Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I was non-plussed by story ripping around the web this morning that in New York State we are going to be able to ‘self-certify’ that we can see well enough to drive. This must be a good idea because there were only 30,797 fatal vehicle crashed in the US in 2009. (from Fatality Analysis Reporting System Encyclopedia). Of course, not all these deaths were caused by poor eye sight, but still, given a transportation system that wreaks such calamity on humanity as traveling our highways you’d think we do everything in our power to curb some of that carnage.
NY drops eye test for driver’s license renewal “New York is dropping its requirement for vision tests to make it easier for drivers to renew licenses online or by mail. Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara Fiala said in a statement Monday that the change is one of several stemming from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for streamlining by state agencies. Another change is a new Internet application, “MyDMV,” which allows customers to set up personal online accounts to do business with DMV. Starting Wednesday, drivers will “self-certify” that they meet the vision requirement when they renew.” (September 27, 2001) - Webster, NY - Webster Post
Oh well, it must be right because these are dire economic times. We entered a pile of costly wars recently and gave the rich a great big tax break, so we got to streamline our government, which as many believe is just keeping us down. Remember, government is not the solution; government is the problem—or some such nonsense.
What if we just went whole-hog with this streamline governmental regulations thing? We’d save a lot of bucks, and those ranting about big government would just have to shut up. We could take away the speed limit and therefore reduce governmental regulation of our highways. Folks would be able to zip along our highways just a fast as their vehicles could go. They’d just ‘self-regulate’ themselves, even when they had a lot of alcohol to drink. We could also gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and let industry dump every undisclosed chemicals where ever they wanted and never be held accountable. They would just regulate themselves. They would ‘self-certify’ that they did all the environmental checks to make sure their products did no harm when they flush their stuff into our rivers and streams.
Then, as long as we are at it, we could ‘self-certify’ that we have looked at the facts behind Climate Change and come up with any answer we like. We might certify that carbon dioxide not only helps plants grow better, but actually keeps us warm and toasty—even in winter.
Why have any laws or regulations for that matter? Each one of us should just ‘self-certify’ that we are millionaires and all the money in all the banks are ours.
Monday, September 26, 2011
If you’ve been getting your news from sources other than mainstream local media, you know that a lot of attention has been focused on our environment lately. A couple of weeks ago, the Tar Sands issue raged in Washington, DC; on September 14th Al Gore began a world-wide attempt to challenge Climate Change deniers with a 24-hour Climate Reality Project; the Greentopia Festival brought 18, 000 Rochesterians to engage in a conversation about our local environment last weekend, and yesterday Moving Planet, another in a series of yearly events by Bill McKibben to focus on Climate Change, happened in Rochester and around the world. For a little while, thousands, probably millions gave their attention to the environment that keeps us alive and expressed their concerns.
You would think that given the nature of our environment, that is, the physics, chemistry, and biology of the 4-billion-year experiment of life on this planet, our devotion and attention would be easily sustained. But mostly our focus on our environment only goes on for a little while. In The American ‘allergy’ to global warming: Why?:
Tucked between treatises on algae and prehistoric turquoise beads, the study on page 460 of a long-ago issue of the U.S. journal Science drew little attention. "I don't think there were any newspaper articles about it or anything like that," the author recalls. But the headline on the 1975 report was bold: "Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?" And this article that coined the term may have marked the last time a mention of "global warming" didn't set off an instant outcry of angry denial. (September 23, 2011) Post-Tribune
In the Rochester, NY area some went to the Tar Sands demonstrations in Washington, DC and tried to grab President Obama’s attention on the consequences of running an oil pipeline down to the Gulf of Mexico to refine a very dirty fossil fuel that could greatly contribute to Climate Change. Then, with the Greentopia Moving Planet Bike the Bridges Self-Guided Bike Ride, we had over seventy-five souls take the green way into Rochester, NY’s first green festival. They wanted to say that our streets can be a carbon neutral way to move about in our area. We were moving towards sustainable responsibility, for a little while.
During the festival, we talked about Fracking, an attempt to extract in a secret and potentially dangerous way those fossil fuels under our feet. Fracking is heralded as a transitional fuel—as some say it’s not as greenhouse gas intensive as coal or oil. But if Fracking was a transitional fuel, we would be promoting renewable energy at the same time and nobody talked within my earshot about the quiet demise of the Great Lakes Off-Shore Wind (GLOW) project. We talked about Monroe County’s adoption of recycling for #3-7 plastics now and the creation of the new ecopark. We talked about conserving energy, installing solar panels (Yes! in New York State where the sun shines too) creating environmentally friendly communities nearby, developing electric bikes and other eco-friendly gadgets. We had recycling stewards helping folks recycle properly in a weekend festival event that tried to be a zero waste event. We were all together on taking the initiative for our planet, for a little while.
