Saturday, February 26, 2011

Measuring the worth of the Great Lakes:

 

As with much of today’s environment, our reality tends to be framed by the way we frame reality.  Delusionalism.  That is, we tend to believe that the economic system we have devised to get work out of each other (Capitalism, Socialism, or Whateverism) is real.  It isn’t, except that it becomes the template for most on how we see our world. 

For example, instead of understanding our environment and the lakes and animals and plants in it as a vast biological system of which we are a part on this planet, we set off on measuring these various components according to the way we measure the worth of other things, our houses, the labor of others, and just about everything else. 

But measuring the worth of life, of a species, or, of say, the Great Lakes, by how many fish there are for fishermen, or how many jobs it provides (see below) is a human conceit—only useful if you only understand our environment through the mistaken belief that our economy and the environment are one.  They are not. 

Our economy is an artifact that we devised and has nothing to do with our environment.  You cannot measure the Great Lakes’ worth or any other aspect of our environment, through our economy.  Our economy only cares about the movement of capital, and so for the most part our environment and the damage we do to it is only measured as a negative externality.  

Our great economists didn’t figure in our environment in their elegant systems of money movement.  What’s with that?  So, our environment we have somehow removed from our life and acknowledge it only as it provides us with jobs and natural resources. 

But the Great Lakes and our environment are who we are.  We can devise another economy (perhaps one that better includes the environment and its resources and the damage we do to it) but we cannot devise another environment when we trash this one. 

If we don’t start understanding our environment that it is the system that created us and one we need to survive and flourish, we are going to the at the mercy a place we’ve been treating like a great big magical box that we can take things from and throw things into without any repercussions.  Somehow we have to fix our economy so it includes our environment. 

Report: Great Lakes generate 1.5 million jobs - WSJ.com ANN ARBOR, Mich. — An analysis by Michigan Sea Grant at the University of Michigan says more than 1.5 million U.S. jobs and $62 billion in annual wages are linked directly to the Great Lakes.  (February 24, 2011)  Business News & Financial News - The Wall Street Journal - Wsj.com

Friday, February 25, 2011

Don’t waste this oil crisis:

 

Instead of drawing on our strategic oil reserves to counteract the jump in oil prices due to event in the Middle East, we should be doing the right thing: ramping up the use of renewable energy.

Wind and Solar energy our ready to take off as major suppliers of energy in our country and all everyone wants to do is gobble up the oil we have to keep the price of oil down.  It’s an absurd reaction to a drastic environmental problem.  We have a crisis in peak oil and fossil fuels driving Climate Change

Our gasoline prices are artificially low and the oil industry gets billions of dollars of subsidies.  Yet, the first thing we do when the gasoline prices go up is demand that the prices stay down, use our emergency oil reserves,  and scream about how all those wind and solar power are getting all those subsidies—which, by the way have mostly dried up. 

Why not use this crisis in the Middle East and the direct consequences of it on our gasoline prices to get away from oil.  Why not consider what California is considering:

Jerry Brown's tough choice: green energy in hard economic times - CSMonitor.com Instability in the Middle East has put America’s dependence on foreign oil back on front pages. It’s also added another ball to California Gov. Jerry Brown’s juggling act over this state’s renewable energy sector in tough economic times. (February 24, 2011)

Recycle paper now

 

This is the most urgent Monroe County recycling issue:  In a word: paper.  Too much of what is recyclable goes into our waste stream—about 30%.  The public needs to be educated on how important it is to recycle paper. 

I personally find it amazing that our local media has to be paid big bucks to put out this critical public information.  Our local media should be doing it often and at no cost to Monroe County because the media should provide some important information in the public interest—as they used to in the past. 

I believe that the media has an obligation to freely provide some information that directly affects the health and sustainability of our environment and public. 

I’d like to see all our media to place on their front pages, or in the first few minutes of their daily broadcasts, public announcements to highlight important news—instead of the sports and other stuff we don’t need to know. 

What if every media put out a reminder about the public’s responsibility to recycling, or about watching out of bicycles who have the right to use our publically paid streets for transportation, or the myriad of other environmental issues that if brought to the forefront of the public’s attention would make our way of life more sustainable? 

Imagine the difference in how the public behaved if the media behaved more responsibly.  Consumers would even shop better because the media they attend to would be continually reminding them that their environment must be considered as a critical issue, that their behavior affects our environment. 

At present, Monroe County may not be charging ahead as well as we would like on recycling plastics #3-7(even then, only 2% of our residual waste are these plastics).  But Monroe County does recycle paper.  Lots of paper:

“According to law, residents must also recycle newspapers, magazines and corrugated cardboard. However, additional paper materials may be recycled. The Monroe County Recycling Center is now accepting all clean paper from haulers for recycling.” Environmental Services | Monroe County, NY 

So there should be no excuse for a responsible citizen in this area to throw recyclable paper in the trash.  Take a moment to review this list of paper because this stuff goes in the recycling bin:  Paper Materials: The Paper Caper Expands.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Our environment under attack by the wrong response to the Great Recession

 

As usual the state attempts to solve the budgetary problems of the state caused by reckless trading who won’t be held accountable, but will fall on our environment.  Just like the cuts in personnel over at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently, the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program is under attack.   THE NYS IPM PROGRAM MAY END ON MARCH 31, 2011. 

This is not good because if we check our body burden will probably find much of the pesticides that are used to control pests that ruin our food end up in our body. Pesticides are probably not good to digest as they only have one purpose: to kill. 

