Friday, March 30, 2012

Reminder of major Earth Day event coming up for Rochester, NY


WHAT: Sierra Club – Rochester Regional Group’s 14th Annual Environmental Forum:
Our Water’s Fragile Future: Hydrofracking, Climate Change & Privatization
WHEN: Thursday, April 19, 2012; 5:30-9pm; 5:30pm-Networking; 7pm-Program

WHERE: First Unitarian Church of Rochester, 220 Winton Road South

Celebrate Earth Day a few days early at the 14th Annual Environmental Forum, where the future of upstate New York’s clean water is the topic of discussion. This annual event, sponsored by the Sierra Club’s Rochester Regional Group, features a presentation by dynamic speaker, Jim Olson, the foremost U.S. legal expert on the challenges of protecting our nation’sRochesterNY fresh water.

We in the Rochester region share a vital connection to the fresh water around us, from the Great Lakes to the Finger Lakes. Yet here at home and around the world, clean water is under threat from a variety of sources. If hydrofracking is permitted in NY State, where will the 3-9 million gallons of water needed to hydrofrack each of the thousands of wells come from? Where will the toxic wastewater go? How is climate change, and its attendant droughts, storms, and floods impacting our water supply? And what are the effects on everyday citizens—in western NY and across the world-- when corporations own the rights to drinking water supplies? Jim Olson will discuss these issues and others, as he shares his experience with protecting the Great Lakes through the legal defense of the Public Trust, protecting water as a “common good.”

Chairperson Linda Isaacson Fedele says “We are privileged to have a speaker this year as engaging and inspiring as Mr. Olson, who is known throughout the country in the ‘water world’ as a superstar. He’ll show how climate change, hydrofracking, and our increasingly scarce fresh water supplies are inextricably connected. I’m extremely excited-- as is Mr. Olson. This is the Sierra Club Forum not to miss.”

The Forum begins at 5:30 p.m. with a public networking session featuring more than 30 environmental organizations from around the region. Sustainably-produced food and beverages are available for purchase from local vendors. At 7 p.m., Mr. Olson shares his wisdom gleaned from 40 years as an environmental attorney.

Following the presentation is an audience question-and-answer session featuring Olson, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Conservation Program Director Roger Downs, and WNY Drilling Defense founder Rita Yelda.

The event is free and open to the public, though donations to help cover costs are greatly appreciated.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Who is going to pay for natural disasters in the age of warming?


When you think about the Likely Changes coming to our NYS region because of Climate Change the money spent out by our government for natural disasters could get pretty steep. We are grateful that our representatives are willing to step up to the plate to provide financial assistance when extreme weather strikes, but what are we going to do as extreme natural events become more common.

New York communities urged to apply for disaster relief - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow “Finger Lakes, N.Y. — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced Wednesday $53,735,000 is available for communities affected by natural disasters through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.” (March 28, 2012) Home - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow

Our collected inability to address Climate Change and plan for a vast increase in natural disasters that US insurance companies are not prepared for because they are still in denial--

“Yet despite widespread recognition of the effects climate change will likely have on extreme events, few insurers were able to articulate a coherent plan to manage the risks and opportunities associated with climate change. Of 88 companies surveyed, only 11 reported having formal climate change policies, and more than 60 percent of the respondents reported having no dedicated management approach for assessing climate risk. This was not true uniformly across the industry, however. “ CLIMATE RISK DISCLOSURE BY INSURERS: Evaluating Insurer Responses to the NAIC Climate Disclosure Survey” A Ceres Report September 2011

--means we the people are going to be paying for communities, counties, states, and insurance companies unwillingness to face the myriad of floods, heat waves, crop failures, and many more catastrophes linked to extreme weather and Climate Change.

Planning by cities, counties, states, and insurance companies on how to address Climate Change and educating the public on what’s coming is critical for this century. The longer we remain at business as usual and deny why all these extreme events are happening the leaner our public funds will become because we haven’t prepared. Thinking that these extreme events will increase gradually, or we’ll just sue the fossil fuel industry for knowingly warming the planet and a host of other excuses just won’t solve a problem of physics: put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and the place warms up.

Like it or not, we are going to see more and more stories linking extreme weather events and Climate Change in our major news sources:

Reports link heat waves, deluges to climate change Scientists are increasingly confident that the uptick in heat waves and heavier rainfall is linked to human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions, posing a heightened risk to the world’s population, according to two reports issued in the past week. On Wednesday, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a 594-page study suggesting that when it comes to weather observations since 1950, there has been a “change in some extremes,” which stem in part from global warming. (March 28, 2012) Washington Post

Monday, March 26, 2012

Not news: Genesee River (which runs through Rochester, NY) ranked 32nd most polluted river in the US.