Then we listened to many speakers on the state of our environment and how we can help—including Bill McKibben, who reminded us that Nature formerly had ways to take care of many of the environmental issues of today. For instance, thousands of ungulates wandering the Great Plains served to trample their methane and even some carbon dioxide into our soil. (In this case, Nature’s way of motivating buffalo and other ungulates was called the wolf.)
So, for a while some of us in Rochester, NY took a break from the political bickering and extreme weather events taking their toll on our neighbors. Granted, you had to go out of your way to find out about these environmental issues and events that will affect our area, as your local media was still distracted by the usual nonsense. Greentopia was a breath of fresh air, a glimpse of the concern about the wide spectrum of issues that plague our environment. What we eat, how we move about, how we get our energy, what we buy, and how we throw it away are crucial in an environment which will soon (studies suggest on Halloween) contain 7 billion humans.
What I hope everyone who has paid attention to these environmental issues in the past weeks comes away with is a sense of urgency. Nature, red in tooth and claw, is a harsh reality as she sticks maniacally to her laws of physics and never for a moment veers from them--not even for a little while.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
The elephant on the planet – Climate Change, Moving Planet, is going to be harder and harder to ignore
This morning and tomorrow I hope you’ll do something to ramp up attention on the elephant in the room, err… planet. Climate Change is coming to Rochester, NY and the rest of the world. Check out the possible changes in our area due to Climate Change: Likely Changes.
Even though Bill McKibben spoke at Greentopia last Sunday, as one of the main speakers of the phenomenally successful green event in Rochester (over 18, 000 Rochesterians showed up), and Moving Planet, a world-wide attempt to get the public and the media to focus, even for a moment on Climate Change is coming up this weekend, it’s not being noticed so much.
This is Moving Planet: Moving Planet | A day to move beyond fossil fuels.
Moving Planet is a day to put our demands for climate action into motion—marching, biking, skating—calling for the world to go beyond fossil fuels. At over 2000 events in 175+ countries, we're letting leaders know that a movement is rising to move our planet forward to a clean energy future. WHY: For too long, our leaders have denied and delayed, compromised and caved. That era must come to an end: it's time to get moving on the climate crisis. WHERE: All over the world. WHEN: September 24, 2011 WHO: You, your friends, your family, your neighbors You can also read the original invitation to Moving Planet here.
Inattention by the media and the public on Climate Change, physics and our weather for the future, won’t stop Climate Change. It has to be dealt with and it ain’t going away by dismissing it. Here are two Moving Planet events coming up this weekend in Rochester, NY and I hope you will participate in one of them.
- At the Public Market on Sept. 24th - 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 me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sat. Sept. 24th and Sun. Sept. 25 - Important event for understanding Climate Change in our area, part of 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. "
Friday, September 23, 2011
As the world population nears 7 billion human souls all looking for earthly fulfillment, speculation again arises on whether we have too many folks on this planet. When we passed the other billion points (and survived) we speculated then too about this issue. Well, were still here say some. No need to worry our pretty little heads about continually passing these billion points when there is not obvious consequences.
But there’s something peculiar about dismissing human populations growth. In all other fields, we get concerned when things continually fill up without constraint. When we pump gas into our vehicles, no one assumes that there is a bottomless tank in our car. One doesn’t pull up to a gas station and expect to spend the rest of their lives filling up their tank with gas. The tank has limits and the pump shuts off. This principle about limits seems to rule our lives in all aspects except human population growth.
Here’s the issues encapsulated by a good series on the subject:
7 billion: What to expect when you’re expanding—a special series | A Grist Special Series | Grist “Series Intro |The world population will hit 7 billion on Halloween this year, according to a guesstimate from the U.N. (Who knew those goons with the black helicopters had such a macabre sense of humor?) So, should you be scared? On the one hand, does the number 7 billion really matter? Didn’t we stop worrying about population decades ago when overblown predictions of global famine failed to come to pass? Aren’t birthrates declining all over the world, with some rich countries actually starting to shrink? Can’t technology enable more people to live better on fewer resources? Don’t we have bigger problems to worry about—the economy, war, human rights,” Grist | Environmental News, Commentary, Advice
We keep growing, increasing our populations exponentially so that each billion mark comes sooner and sooner. There are a zillion excuses as to why folks think we can expand without constraint on a finite planet—the elderly use less resources, technology will save us, our populations will level off at some point, and more—but none of these excuses are based on a rigorous analysis of the facts. We have never put so many people on one planet before.
The past is not much help in understanding overpopulation—not in the human sense anyway. Animal and plant populations just crashed when they overran a place. They either collapsed or moved on. And, mostly humans survived overpopulation by moving to another place.
But, unless we vastly increase our ability to move massive populations of humans to another Earth-like planet, we have no place to go.
It is all very odd: The complacency that we have over this insurmountable problem—overpopulation—is not based on reality. There are a lot of studies and a lot of speculation but there’s no place to check and find out what happens to rapidly growing human populations on a finite planet whose resources human need and are dwindling--all while Climate Change heats the planet up.
It must be one of those things that we don’t really think about much—except when we reach these billion marks and just wonder at our ability to reproduce without constraint.