Integrated pest management allows farmers and individuals to control pest through environmentally friendly ways, rather than dumping manmade toxic chemicals on them.  To allow the program to go without state funding is a tragedy because is wrong-headed to compound the stress on our environment in times of economic stress. 

A good government would find ways to keep our environment safe and healthy even when the economy is bad.  Because unlike a bad economy, an environment gone bad may not be recoverable—and that will be a whole lot worse than The Great Recession

Go to this page and find out what you can do to help send a message to the state about integrated pest management programs. 

New York State Integrated Pest Management Program "Our Mission: The New York State Integrated Pest Management Program develops sustainable ways to manage pests and helps people to use methods that minimize environmental, health, and economic risks. "

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ratcheting up Climate Change:

 

The more mainstream media buries environmental issues, the more we learn (when we can get news on these issues) how pervasive and intricate our environmental issues are.  Climate Change isn’t going to go away because the media think the public is tired of it or because their advertisers don’t like it.  All ignoring Climate Change is going to do is ratchet up the consequences and make our future very dicey.  Check out what Bill McKibben says of Climate Change

“Bill McKibben, author and founder of the international environmental organization 350.org, says that without a global campaign to curb climate change, the ecological devastation of our warming climate will make our planet uninhabitable. His appeal to citizens and policy-makers, the seventh video in the series "Peak Oil and a Changing Climate" from The Nation and On The Earth Productions, is a call to action as much as it is a sobering account of the damage we're already doing to our environment.”Bill McKibben: Climate Change Is Our Most Urgent Challenge | The Nation

Don’t despair, don’t ignore Climate Change.  Get moving.  Get the media you listen to or watch to keep you informed about Climate Change.  Request in the strongest terms that the weather reporters on your media include climatologists who can speak knowledgeably on climate matters.  Don’t just take the word of the pundits and Climate Change deniers; get all the information you can about the most important issue of our day.  Go here to find out something more that Climate Change can mean for our future if we don’t get moving:

Global warming could spur toxic algae, bacteria in seas - Yahoo! News "WASHINGTON (AFP) – Global warming could spur the growth of toxic algae and bacteria in the world's seas and lakes, with an impact that could be felt in 10 years, US scientists said Saturday. Studies have shown that shifts brought about by climate change make ocean and freshwater environments more susceptible to toxic algae blooms and allow harmful microbes and bacteria to proliferate, according to researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). " (February 19, 2011)  The top news headlines on current events from Yahoo! News

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why Godzilla is bad for our Rochester, NY environment

 

Strange creatures in our region are evolving quickly to adapt to our toxic soups—those Brownfields and polluted waters we’ve been neglecting in our region for quite some time. Who knew, those Japanese weren’t kidding—Godzilla lives! Check out what’s happening in the Hudson River, just a few biomes away:

“Most people think of evolution occurring gradually over thousands of years, but apparently no one told the Atlantic tomcod. In just 50 years or so, the Hudson River fish has evolved to become resistant to toxic PCBs that polluted the river, researchers reported Thursday. Their secret is a gene variant. " (February 17, 2011) Hudson River fish resists PCBs through gene variant | syracuse.com "

“Monsters in our midst” make for great headlines for local environmental issues that don’t often get many headlines. That’s great because according to mainstream media, a planet that is slowly wasting away due to human pollution and other environmental issues is dull potatoes. Mutant species, though, arising from the gunk we once called rivers, is another kettle of fish.

By the way, most people may think that evolution takes a long time for species to change, but most scientists know that evolution can, depending on circumstances, move quickly. Those who think evolution and speciation only occur slowly over a long period of time should read The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time (ISBN 0-679-40003-6).

Anyway, how creatures can adapt to our Brownfields is not really the main issue—however fascinating this monsterization process is to our dysfunctional media. The real story is why we are not cleaning up Brownfields. BTW: Brownfields are abandoned sites, usually in urban locations, that are tainted by either real or perceived contamination, making them undesirable for private redevelopment efforts. The answer as to why we don’t clean up and stop all those Brownfields is simple. We don’t want to. Read the state of affairs on cleaning up Brownfields in New York State:

Builders make lucrative use of state tax credits meant for site cleanup -- It could take years to fix the state program that, while intended to clean polluted sites, has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into a relative handful of costly mega-projects with mini-cleanups. In three years, the Brownfield Cleanup Program cost taxpayers more than $464 million in tax credits, which are cash payments directly from the state treasury, but created only about $340 million in cleanups, according to a Times Union analysis of annual reports by the state Department of Taxation and Finance. (February 7, 2011) State 'fix' losing credit - Times Union

Anything we can do to avoid cleaning up a Brownfield is how we operate. For example, cleaning up the PCB’s in the Hudson River has been fought tooth and nail all the way. Check it out: The Hudson River PCB Story - A Toxic Heritage Think we’ll clean up more Brownfields now that we’re in the Great Recession and money is tight? Think again. Think Brownfields are just a few isolated incidents where only a few irresponsible corporations trashed our environment, then went bankrupt. Think again:

“Nearly every community in New York State is affected by contaminated and abandoned properties, or brownfield sites. Left untouched, brownfields pose environmental, legal and financial burdens on a community and its taxpayers. However, after cleanup, these sites can again become the powerful engines for economic vitality, jobs and community pride that they once were. Reforms made to brownfield legislation in 2008 make New York's programs smarter and more effective. .” Environmental Cleanup & Brownfields - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Mostly, we tend to think that our environment is one big drain into which we can pour our industrial waste, but the horrific contamination in our air, water, and land has given that fantasy a reality check. Our environment is incapable of breaking down toxic waste because three billion years of life on this planet did not evolve to do that. (Want to know where those Brownfields are in your area, check out Scorecard.)

