guide for chemicals in sportfish and game. New York State has issued fish advisories to protect public health for nearly 40 years and has one of the most comprehensive fish advisory programs in the nation. This year's release contains revised advisories for levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxin and chlordane found in some fish from two ponds and four lakes in Upstate New York and Long Island including: Rollins Pond in Franklin County and Upper Twin Pond in Nassau County, Canadice Lake in Ontario County, Cranberry Lake in St. Lawrence County, Indian Lake in Hamilton County, and Onondaga Lake in Onondaga County. The advisories for the other state waters have not changed from last year. (May 27, 2010) New York State Department of Health [more on Wildlife in our area]