Or maybe, we’re thinking that because absolutes, like the speed of light, are being challenged, that we can somehow squeeze an infinite amount of humans on a limited amount of space. We are a very inventive species:
Roll over Einstein: Law of physics challenged - Webster, NY - Webster Post “One of the very pillars of physics and Einstein’s theory of relativity — that nothing can go faster than the speed of light — was rocked Thursday by new findings from one of the world’s foremost laboratories.” (September 23, 2011) Homepage - Webster, NY - Webster Post
Thursday, September 22, 2011
This thing, this mantra that the GOP has seized upon may do them well with their constituents. But let’s face it believing that environmental regulations are bad for business is the result of an incredibly wrong mindset. The planet is warming up and with almost 7 billion people wanting what little natural resources Earth has less to give, we are in deep ecological trouble. To state as a major platform that all these environmental regulations are killing jobs is like saying if you put guards in front of a bank there is less chance of someone robbing it.
Well, duh. You shouldn’t be robbing our environment of its ability to sustain our existence in the first place —even if it does has an immediate impact on the fossil fuel industry, which needs to step back from filling our atmosphere with greenhouse gases. But, there are many credible sources that say environmental regulations do not kill jobs. So, the GOP is wrong on both points:
Do Regulations Really Kill Jobs Overall? Not So Much - ProPublica “It’s become a mantra on Capitol Hill and a rallying cry for industry groups: Get rid of the job-killing regulations. In recent days, with nearly every one of the GOP presidential candidates repeating that refrain, the political echo chamber has grown even louder. Earlier this month, President Obama also asked the Environmental Protection Agency to back off more stringent ozone regulations, citing the "importance of reducing regulatory burdens" during trying economic times. But is the claim that regulation kills jobs true?” (September 21, 2011) ProPublicaWe are so not going to be a healthy sustainable species if we allow the kind of thinking that the only way we can survive to let the forces of Capitalism go unfettered and take away what little environmental regulations there are. Environmental regulations are our last barrier between all our wants and desires to keep things the way they are and being able to attain them.
“Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” - Carl Sagan
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
From what I can gather the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project (GLOW) is dying a quiet death. Getting a sizable portion of our energy from off-shore wind is dying because its leader (Kessel) is gone, many groups have fought the project tooth and nail, and (probably the ultimate reason) hydrofracking is coming and it’s going to be much cheaper to get energy that way.
Concerned Citizens Discuss Lake Wind Turbines A proposal to construct power generating wind turbines on Lake Ontario has drawn opposition along the shoreline. A group called Great Lakes Concerned Citizens gathered at Ontario Beach Park to talk about the economic and environmental issues of wind farms on the lake. (September 20, 2011) TOP STORIES - Rochester - YNN, Your News Now
Lake Ontario residents oppose offshore wind turbines A controversial plan to build offshore wind turbines in Lake Ontario to produce renewable energy was debated Monday night at the Robach Community Center in Charlotte. Energy leaders believe wind power can reduce dependency on fossil fuels and ensure cleaner air for the future, but many residents oppose the idea. "It's not a sound scientific solution to our energy problem," said Mary Kay Barton of the Citizen Power Alliance. (September 20, 2011) RochesterHomePage
Wind Turbines in Charlotte? Debate Powers Up - Rochester, News, Weather, Sports, and Events - 13WHAM.com Charlotte, N.Y. - Dozens of people gathered in Charlotte Monday night to voice their concerns about a proposed project the could bring up to 144 wind turbines to the waters of Lake Ontario. "The decisions are being made out of the public eye," says Dave Knak, whose house sits right on the edge of the lake in Greece. (September 20, 2011) Home - Rochester, News, Weather, Sports, and Events - 13WHAM.com
This is too bad. It’s too bad because it highlights how incapable we are in solving Climate Change. Still, after all we have learned about pollution and Climate Change, when the prices are cheaper we will choose the easiest and cheapest method of energy. There are a lot of arguments, but at the end of the day we are fighting renewable energy and allowing for more fossil fuel to be drilled so we can warm up our atmosphere. Read on.
Wind farm project runs out of air “In the end, the head winds were just too strong for the huge Great Lakes offshore wind farm. The project, likely to cost upward of $1 billion, was too expensive in an economy still struggling to rebound from the recession. Its electricity, while green, would simply cost too much, likely three to five times the current market rates. Its public support was lukewarm, at best, with county legislatures across Western New York lining up to oppose the project.” (September 18, 2011) The Buffalo News
Here’s more on the same issue:
Another death knell for Great Lakes offshore wind? | 520 - An Environmental Blog | Rochester Democrat and Chronicle The Buffalo News published a story today quoting state Sen. George Maziarz saying the New York Power Authority’s plan to promote construction of an offshore wind farm in Lake Ontario or Lake Erie was dead. The power authority hasn’t made any announcement on the project’s fate. But Maziarz, a Niagara County Republican who chairs the Senate energy committee, said he has “every expectation” the project won’t go forward. (September 16, 2011)
You don’t have to take my word for it; you can take the word of one of the smartest men in the world. Noam Chomsky:
Noam Chomsky: 2012 GOP Candidates Views are "Off the International Spectrum of Sane Behavior" “Well, I must say that politics in this country now is in a state that I think has no analogue in American history and maybe nowhere in any parliamentary system. It’s astonishing.” “I just came back from Europe, where people just can’t believe what they’re seeing here, what people are saying. I mean, take one of the really crucial issues for the human species: doing something about environmental catastrophe. Well, you know, every single one of the Republican candidates—maybe not Huntsman, but every major one—is a climate change denier.” (September 19, 2011) 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 United States.