Yet, despite the overwhelming proof that this pollution from industrial waste is poisoning our environment, we wait and wait and let that stuff sit in our environment and do its nasty businesses.

So, it’s weird. One of the things we may not have counted on is that through evolution some species can thrive in our toxic environment—though a zillion normal fish died in the process. And even if you adopt the depraved position that man is a part of Nature and so what he does in natural, then creating toxics rivers where new creatures evolve that thrive in our toxic environment presents a very strange conundrum: If you clean up these toxic sites, those animals and plants that evolved to live there will perish.

What a strange world we are living in. We let environmental degradation go on so long, that we create another horrific environment with new species that will be killed off when we get our act together and clean things up.

There’s an old saying: “Wherever you go, there you are.” That’s where we are. If we just forget about our environment and treat it like a great big garbage can, that’s the world we’ll be living in. But we may not be as tough as that little tomcod.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The power of pollution:

 

Those Brownfields that we’ve been dragging our feet on may just be taking care of themselves.   We tend to think that our environment is one big drain to which we can pour our industrial waste, but contamination in our air, water, and land has given that fantasy a reality check.   Our environment is incapable of breaking down toxic waste.

But despite the overwhelming proof that this pollution from industrial waste is poisoning our environment, we wait and wait and let that stuff sit in our environment doing its nasty businesses.  One of the things we may not have counted on is that through evolution some species can thrive in our toxic environment. 

Who knew, those Japanese weren’t kidding—Godzilla lives! 

Even if you adopt the depraved position that man is a part of Nature and so what he does in natural, then creating toxics rivers where new creatures evolve that thrive in our toxic environment, there’s a conundrum:  If you clean up these toxic sites, those animals and plants that evolved to live there will perish. 

What a strange world we are living in.  We let environmental degradation go on so long, that we create another horrific environment with new species that will be killed off when we get our act together and clean things up. 

There’s that saying: Wherever you go, there you are.  That’s where we are.  If we just forget about our environment and treat it like a great big garbage can, that’s the world we’ll be living in.  If we can…

Hudson River fish resists PCBs through gene variant | syracuse.com "WASHINGTON — Most people think of evolution occurring gradually over thousands of years, but apparently no one told the Atlantic tomcod. In just 50 years or so, the Hudson River fish has evolved to become resistant to toxic PCBs that polluted the river, researchers reported Thursday. Their secret is a gene variant. "

Litter Day for Rochester, NY’s environment

 

A warm spell in February should be a day to get a glimpse of the spring to come, not a morbid revelation that we been throwing packaging and everything else out the window all winter long. Today (February 18, 2011) was a beautiful day to get out and walk in Rochester, NY. It was a warm, sunny break from the freezing cold winter we’ve been having—except for all the litter. In just a short walk around Rochester I experienced a world full of trash blowing about as if a very disdainful species were just leaving the place, impatient to get back to their own planet that their parents had just cleaned up for them. A thaw in the cold shouldn’t be “Litter Day” in Rochester.

Litter accumulates in our environment by blocking our sewers and providing mock or poisonous food for creatures hungry from a long winter. It leaches poisons into our ground and, given the endless variety of harmful ingredients in all that garbage, wreaks havoc on what little of pristine nature there is left to us.

I’ve mentioned this to some folks and they shrug their shoulders, as if to say, “That’s the way things are.” Well, you could say that in the middle of a five-year war. “Bullets flying about creating collateral damage (killing more innocents than intended targets) is just the way things are—stay in your house and forgetaboutit.” No thank you. Just as war ends, so should our adolescent behavior towards our planet end. This litter, this stuff that we mindlessly allow into the biological machinery of our ecology, is making our planet a nasty place to try and survive in.

Cleaning up our streets and neighborhoods from litter teaches our kids that we adults care about our community and our environment. It’s ours, why trash it? What is the point of working and buying all these cars and houses if we let our communities fill with trash? Recycling allows us to reuse many of the products we discard when we are finished with them, and provides a way to extract the resources from them instead of digging up and disturbing more of our fragile environment.

Most Monroe County residents probably care very much about the litter issue. Each spring, all kinds of neighborhood groups go out and pick up ghastly items left by the few who still don’t care. If we could just address one item, paper, we’d be getting somewhere. Paper accounts for most of the residue trash (70%) being put into our waste stream. Paper, all kinds of paper (check Monroe County Recycling), should be put in your recycle bin and not in the trash. (And, certainly not thrown out the window of your car—which, by the way, is illegal.) There’s money to be made for your county by recycling paper. There are markets ready to reuse paper when it is properly recycled--not to mention how sharp our neighborhoods will look when this stuff is not blowing around. Also, 8% of garbage going to local landfill is plastic bags/product wrap. You can take these spent plastic bags to many stores in our area and they will recycle them for you.

There is one thing that would change how much litter ends up on the ground, a comparable “Litter Bill” like we have a “Bottle Bill.” The Bottle Bill has worked so well that that it has reduced the amount of #1 plastics going into our recycling stream, which means the county has to try and make money from recycling other plastics. Put a monetary value on something and people will grab it up. Ultimately though, we shouldn’t have to constantly find ways to pay ourselves to do the right thing. Something, like Not Littering!, should be something a responsible citizen of this planet just does.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rochester’s environment, Public Service Announcements, and local media:

 

Much of what we see on our local media’s front pages is not news: sports scores, local opinions, every little social transgression, or how to tighten your abs.

