Monday, August 15, 2011

Moving towards a cooler planet in Rochester, NY

 

When you consider that New York State’s goal for curbing Climate Change is “reducing GHG emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (or 80 by 50),” you begin to appreciate the quiet drama in the NYS Climate Action Council’s report:

“Managing the Risks in New York State Associated with a Changing Climate | Climate change has already put in motion certain environmental impacts in New York, and further changes are likely. According to the latest assessment from a team of scientists at the NASA Goddard Institute, Columbia University, Cornell University, and the City University of New York—the average air and water temperatures in New York and the region are projected to increase significantly over the coming decades and heat waves are expected to become more frequent and more intense. Summertime rain is expected to fall more often as heavy downpours, leading to more flooding; at the same time, the periods between these rainstorms are likely to be drier, leading to droughts. By the year 2100, sea levels along our coast and the Hudson River estuary are projected to rise between 12 and 55 inches, increasing storm-related coastal flooding. The projected rate of change in our climate is unprecedented in our human history. And only through aggressive global action will we be able to change this path.” (Page 4) Executive Summary New York State Climate Action Plan Interim Report, New York State Climate Action Council, Interim Report 11-9-10

I say ‘quiet drama’ because regardless of how ambitious our state government decides we the people should march our greenhouse gas (GHS) emissions back to normal ranges, it’s not going to happen without massive compliance by we the people. We the governed, we the proud and free, are not particularly fond of our government telling us what to do. Just note how effective stopping cell phone use while driving is working. Nada. So, how is something so incredibly life-altering as the massive collective action needed by the public to change our energy sources to renewables, increase energy efficiency of our buildings (which, in NYS accounts for 40% of GHS), and change our transportation habits (which account for 27% of GHS) going to happen?

Curbing Climate Change acceleration is not going to happen in our region if we stick to our present behaviors. We want our cake and eat it too: we want a healthy planet to thrive without considering the physics involved. Anytime renewable energy, such as wind power, comes up, the media focuses on how many hate the idea because of aesthetics, noise, bat and bird kills, and more. Climate Change isn’t ever mentioned. But fracking for natural gas is mentioned a lot in our media. Many are trying to stop fracking, but not because of Climate Change issues, even though natural gas is a GHG. And, alternative transportation is nowhere near the levels it needs to be to be an effective alternative to fossil fuel burning vehicles. Great idea ’80 by 2050,’ but it’s not going to happen because the public is not even remotely engaged. All the government regulations in the world won’t matter if most of the public is not on board trying to solve this issue.

There are a zillion reasons why the public doesn’t see the Climate Change crisis (including the great distain of one of our major political parties that finds Climate Change a major inconvenience), but I’m only going mention one. One of the reasons why the public, in my view, doesn’t appreciate the Climate Change crisis is because of Intentional blindness: “also known as perceptual blindness, [it] is the phenomenon of not being able to perceive things that are in plain sight. It is caused by an absence of attention to the unseen object and is clear evidence of the importance of attention for perceiving. Without attention we are as if functionally blind.” Think of the “Invisible gorilla test.” We are so focused on so many other things in our busy lives we don’t see the show-stopper that is moving quickly, but more slowly than our lives move, upon us.

Our planet is warming up. Our region’s environment is going to change dramatically and relatively soon. (See the ‘likely changes’ that are coming to our region.) And we aren’t even going to be able to slow accelerated Climate Change down because we don’t have a way to shift the behavior of the majority on this planet short of starting a world war. All the technicians and politicians can’t stop Climate Change until someone figures out how to get everyone to see the gorilla.

One person doing that is Bill McKibben, and he’s going to be speaking in Rochester at Greentopia this September via Skype. Bill and others have put together two previous attempts to engage the public on Climate Change, via 350.org and now there’s Moving Planet | A day to move beyond fossil fuels. Two events in Rochester are a part of that. Please join at least one of them, and help the media and all of Rochester see the gorilla.

  • Here in Rochester, one Moving Planet effort is “No to Fracking, Yes to Renewables.”   At Farmers’ Markets and Greentopia, info and materials will be provided to enable folks to submit comments to the DEC on the SGEIS.  Same goes for postcards to our state legislators, in favor of curbing carbon emissions and investing in renewable energy.  THEN, on Monday, 9/26, those items will be walked/marched/biked… delivered to the respective DEC and legislators offices.  Details: http://www.moving-planet.org/events/us/rochester-public-market/693.  Please check the bottom part of the page for ways you can get involved!  If interested, you can contact the organizer via the website, or simply respond to: lci_msw@hotmail.com.
  • Moving Planet | A day to move beyond fossil fuels. Bike to Schul | Moving Planet "Members of Temple Sinai in Rochester will be biking (walking or at the very least carpooling) to Temple on Sat. Sept. 24th and Sun. Sept. 25 to show our support of Moving Planet and to demand action on Climate Change. (We will also be celebrating our new bike rack courtesy of the Confirmation class of 2011.) All are welcome to join us. Pictures will be taken during morning and afternoon Sunday school sessions. We call on other synagogues and faith organizations to join in. The time is now to get moving toward a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future. "

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