Monday, September 19, 2011
In the seemingly endless pursuit of the reason why Americans believe or don’t believe that man-make Climate Change is warming our planet comes some new insights. A recent poll seems to indicate that that extreme weather, in which Climate Change gets right in your face with abnormal rainfall, and other anomalies that are only supposed to occur once in a great while are now normal, are very convincing. This is great news because it means that there is a point at which hard cold physics at the level of one’s home being destroyed by whacky weather finally convinces a major of Americans that Climate Change is happening.
The bad news is that by the time something so large and complex as our weather system get thrown out of whack, the harder it is going to be to do anything about it. Already, because we have not acted in the last several decades on the reasonable assumption that putting massive amounts of greenhouse gases (GHS) into our atmosphere, there is a lot of heat in our in our oceans and carbon dioxide that has to be dealt with.
Yale Environment 360: More Americans Believe Climate is Warming, Poll Finds A new poll finds that the percentage of Americans who believe that the climate is warming has increased in the past year, a shift in opinion that follows one of the warmest summers in U.S. history and increased debate about climate change among Republican presidential candidates. (September 16, 2011) Yale Environment 360: Opinion, Analysis, Reporting & Debate
The more ironic part of this latest Climate Change poll is that the refusal of the GOP candidates to admit the obvious, that physics runs the planet not them, is causing many American to ponder the incredulity of this political position.
One thing is abundantly clear to me. Without even getting political there is no way that the United States can elect a president that doesn’t believe that mankind is causing Climate Change. We need clear and immediate leadership on Climate Change so it can happen quickly so that we don’t fry the next generation.
Friday, September 16, 2011
If you missed Climate Reality, you can still review it or request a presentation.
You made today a success | Climate Reality “In the months that went into planning 24 Hours of Reality, I saw firsthand the passion and energy of our Climate Presenters, staff and partners around the globe who are calling attention to the climate crisis and working to solve it. Today, I was honored to see your passion and your energy. I can’t thank you enough for making 24 Hours of Reality a global success. By the time our chairman, former Vice President Al Gore finished his presentation, the 24 hour long event had 8.6 million views.” Climate Reality
Getting the word out about the Climate Change Crisis is going to be difficult because never have so many formed an opinion using so little information a topic so important. Most who even think about Climate Change have listened to their favorite media and pundits and weather person who, let’s admit it, are not climate scientists. An overwhelming amount of climate scientist are convinces that man-made climate change has raised the temperature of our atmosphere and wreaking havoc.
So, when millions go online to get the truth about Climate Change from Al Gore’s Climate Reality that is an amazing rise in consciousness about the most important issue of this century. But a million listening and learning about the effect of Climate Change and how we must address it is not a billion. Soon, our human population is going to cross the 7 billion mark, and all these folks are going to want stuff, stuff that probably needs fossil fuels to make it, move it, or heat it. This is not sustainable.
These weekends, at the Greentopia Festival, we here in Rochester, NY are going to attempt to focus the community’s attention on Climate Change. First of all we hope you will show up and spread the word about the Greentopia Moving Planet Bike the Bridges Self-Guided Bike Ride. The ride begins at Genesee Valley Sports Complex, 131 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14611, and ends at High Falls. You can ride any time Saturday between 9AM and10:30. If enough folks show up (a zillion would be good) on bikes, we’ll demonstrate that this green method of transportation should be an important component of moving around in our area. We had a good mention about this ride from the environmental reporters over at the D&C:
Greentopia + your bike - a perfect match “If you’re planning to go to the inaugural Greentopia Festival at High Falls the weekend after next, here’s an idea — ride your bike there with a group of like-minded folks. Greentopia, an ambitious exercise in education and entertainment, will feature dozens of exhibits, demonstrations, films, talks by distinguished environmentalists, performances and so on. It runs from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, Sept. 17 and Sunday, Sept. 18. If you want to know more, visit the website or check out a video of the official announcement in April. Everyone who attends the free festival is take home at least one good idea for greening their own lives, and they’re encouraged to come and go without leaving carbon footprints behind them. Hence the Greentopia Moving Planet Bike the Bridges Self-Guided Bike Ride. The six-mile ride begins at 9 am on Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Genesee Valley Park sports complex, 131 Elmwood Avenue alongside the Genesee. (September 6, 2011) 520 - An Environmental Blog | Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
At the festival a film, long in the making, has made its way to the festival about Climate Change in our region. I want to give it a special mention and hope you will see the preview:
Subject: “Comfort Zone” Documentary about local effects of climate change. Come to Greentopia for a sneak preview of documentary about the local effects of climate change, followed by a panel discussion with local experts. What: Screening of the first 30 minutes of "Comfort Zone" When: Saturday Sept 17, 3:15 pm Where: Club ROAR, 233 Mill Street (High Falls area, near WXXI) Cost: Free. The film shares the forecasts for how climate change will affect us here, where we live, in Rochester New York. It also shares personal stories -- the stories of what happens when we try to translate this global problem to our individual lives. What's at stake? What can I do about it? What if dealing with this problem asks things of me that I'm not yet ready to give? Oh, yes, and there are also funny parts. We think you'll enjoy watching it, and it might even change how you think about the issue. More about the film is at: www.comfortzoneproject.com Looking forward to seeing you at Greentopia! Dave Danesh, Sean Donnelly and Kate Kressmann-Kehoe, Film producers
I hope you all read the great write up in Rochester City Newspaper about the festival. Jeremy Moule gives a wonderful encapsulation of the festival its goals, and some great quotes, of course, from me.