Lately, it’s beginning to look like our local media doesn’t have any money to post any real news, except the lowest lying fruit—and much of that fruit is spoiled.  Also, notice how many media are slowly slipping their content behind pay walls—long after the horse has left the barn.

Sure the media is in a crisis for a variety of reasons, but not because of the Internet. They were in trouble before that.

One of the ways the media can change their ways is to present news, actual news that folks need to know.  Here’s how to change that in this Great Recession: One of the things that our present media could do to replace non-news with real news is something they should do and are loathe to do: continual public announcements. Reminding the public that they should recycle, how to recycle, that bicycles have as much right to be on the road as vehicles, that bicyclists should mind the laws as well, that the public shouldn’t litter, and that the public should dispose of hazardous waste properly.

The great value in the media not charging our authorities for public announcements (which, morally they should not be doing because the public owns the airwaves) is that the public would get a truer picture of what our reality is.

When the most outlandish and unnecessary stories continually fill our headlines, instead of the constant reminders that our planet is warming up and how this will change our lives, how we continually waste food and dispose of hazardous and recyclable materials improperly ,we continue the delusion that we have a sustainable environment. We don’t.

We have an environment that is being shaped by the opinions and desires of the few—the few with money, the few with influence, not necessarily the majority who has to eke out a living off an unhealthy environment.

Our local media should continually give public service announcement because they are using public airwaves, regulated by the government.

Critical information about how to make our environment more healthy by our collective behavior should not have to be paid for, but should be something the public is exposed to whether they like it or not.

I understand that the media needs to pander to their advertisers and the people who buy their media, but our media shouldn’t be exclusively a self-deluding world of self-interests. There are matters that humanity needs to attend to daily (like recycling and Air Quality, and invasive species, and more) no matter how boring, and irritating.

We live on a planet where physics rule not the god almighty dollar.

If the state, county, or city needs to get the public to change their behavior for reasons of safety, public health, or to keep our environment healthy, they should not have to spend a cent to do that in our media.

And, these continual messages should be in a place on the media where the public can find them.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why your pet is bad for our Rochester, NY environment

 

I am aware that questioning our love affair with our pets borders on heresy, but someone has to mention this particular unsustainable character trait in our species. Even here in Rochester, NY, our preoccupation with pets in the face of truly important matters like Climate Change and other environmental issues must be addressed. It’s not that pets are especially damaging to our environment; it’s that there are so many of them, eating so much food that could go to humans who really need food, and stealing our attention, our energy, and our economy from that which really matters.

“Americans spend an astonishing $41 billion a year on their furry friends” The Pet Economy (2007) BusinessWeek

For all their companionship, our pets don’t teach us much at all about our environment. When wildlife becomes domesticated they serve our needs and get removed from their role in our environment. You aren’t going to learn what role canines play in our environment by having Fido fetch your Frisbee.

That love, loyalty, and attention our pets give us are there by design—our design. Remember, the reason our dogs and cats attend to us at all is because we shaped them that way. Dogs, from the canine family (like wolves), are not especially fond of humans. Don’t even think of petting a wild wolf. Only a couple of thousand years of breeding and domestication created something as mellow and lovable as a mutt.

My point is that dogs and cats are not wildlife. They play no role in shaping or maintaining the health of our environment. They certainly play a role in our psychology, but that is another thing altogether. Wildlife shapes and is shaped by our environment—they are one. Extract a species from that role and they become irrelevant to our environment.

The role of pets in our lives is no small matter:

“There are approximately 77.5 million owned dogs in the United States. There are approximately 93.6 million owned cats in the United States. “ U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics : The Humane Society of the United States

Last year was the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity, and the loss of biodiversity world-wide created almost no attention in the United States. This is despite the fact that animal species are dying at a rate consistent with the five other major extinction events in our planet’s history. Check out this film, where you can get a sense of the importance of biodiversity loss:

“All over the world species are becoming extinct at an astonishing rate, from 1000 to 10,000 times faster than normal. The loss of biodiversity has become so severe that scientists are calling it a mass extinction event. ” Call of Life

Animal ethics, or how we treat animals, is an important ethical issue--but not in the way that we usually approach this issue. Usually, when we speak of animals ethics we describe animals we put in zoos, or whether someone tosses a dog out into traffic because of road rage, or uses them to test drugs in our pharmaceutical labs. While these are important, I submit that first and foremost animal ethics should be insuring that wildlife continues to play critical roles in our environment. Amphibians (probably lousy as pets) are needed to maintain healthy wetlands (although 50% have been destroyed since Europeans came to America). Frogs, insects, and those tiny creatures that break up dead material matter. Fido, not so much.

This issue about the relative importance of pets in our lives gets demonstrated at critical moments. When push comes to shove, meaning, when our situation becomes frightfully dangerous, our pets will be the first to go:

“… 750,000 cats and dogs were killed at their owners’ behest before the first bombs fell on London. ( 16 July 2009) Wartime cat and dog massacre examined | Scoop News

And:

“An estimated 600,000 pets were killed or left without shelter as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Social effects of Hurricane Katrina - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Why go after pets? I’m not. I’m trying to remind folks of what is truly important. We must put priorities in the proper order. Pets are nice. But our environment is critical. We lavish lots of money and attention on pets instead of focusing on reducing Climate Change and solving many of our environmental problems.

