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.