ENVIRONMENT: Readying Rochester's first 'green' festival - News Articles - Rochester City Newspaper “The Greentopia Festival makes its debut at a time of global discussion about what it means to be "green." The free event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on September 17 and 18 in the High Falls district. The founders, Philipson Group principals Michael Philipson and Lewis Stess, say the event will bring together ecologically-conscious businesses, environmental groups, a film festival, speakers, art made of recycled materials, and activities.” (September 14, 2011) Rochester City Newspaper
Among the many activities that will be going on, the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club will be conducting a festival-wide survey on what our local community thinks of Climate Change. We hope to engage all the festival’s visitors on the issue of this century. I hope ya’ll come to the festival, which will demonstrate to the community that our environment is important to us all. Bring friends, neighbors, and anyone you can think of—even a Climate Change denier or two. For great look at what’s going on at the festival and who will be there, check out the Program Guide for the Festival.
I’ll be over at the Sierra Club/Zero Waste table. Come over and say “Hello” and we’ll have a conversation about our environment. There’s more to tell about the festival, but I’m running out of space.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Don’t miss some Climate Reality today as Al Gore attempts to deny the Climate Change deniers a day of further misleading the public on the importance of Climate Change. It all starts at 8PM (EST) tonight and continues live streaming for 24 hours.
Climate Reality “24 Hours of Reality will focus the world’s attention on the full truth, scope, scale and impact of the climate crisis. To remove the doubt. Reveal the deniers. And catalyze urgency around an issue that affects every one of us.”
This weekend in Rochester, New York you have several chances to engage your fellow citizens on Climate Change. Greentopia Moving Planet Bike the Bridges Self-Guided Bike Ride : Ride begins at Genesee Valley Sports Complex, 131 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14611 and ends at High Falls. This ride will demonstrate your commitment to viewing bicycling as a transportation option in our region. (Remember: Transportation accounts for 27% of greenhouse gases (GHG) in our atmosphere according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) so getting a lot of folks bicycling on our streets instead of GHG emitting vehicles is speaking loud and clear that our area ‘gets it’ on Climate Change. )
Here’s more on the ride from some of our best area environmental reporters: Greentopia + your bike - a perfect match | 520 - An Environmental Blog | Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Then, wander on over to the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra’s Club’s table at the Greentopia Festival and take our Climate Change survey. We want to know what you think about Climate Change in our area—and we’ll talk.
“Author. Educator. Environmentalist, WXXI Studios, Sunday, Sept. 18th, 3:30pm - Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with The End of Nature in 1989, which is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, he holds honorary degrees from a dozen colleges, including the Universities of Massachusetts and Maine, the State University of New York, and Whittier and Colgate Colleges. In 2011 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences” Featured Speakers | Greentopia Festival
We hear so little in our mainstream media and the up-and-coming political debates about the Climate Change issue. Only a relatively few don’t think spewing tons of GHG into our atmosphere for centuries from man-made industries is causing the Climate Change Crisis, but these deniers have an amazing ability to mislead the public. Now, we have a chance to openly face a world-changer of an issue and begin adapting and slowing down Climate Change. At least we should have a conversation.
Monday, September 12, 2011
On a recent trip to Toronto for the Toronto Film Festival (TFF), I was amazed at the number of folks on bicycles riding in the streets. Perhaps, it’s a glimpse of what Rochester, NY’ transportation might look like some day. I saw thousands of bicycles in bike racks at stores, restaurants, businesses, and more. The bicyclers moved along with the vehicular traffic effortlessly and without a whole lot of street markings. Everyone (during the short time I was there) just followed the traffic laws and signs (all the cross-walks used count-down lights so you know how long you have to cross the streets). I also observed that most (I did see one soul barreling up the wrong side of the road) followed the bike/vehicle laws.