If we truly loved animals, we’d leave them alone and let them do their job—shape and maintain our environment. They weren’t put here for our pleasure, as almost all of them we here and doing just fine until we humans came along.

We are deluding ourselves if we think our love of pets and our fondness for those wildlife prisoners in our zoos mean we are a wise and compassionate species. If you are thinking when you keep a pet you are keeping it from extinction, think again. With billions of dollars going to billions of pets, they aren’t in danger of extinction.

If only we loved our environment and the Third World the way we love our pets.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When will Americans Wake up On Energy and Climate Change?

 

This is the story the public needs to get:  As the Obama administration tries to address Climate Change via our energy policies (probably a good strategy) they are getting serious push back by the party who believes in Climate Change denial and supporting the oil and gas industries which have made more money since the history of money. 

“The president once again asks Congress to do away with billions in tax breaks for fossil fuel interests, over the outcries of the oil and gas industry.”

Oh, please. 

When is America going to wake up and pay attention to this energy Climate Change issue?  At what point will American wake up as the Egyptians have and demand that their oppressors free them from environmental doom? 

The oppressors, the oil and gas industry, with their billions of bucks to hammer the media are driving our environment off a cliff, to a tipping point in Climate Change.  And we sit and watch the same media that lied us into war after war. 

Budget Spars Energy Research, Despite Hits to Other Programs - NYTimes.com WASHINGTON — President Obama’s budget, released Monday, essentially treads water on energy and the environment, trying to maintain momentum for alternative energy research even as it cuts deeply into some environmental protection programs. The president once again asks Congress to do away with billions in tax breaks for fossil fuel interests, over the outcries of the oil and gas industry.  (February 14, 2011)  The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

Reality check:

 

Instead of listening to the political pundits and the climate deniers and a myriad of folks who don’t get it on Climate Change, why not listen to those have a better handle on this issue? 

There’s more than a better chance that Climate Change is changing our climate and that oil will be soon too expensive to drill.  Those who fill your ears with something else will be keeping you from addressing this most pressing of issues. 

Take some time and review these series of important online videos of the experts on why we as a people should be focused on peak oil and Climate Change. 

Peak Oil and a Changing Climate  The scientific community has long agreed that our dependence on fossil fuels inflicts massive damage on the environment and our health, while warming the globe in the process. But beyond the damage these fuels cause to us now, what will happen when the world's supply of oil runs out? Peak Oil is the point at which petroleum production reaches its greatest rate just before going into perpetual decline. In “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate,” a new video series from The Nation and On The Earth productions, radio host Thom Hartmann explains that the world will reach peak oil within the next year if it hasn’t already. As a nation, the United States reached peak oil in 1974, after which it became a net oil importer.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

More Bicycles on our streets, more safety, less greenhouse gases:

 

I recently spoke at the Student Environmental Summit (Event) at Center for Student Innovation at Rochester Institute of Technology and talked about city of Rochester efforts on Bicycle Boulevards.  Here’s an example of Bicycle Boulevards in the Upper Monroe Avenue. 

One of the questions the students asked me is: “What will be done to insure bicycle safety if we starting getting more folks to ride their bicycles to work and school?” 

The answer is that by virtue of the rise in bicycle use itself; our streets will become safer for bicyclists.  The more bicycles on the streets, the more those in vehicles notice them and expect them to be a part of our Transportation in the Rochester region.  Here’s some read data on this issue:

Streetsblog.net » More Cyclists = Safer Cycling in Minneapolis "Studies have long linked cycling safety to the number of cyclists on the street — the old safety-in-numbers maxim in action. The latest evidence validating this phenomenon comes from chilly Minneapolis. In the mid-1990s, collisions involving cyclists peaked at 334, according to city data reported by the League of American Bicyclists. Since then, bike commuting has skyrocketed 174 percent. Meanwhile, the number of collisions has declined 20 percent to 269. "

Why football is bad for our Rochester, NY environment

 

Last Sunday evening, in Rochester, NY and around the country, lots of folks were glued to their media attending to a popular pastime, football. I mean a lot of folks. What if all those people with all that money put football and other expensive sports on the back-burner and focused their incredible intelligence and energy on solving our desperate environmental issues? Rochester, NY has a litany of environmental issues that need to be address as Climate Change changes our area, but the public is out for half-time, absorbed in super-bowls and endless replays of things that don’t matter.

I’m not against sports; I even played a lot of high school football—badly, I might add. Though a bit violent for a body that hasn’t finished growing, sports for kids does build character, a sense of responsibility, good health, physical and mental skills that are good for a lifetime. And though I don’t ‘get’ professional sports (most players don’t even live, or ever have lived, in the community they are playing for,) I’m not against it.

What I question is the scale and the incredible amount of time and mental energy consumed by such a large proportion of our population on something that essentially doesn’t matter. Who wins the super bowl doesn’t feed the hungry, cure cancer, or save our environment. It’s just a game and like candy for kids, it’s probably OK within limits.

But billions of dollars for corporations, including a culture of where our best and our brightest don’t get off the bench to take responsibility for our environment, is not OK. By the time we’ve spent countless hours in front of countless games drinking countless beers and storing countless facts about a game that doesn’t matter, saving our environment may be too late. We are already going to experience many alterations in our Rochester, NY environment because Climate Change wasn’t addressed on a large scale earlier.