My impression was that with a relatively small financial investment and a minimal amount of retrofitting the very busy streets of Toronto were able to quickly accommodate a sizeable bicycling traffic. I suspect in the background there were some serious attitude changes, but in the end…, it works. You can really get around the businesses part of Toronto on bicycle and not pollute the planet with greenhouse gases.
One of the goals in the Greentopia Moving Planet Bike the Bridges Self-Guided Bike Ride coming up this weekend between 9AM and 10:30AM is to demonstrate that Rochesterians believe that we too can use bicycles as viable component of our transportation. The change doesn’t have to be one that radically changes our present streets system, but a radical change in our attitudes can move more bicyclists into our streets, where with more visibility they will be safer than present. Making more folks aware of traffic safety, more aware of bicycles as part of our transportation system, and more considerate of those choosing, for one reason or another, to bike to their short destinations (under six miles) can really make a difference in our environment and our urban setting. We hope to see you at the ride.
One of the new documentaries at the film festival was “Urbanized” ( TIFF: Shedding Light on "Urbanized." - Blog - The Film Experience) mentioned that 50% of the world’s population lives in an urban setting and by 2050 the figure will be 75%. We are going to be rapidly filling our streets with those going from one place to the next and they’ll have do it all without raising our planet’s temperature. And, we cannot wait to address this because it’s happening now:
Yale Environment 360: Second-Warmest U.S. Summer Recorded in 2011, Federal Agency Says “U.S. scientists say the summer of 2011 was the nation’s second-warmest on record, with an average temperature of 74.5 degrees F from June through August — about 2.4 degrees higher than long-term averages — and with four states setting new summer records. Heat conditions were particularly blistering during August, with an average temperature of 75.7 degrees F, about 3 degrees warmer than the average between 1901 and 2000, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).” September 9, 2011 Yale Environment 360: Opinion, Analysis, Reporting & Debate
How did Toronto, a very northern city with more snow and cold than Rochester, NY, come to infuse bicycling into their traffic while we have not so much? I’m not sure; every community has their own intellectual and emotional climate. Let this short bike ride be that change in our region’s attitude towards bicycling as transportation: Greentopia Moving Planet Bike the Bridges Self-Guided Bike Ride
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Those who say our environmental regulations have put our businesses in a strangle hold are framing the debate that should be going on in our country the wrong way. We should be talking about moving our economics to a sustainable path—a path our economy has not been on since it began. Our economy has been using our environment as a magical resources planet where anything businesses want they take without recompense to the public and a toilet for pollution. The system is not working for the planet, though it is making the rich, richer, and the poor, poorer.
This present debate where what little rules and regulations there are to keep what little is left of a healthy environment should be cut completely away for a system of economics that treats our environment with distain is depraved. Talking about how many jobs are lost due to keeping our air and water clean may make sense to some, but it’s crazy. It’s crazy to put the ideologies of some above the need to keep an environment we can survive in.
A Debate Arises on Job Creation vs. Environmental Regulation - NYTimes.com Republicans and business groups say yes, arguing that environmental protection is simply too expensive for a battered economy. They were quick to claim victory Friday after the Obama administration abandoned stricter ozone pollution standards. Many economists agree that regulation comes with undeniable costs that can affect workers. Factories may close because of the high cost of cleanup, or owners may relocate to countries with weaker regulations. (September 4, 2011) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia
The real debate we should be having is to focus on what we need to clean up our environment and protect ourselves from Climate Change, and then figure out how we can pay ourselves to do all that. We can change our economics, though the rich and powerful have made it so that it’s almost unthinkable to consider, but we cannot change the laws of physics.
If we were so insane as to put a political party in charge that only catered to the corporate agenda to gobble up more of the planet’s resources, like coal and oil, without regard to their environmental cost so they can decide who works were are in trouble. The history of business as usual is to take from our environment and leave the mess behind as Brownfields when they can no longer make it profitable.
The debate now going on should be about jobs and our environment: How best can we put everyone to work and make our environment sustainable? Attacking environmental regulations because they impinge on present-day business practices is an argument that we should no longer be having because it assumes that present-day business practices are more important than surviving. Somehow we have to relieve ourselves of this present economic delusion that doesn’t work.
Saturday, September 03, 2011
For many Climate Change is an issue where they are placing all their misconceptions, prejudices, and assumptions about the natural world and putting it into a box, a contained set of ideas that are separate from the real world. In the real world, our environment, there are facts and rules where billions of years of complexity have built up that we can hardly know. None of us can. There are too many things we have missed—the coming and going of countless creatures large and small; the exquisitely find-tuned events that have mixed our planet’s biology with our planet’s particular chemistry; and, the onslaught of man-made chemicals that have radiated into our environment without a clue as to their effect—and they will never be able to be modeled or duplicated. In other words, there is a lot about the workings of this planet’s environment where we haven’t any idea how they will affect our ability to maintain a sustainable existence.