There’s a lot going on and much to acquaint yourself with in these extraordinary times. Climate Change is warming the planet and it will diminish the availability of food and fresh water. We need to know where candidates stand on environmental issues. We need the public to get informed about these issues so they can shop and choose careers for a sustainable planet. How can that happen if the attention of the majority of the population is absorbed on a game and not on our environment? Instead of informing themselves on the vast complexities and enormities of our environmental issues, our citizens’ free time is consumed in sports mania. Sports corporations have taken over our minds—taken our eyes off the real ball (Earth).

Our species’ ultimate goal, I suggest, was not to watch endless football games or any kind of games for that matter. Over the last 200,000 years, where we pretty much got to where we are in terms of evolution, we’ve been busy combating our environment like superhero football players—just to stay alive. Your ancestors, by definition, survived in a very hostile environment and made it so you could be here. They weren’t buying T-shirts and sweat-shirts with corporate logos to get a sense of direction in life or self-worth. They were doing what humans do best: adapt and survive.

If, while we’re busy watching sports, we pass some of the possible environmental tipping points-- on biodiversity, Climate Change, or ocean acidification-- there won’t be a gridiron, a football, or very high-paid players to play with either of them.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Great dearth of knowledge and understanding of Wildlife’s role in our state’s ecology:

 

I submit that while most folks are aware of wildlife around New York State—deer, beaver, bald eagles, frogs, birds, those pesky squirrels, house flies, and those darn mosquitoes—most of us don’t have a clue as to why we need them.  Prove me wrong. 

Sure, many need to know that our wildlife is there, doing what they do to fill the background, our nature ambience thing.  And, many folks harvest (shoot, fish, and just throw in the dumpster) because it’s fun, and it’s what our ancestors did with dangerous and obnoxious wildlife we wanted to get rid of. 

But what do we know of the true purpose of our fellow creatures in this area?  Besides the enjoyment of their presence and shooting them for sport, what is the purpose of Wildlife in our region.  Could we live without them? 

Sure we’d be sadder, and our hunting business would collapse, but would our environment collapse with them?  Here’s a way for our kids to get engaged on this subject and maybe someone will take on and inform our public that wildlife is integral to the biological machinery that keeps our particular environment going. 

Endangered Species Program | What We Do | Habitat Conservation Plans | Overview "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Coalition, Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Ogden Museum of Southern Art/University of New Orleans announce the launch of the 2011 national Endangered Species Day art contest. The competition offers young people an opportunity to learn about endangered species and express their knowledge and support through artwork. Endangered Species Day, taking place on May 20, 2011, recognizes the conservation programs nationwide aimed at protecting America’s threatened and endangered species. "On May 20, 2011 the Fish and Wildlife Service will observe Endangered Species Day in order to recognize the national conservation effort to protect our nation’s endangered species and their habitats." Northeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Good to see our local media finally on the job:

 

This story about shipping nuclear material through our area from Lake Ontario and up the St. Lawrence has been raging in Canada for quite awhile.  Just check these newslinks: Energy newslinks

But not so much here in our region.  It seemed very peculiar that such a major environmental story was going silent and unheeded by our local press for so long.  It’s not so much that it is dangerous shipping large amounts of nuclear material past our front door and the possible combination that could result if there was an accident. 

That is probably true.  But what struck me was how invisible this issue was in our local press.  If something environmental is going on in Canada, near our borders, and the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence River, we in our region should at least know about it.  We’re all connected environmentally. 

If there is an accident and nuclear material gets into our waters, this connection will get in our face quickly.  We have a nuclear plant in our backyard, I hope our local news editors are taking a look over there once in awhile to make sure this dangerous form of energy is watched carefully and not given special treatment because so many Rochester-area people want it. 

Nuclear power may not emit much in the way of greenhouse gases, as compare to other energy options, but an accident at a nuclear plant is on another scale of magnitude than bit of ice flinging off a wind turbine blade.

WXXI: Nuclear Waste Shipment on Great Lakes Approved (2011-02-08) ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - A coalition of Great Lakes mayors is opposing an extraordinarily large shipment of nuclear waste across several of the lakes, including Lake Ontario. The shipment just won approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Canadian company Bruce Power plans to ship16 school-bus sized, radioactive generators for recycling in Sweden this spring. David Ullrich is the Director of the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Cities Initiative. He says the organization of mayors is worried the ship could sink and contaminate the lakes and the St. Lawrence River.  (February 7, 2011) WXXI NewsRoom  [more on Energy

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Preparing for a Green Job in Green Businesses in the Rochester, NY region:

 

One of the ways to demonstrate your commitment to our environment in these exceptional times is to volunteer with local organizations working on our environmental health. 

Volunteering also can up your chances of getting a job in the environmental field by either moving up to a paying position in the organization, or putting some concrete skills and references on your resume.   No better environmental organization can help you with environmental information than the folks over at CEI:

CEI: Environmental Volunteering Volunteer Opportunities in the Greater Rochester Area --from CEI: Center for Environmental Information

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Wrong Power: Power from Landfills

 

Landfills do create methane gas which leaks up to our atmosphere and puts more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.  And methane gas is a very heat-trapping gas (many more times than CO2) and a relatively easy way to grab energy. 

But it’s a bad idea. 

It’s a bad idea because it encourages our society to continually throw away stuff we should be recycling, reusing, and composting.  Grabbing methane gas from landfills creates in a great delusion that we can have our cake and eat it too: that we can just package all our stuff and when we done with everything just throw it into the ground and then we’ll even get cheap energy for it. 

It’s a delusion because it is a shortsighted delusionary loop of reality. 

It’s shortsighted because it ignores the myriad of environmental issues surrounding waste, Climate Change, and natural resources. 

We could be reusing many of the stuff we are now land-filling and creating new industries and reducing the amount of natural resources we have to dig from the earth.  And at the end of the day, burning methane gas is burning a greenhouse gas—it’s going to continue to warm the planet. 

Capping off methane gas from landfills and burning it for energy is a depraved way of getting energy because it compounds many environmental issues with the delusion of an easy fix. 

We should be recycling, reusing, producing more renewable energy that doesn’t warm the planet; we should be using the ideas of Zero Waste so we don’t produce products that are toxic.  T

his hopeful article ignores our environment:

Noxious, but profitable, gas - Times Union Methane emanating from landfills can be a valuable commodity | ALBANY -- The vast majority of the greenhouse gases emitted by the city -- some 86 percent -- come from Rapp Road landfill. The chief culprit is the copious amounts of methane -- an odorless gas that makes up as much as 50 percent of the foul cocktail of gasses that waft from the landfill and is 21 times worse than carbon dioxide for trapping heat in the atmosphere.  (February 5, 2011)  Home - Times Union

How do we preserve and protect an environment in flux?

 

In a way, it was relatively easy to be an environmentalist in the past. It was easy in the sense that you knew what to do: don’t pollute, don’t overdevelop; don’t feed the bears; don’t spread invasive species; certainly don’t eat endangered species; don’t drive a gas guzzler, and for goodness sakes don’t grab the most poisonous product on the shelf to kill a few insects. Do what you can to restore things to the way they were.

But a monumental change in the way we understand our environment and the gravity and immediacy of Climate Change must cause traditional environmentalists to rethink about how to address today’s environmental issues. Environmentalists have always thought that protecting our environment was critical, but we couldn’t have known in the precise and specific ways this was true. A hundred years ago, environmentalists like John Muir wouldn’t have known about biodiversity, how manmade chemicals poisoned our bodies, or that that humanity had the capacity to actually warm the planet—though he did suspect that our growing mechanized world that was indifferent to Nature was not good.

Today, because hard environmental choices were not made in the past and our lifestyle continues to treat our natural resources as inexhaustible, we are bumping up against many tipping points at once:

Earth in the Balance: 7 Crucial Tipping Points  "Humans must stay within certain boundaries if they hope to avoid environmental catastrophe, a leading group of environmental scientists says. Crossing those limits may not rock the Earth itself, but would lead to harsh consequences for human existence on the planet as we know it. There are two kinds of boundaries, the researchers proposed in October 2009. "One represents a tipping point -- you cross that and irreversible, catastrophic bad stuff happens," said Jonathan Foley, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota. " LiveScience | Science, Technology, Health & Environmental News

Not only do we have to address all these problems simultaneously, we have to do this recognizing that our concept of ‘environment’ can no longer be a static ideal, but a rapidly changing and warming environment. Every solution we consider will have to be tailored to the environment we need to survive—not the idealistic environment that we used to envision. We certainly want to preserve as much land as possible, because we’ll need working models of our environment for research. But many of our traditionally held assumptions about environmentalism will change out of necessity.

Environmentalism has grown swiftly in the past one hundred years, yielding experts in many professions: law, science, politics, sociology, psychology, and engineering. But to succeed in making the changes necessary to actually solve the critical environmental issues we face, environmentalists have to rethink how we operate, how we spend our time and money. Instead of slow, small changes in our environmental habits, only massive, wholesale changes in transportation, stopping pollution, and saving critical species, are now necessary while at the same time getting the concentration of greenhouse gases down. We’ve learned a lot over the years:

  • We know that reusing and recycling are good, but we don’t know how to produce a standard to make sure that at no point along the continuum in the waste stream does this result in harming our environment.
  • We know that walking and bicycling are better ways of getting around for short distances, but we don’t know how to transform an economy and culture obsessed with burning fossil-fuels.
  • We know that renewable energy is far better than all the other forms of producing electricity—oil, coal, nuclear, or gas—but we don’t know how to convince other environmentalists that they may have to give up their sense of aesthetics to accomplish this.

Environmentalism in the future might not look like environmentalism in past. It has changed since John Muir’s time, and it will change now that we know how and to what extent the planet’s environment is in danger—meaning in danger to humanity, who have become quite comfortable with the atmospheric temperatures being predictable and tolerable, food being plentiful, and fresh water being available.

Environmentalists may have to concede many previously held priorities and make horrible concessions because such monumental changes will have to be made so quickly. We may have to see our shorelines dotted with wind farms so our surrounding ecologies don’t collapse. We may have to sit down with many companies who’ve wreaked havoc on our environment because they are the only ones large and powerful enough to make the wholesale changes we need to make. We may have to change what we consider endangered species and invasive species because the new environment will focus on what we need, not what warms our hearts. What used to be might not work anymore in our new environment.

Environmentalist will have to become part of the solution, providing not only a vision of a sustainable environment, but real and perhaps uncomfortable methods to get us there.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

One of the reasons your environment is crashing—the The Great Recession:

 

There are many reasons why our environment is not doing well—overpopulation, development, Climate Change, you know.  But recently it is becoming obvious that the Great Recession is playing a role in reducing our environmental news coverage, environmental monitoring because environmental departments are losing important jobs.  