So, our knowledge and experience of our environment cannot be put into a box. We cannot say that putting two centuries of fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, into our atmosphere won’t warm up the planet, though many are willing to take that chance, wrap up their ideology in flowery slogans and glitteringly mad ideology, and send all this stuff to our next generation who are going to have to cope with a warming planet, maybe a runaway warming planet.
There is no way anyone can be certain that the latest extreme events, like Hurricane Irene or the droughts in Texas, aren’t the harbingers of things to come as almost seven billion of us run our cars, our houses, and our dreams on fossil fuels. Yet, too many are willing to package their notions of Climate Change, an issue that has now accrued massive data and scientific interpretation, without so much as a glance at the facts and push it out the door of their consciousness.
The Climate Change Crisis cannot be put in a box. This is a complicated issue, even if you remove the mind-boggling intricacies of what turns human knowledge into human action. Just on the face of it, predicting weather say, the longer you move away from the moment where you can see tomorrow’s weather the more chaos enters into your prediction making a week’s prediction almost impossible, though in an accumulated way we can understand climate a little better. It’s like the practice of psychology. We have little ability to predict if a prisoner coming out of prison will commit another crime, no matter how many surveys we throw at the convict or how much attention we give to their possible rehabilitation. Letting someone out of prison is a crap shoot. Psychologist cannot predict human behavior on an individual basis.
Yet, on the scale of an entire population we can many times predict who the people will elect as President of the United States. We can predict with some accuracy how many folks in a grocery store will buy a case of beer in any given month—if we couldn’t we have no idea how to pack our shelves.
But Climate Change is not like anything else in our experience. There is nothing to compare with changing an entire planet’s climate. It’s an issue too big to be placed in a box where we think we can contain it. In order to tackle it were going to have to listen to the experts and find a way to quickly address it in a manner that will allow us to go on. Just gift-wrapping this calamity and sending it all to the next generation in dismissive and dissembling language wont’ do. We have to grow up quickly, do our homework, and, as a species, become adult stewards of our environment.
Friday, September 02, 2011
Animal cruelty is a delicate issue because I think we’ve ‘lost it’ on how to address human abuse of our fellow creatures. By ‘lost it’ I mean we have lost perspective of the core moral issue involved in disregarding the inalienable rights of our fellow species—those we own as pets, those we slaughter, hunt, and those thousands of species we inadvertently allow to expire by the way we treat the planet:
Mass extinctions linked to climate change are already underway. — Environmental Health News New evidence confirms what scientists have long suspected: that climate change is already having major effects on many of the world's species. Researchers report for the first time that the documented species responses – migration to a higher or cooler climate or changes in population – suggest actual extinction risks linked to climate change are almost double those that were predicted. Just as grim are future outlooks – almost one-third of species will be threatened by 2100. Temperature, ocean acidity and other climate-related changes can set the stage for widespread extinctions by adding even more pressure to ecosystems already stressed by habitat loss, pollution, disease and other human-related impacts. (August 29, 2011) Environmental Health NewsContrast our enthusiasm lately to toss some people in jail for acts of animal cruelty to the wholesale non-reaction in this region and the US of last year’s attempt to get the public to focus on the immeasurable damage we, all of us, are doing to the entire wild kingdom:
2010 International Year of Biodiversity The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversityCertainly, our local media has launched alleged animal cruelty acts to their front pages. We are fining and jailing folks who allegedly commit acts of rage against animals that some of us hold as pets and some we see as helpless victims. Dogs tossed into the streets because of road rage get big jail time and we punish other acts against animals that accrue more legal retribution than serious crimes against our fellow humans. There’s something going on in our legal attitude towards animals, something that has changed over the years when furious owners used to beat their tired horses to death because their owners thought they weren’t moving fast enough for them—and leave their carcasses in the streets. We do not want to return to those times.
However, rather than talk about the hypocrisy of our attitudes towards animals cruelty—where we overreact to singular acts of animal cruelty and dismiss wholesale slaughter of entire wildlife species, I’d rather shift the discussion to about our species’ place in on this planet at this moment of time. We need to rethink how we think legally about wildlife. Animals are not humans, but they are absolutely essential fellow creatures that shape and have been shaped by our environment. An animal removed from its environment is something else than it was. Animals did not evolve for our benefit: they evolved in an arms race with their surroundings over billions of years.
Our view of animal cruelty where we descend in full force on those who allegedly hurt animals has something to say about our evolving sense of morality to our fellow creatures. But it is a very short view of Morality if assuaging our moral outrage at these singular acts and allowing ourselves to wipe out most of the other creatures on this planet is how we operate. We need to evolve morally and act on what we have learned about our planet, ourselves, and the other inhabitants on this poor orb.