In other words, in many communities, state and federal government environmental agencies are treated as just another entity or just another issue that has to go under the budget gun.  This is despite that we need a healthy environment to survive.  So, why did the Great Recession occur? 

You’d think the public would want to know why our economy and our attention to critical environmental issues like Climate Change must take a back seat to the Great Recession.  Here’s an amusing and instructive video on how that happened.  The Cartoon Bears are Back Explaining the Bailouts#msg32780 

Think as you watch this video how those who caused this economic crisis will not be held accountable.  But you and your children will be held accountable because environmental issues were ditched during this period as there was no money to address the critical environmental issues facing us.  

It’s amazing that there is not great public outcry about how our lack of monetary resources means that our environment must plummet because of the shenanigans of the few.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Are we letting our planet go?

 

If Climate Change just doesn’t grab you as a major concern (maybe it’s just getting boring) there are other environmental concerns nearing there tipping points

Because we have not lowered our populations and reduced our footprints on our environment overall, there are not one, but at least seven major environmental situations that don’t bode well for our environment.  All seven of these should be on your radar because they can end everything else you had planned for your future. 

Earth in the Balance: 7 Crucial Tipping Points  "Humans must stay within certain boundaries if they hope to avoid environmental catastrophe, a leading group of environmental scientists says. Crossing those limits may not rock the Earth itself, but would lead to harsh consequences for human existence on the planet as we know it. There are two kinds of boundaries, the researchers proposed in October 2009. "One represents a tipping point -- you cross that and irreversible, catastrophic bad stuff happens," said Jonathan Foley, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota. "The other would " LiveScience | Science, Technology, Health & Environmental News

For those taking comfort from major snow storm disproving Climate Change: Don’t.

 

The predictions from past climate records and modeling’s is that the weather will get whacky.  What’s tragic is that those who don’t understand or refuse to understand Climate Change will see our recent winter events in specific areas like the United States and blind themselves to what is going on around the world and across the last couple of decades. 

The more you don’t know about Climate Change the more you are convinced that it’s a hoax. 

This means Climate Change doesn’t get addressed—even though it should be at the focus of all our environmental and economic concerns.  If your news media isn’t giving you an accurate picture of reality so you can plan coherently for it, change your media. 

With Climate Change, Expect More Monster Winter Storms - Yahoo! News No single weather event can be directly attributed to climate change. But as the globe warms up, Americans can expect more storms like the one bearing down on much of the United States, scientists say. That's not because the Feb. 1 storm can be linked to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels or increasing global temperature - again, such a connection is impossible to make - but, according to climatologists, an increased propensity for winter storms is exactly what you'd expect in a warming world. (February 1, 2011)  The top news headlines on current events from Yahoo! News

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Despite Climate Change, is it ‘drill Baby drill’ anyway?

 

Trying to reduce the use of fossil fuels for energy is seriously complicated by a world that goes on drilling and digging for fossil fuels despite all the attempts by many to increase the use of renewable energy. 

When we learn about wind turbines increase here and solar panels there, what we don’t hear from our press is that chugging right along is the fossil fuel industry without pausing.  

Burning ambitions What is good news for miners is bad news for the environment  "IN RICH countries, where people worry about air quality and debate ways of pricing carbon emissions, coal is deeply unfashionable. Elsewhere demand for the dirty rocks has never been stronger. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reckons world consumption will increase by a fifth over the next 25 years, assuming governments stick to their current climate-change policies. A new age of coal is upon us. " (January 27, 2011) The Economist - World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance

We’re ready

 

I’ve noticed some articles around the local online media this morning anticipating the snow storm coming tonight.  After a couple of debacles in this state about some communities and authorities being ‘unready’ for bid dumps of snow, there’s a deluged of articles about this snow storm and how the press has made it its business to obviously find out if our community leaders and authorities are ready this time. 

The public, regardless of budget and staffing cuts, expects and demands that their roads remain navigable even in the worst storm—because they expect that their public officials are looking ahead to their safety and best interests.  This is all to say that the same remains for Climate Change

There’s ample information that our way of life will change (not in a good way) because of Climate Change in our area, including more droughts, more severe heat waves, flooding, more West Nile Virus outbreaks, and lots more.  Check it out here:  Resources on how Climate Change will impact the Rochester, New York area 

The public is going to be even more upset at their public officials, no matter about the Great Recession, when our environment changes because of Climate Change and even our economy will be affected:

Economic Analyses | Climate Change - Climate Economics | U.S. EPA “EPA conducts climate economic analyses to estimate the economic and environmental effects of potential domestic climate change mitigation programs and strategies. Given the complexity of economic and environmental interactions underlying the climate change issue, no one model can address all of the questions surrounding a climate change economic analysis. To provide an accurate representation of potential climate change mitigation programs and strategies, EPA employs an array of modeling tools and data. For more information about the modeling tools used by EPA, please visit the Climate Economic Modeling page.”

Going dim on environmental information:

 

With all the budget and staff cuts over at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, is another casualty the press releases from the DEC? 

Press Releases - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation 

For a long time the DEC kept the pubic informed on our environmental matters daily, which is crucial for the public to understand what our main environmental department is doing and why and what we need concern ourselves with.  But, it seems that the press releases are going dim.  Only three press releases for January 2011.  Quietly, without fanfare admits all else the public is losing in public oversight during the Great Recession is our ability to 'see' what is going on with our environment--especially since so much has been cut from the DEC.