As writer, environmental leader Bill McKibben is soon to talk to Rochester, NY via Skype at Greentopia you might want to get a prelude to what Bill is doing lately (making world-wide news on Climate Change) and what he was to say. Bill is going to be speaking via Skype on September 18th at 3:30pm in the WXXI Studios in the High Falls District.
For Protesters, Keystone Pipeline Is Line In Tar Sand : NPR “For McKibben, this really is the moment of truth, akin to what Brazil did 15 years ago, when it took serious steps to preserve the Amazon rain forest. "That was a unique biological treasure," he said. "North America has a unique geological treasure: this tar sands formation. Why don't we have the same kind of responsibility to the world to just keep that oil in the ground?"” (Sept 1, 2011) NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR
Truthout Interview With Bill McKibben | Truthout “Bill McKibben is one of the most venerable writers on the growing peril of climate change. Not content to simply write warnings of environmental implosion, McKibben is an inveterate activist. Most recently, he has been working with others to halt the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Disaster is not inevitable, McKibben believes. But it is likely unless saving our environment becomes a moral imperative upon which we act with urgency. Below is an exclusive Truthout interview with McKibben about his recent book, and current political actions.” (September 1, 2011) Truthout | Fearless, Independent News and OpinionHere’s an environmental leader coming to our premier green festival, Greentopia, who is walking the walk. All this talk about Climate Change in our region is not esoteric twaddle; check out the “Likely Changes” that Climate Change will bring to our region. We need leadership to get moving on this issue of this century.
Thursday, September 01, 2011
There are many speculations in the media as to whether Hurricane Irene can be directly related to Climate Change. Sometimes the debates turn into a semantic argument as to whether Irene was ‘evidence’ of Climate Change or ‘proof.’ It’s a fine line for those who think we have the luxury to wait until they come up with the answer before the rest of us act on something so wildly complex as our climate.
Hurricane Irene 2011: Climate Change To Blame? “It's been one of the most hotly debated questions this week: Is climate change driving Hurricane Irene? "No one is going to point to Irene and say this is climate change," Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Huffington Post. "But we can say that we are seeing the fingerprint of climate change this year."” (August 27, 2011) Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post
Hurricane Irene: Is Climate Change To Blame? | Radio Boston “Despite Hurricane Irene’s relatively tame landfall here in Massachusetts, meteorologists predict that the storm may have been the prelude to a dangerous late-Hurricane season for the Northeast. Considering the rarity of serious hurricanes or tropical storms in our part of the country, it’s hard not to wonder: is climate change to blame? Hurricanes and global warming are not easily separated, but scientists are divided on whether one causes the other.” (August 29, 2011) Radio Boston
One thing is for sure: Massive storms like Irene are going to be viewed through the lens of Climate Change from now on. And, depending on what media or pundit you listen to you may become more convinced that Climate Change is the cause or less convinced. What has changed, in the media at least, is that you won’t have a storm of Irene’s size without this massive inquiry. Rising temperatures because of greenhouse gases (GHG) allow more moisture into the atmosphere and make our weather more unstable and our Climate warmer. No one from now on is going to let go of that because there are too many studies that predict this.
The debate, whether any specific incidence can be proved to be a direct result of man-made Climate Change, will go on in the media for quite some time as many arm-chair climatologists put their two cents in. It would be far more instructive to the public if the raging pundits on Climate Change directed their concerns to the media rather than the public—who are desperate to ignore this issue altogether.
The question therefore is not whether any of these arguments proves or disproves man-made Climate Change because only the experts have the real facts. What is important is whether the public becomes convinced enough of the case behind Climate Change to act. And, because our Climate on this planet is so complicated by daily factors, terrain, wind shear on the oceans, El Nino and La Nina, and you-name-it, it might take a long time for the experts to nail it down.
We the people, we the creatures who need to have our Climate within certain predictable parameters, don’t have the luxury to wait until the last reluctant pundit and denier is finally satisfied that things are warming up and there will be consequences. We as a people must be able to put the preponderance of evidence in perspective on our changing climate and act to reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions.
This story below highlights one of the serious scenarios in our region that are probably going to increase if we don’t put massive amounts of money into our water/sewage infrastructure to prevent future contamination to our drinking water. Any kind of abnormally quick surges of water to our sewage systems will overload them and put raw sewage into our water—creating potential water shortages and diseases. We cannot sit around and squabble over every storm surge and say it won’t happen again. Clearly, evidence is that flash floods, maybe even major storms like Hurricane Irene, will occur with dismal regularity. This is what we the people should be making sure our officials avoid:
Don't go near the water (as if you'd want to) - Times Union Irene's rains deposited huge amounts of raw sewage into the rivers | ALBANY -- Torrential downpours from Tropical Storm Irene flushed through regional sewer and storm drain systems in the Capital Region and dumped vast quantities of raw sewage -- and anything else swept up in the flood -- into the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. It was not clear Tuesday how much waste had made its way into the rivers, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The waste's exact composition also was not known. (August 31, 2011) Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga News, Weather, Sports, Capitol | timesunion.com - Times Union