Back in 1998, when I first began to collect and access all the environmental issues surrounding one community—Rochester, NY—I created a page called Genesee River. I created it because some major articles and reports had just come out that the river that runs through Rochester, NY was very toxic and polluted. Here is an entry I posted on my web page back in the day (though none of the links work anymore):

Genesee River ranks "second among U.S. rivers that had cancer-causing chemicals dumped into them during a recent five-year period"--Rochester Digital Edition article: (Genesee earns grim ranking ), according to The State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs).  Go here to read the full report and here to see the how the Genesee River stacks up against other U.S. Rivers.

So, it’s interesting that, fourteen years later, the Genesee River has again hit the news:

It’s interesting because in the fourteen year since the first reports there has been little local news about the Genesee River. No local media editors felt it was necessary to send in investigative reporters to see what the state of the Genesee River actually was, or whether any of our state agencies were going to clean it up. Obviously, we haven’t cleaned it up, which is why our dirty little river is splashed all over the headlines today.

Our leading print media have mentioned the study coming out of the University of Rochester, but this story came out last year—thirteen years after reports on how toxic the Genesee Rivers was:

All of this is instructive as to the value of environmental reporting. It’s not really helpful for the media to merely throw a story up on the front pages that their river is one of the most toxic in the country, then wait fourteen years to see if it has any legs. The job of our media is not simply to post sports scores and car accidents. The job of the media is to be our eyes and ears on issues we need to know. We need to know the state of our environment, and we need to know if our government is acting to protect our health and our environment.

It’s instructive because this Genesee River issue is like Climate Change. The point of discovering potential threats to our health and environment is to make sure they are addressed, not merely publicized to make money. Now that we know, our media should grab on to this issue until that river of ours is cleaned up. The point about Climate Change is that it too splashes onto the media once in awhile and then disappears until one day it makes the headlines again.

When Climate Change finally ranks on the first page of our media, like sports scores continually do, it might be too late to do anything about it. Responsible environmental reporting needs to investigate and educate the public on important environmental issues like our water’s health and our warming planet. Media editors need to reeducate themselves about what environmental issues mean. If our media editors were really on the job, there is no way any one of the presidential candidates currently running away from the issue of Climate Change would be able to do so.

Take heed: You can read the full report on the state of our waters and our river’s ranking here:

Wasting Our Waterways 2012 | Environment America Released by: Environment America Research and Policy Center Release date: Thursday, March 22, 2012 > Read News Release > Download Report (PDF) “Industrial facilities continue to dump millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into America’s rivers, streams, lakes and ocean waters each year – threatening both the environment and human health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pollution from industrial facilities is responsible for threatening or fouling water quality in more than 14,000 miles of rivers and more than 220,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide.”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Water, sewage, and Climate Change in the Rochester, NY region


Uninteresting and unappealing as the subject of sewage can oftentimes seem, two news items this week about a couple of our New York State cities’—New York City and Buffalo—sewer systems caught my attention. New York City’s new sewer system plan was hailed as a model of how combined sewer overflows can be significantly reduced and Buffalo was excoriated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to comply with federal Clean Water Act requirements for combined sewer systems.

What is a combined sewer overflow system (CSO) and why should I care? Glad you asked.

A combined sewer is a type of sewer system that collects sanitary sewage and stormwater runoff in a single pipe system. Combined sewers can cause serious water pollution problems due to combined sewer overflows, which are caused by large variations in flow between dry and wet weather. This type of sewer design is no longer used in building new communities, but many older cities continue to operate combined sewers. Combined sewer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

We here in Rochester, NY were not in the news this week over our sewer system, but just for the record we have a CSO with a lot of storage tunnels. And, that works pretty well in most cases:

“Out of 50-70 wet weather events per year, only 1-2 extreme events generate flows that exceed tunnel capability. However, even during these extreme events, the system still captures more than 99 percent of the total volume of CSOs generated.” THE MONROE COUNTY PURE WATERS PROGRAM … A HISTORY

This all becomes interesting and more meaningful as you pull away from our short-term interests and concerns and get a bigger picture of what might be coming down the tube—so to speak. It’s not good. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation “About ten percent of the CSOs in the United States are found in NYS,” Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation. Add that to the findings of the recent Climate Change study funded by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA):

Within the state’s urban areas, two other critical water related equity concerns include siting and operation of waste treatment facilities and the widespread use of combined sewer systems. Wastewater treatment facilities are often located in lower-income, minority communities. Under climate change, such facilities may need to be relocated due to rising sea levels or expanded to address new threats to water quality. Combined sewer systems, which collect and treat both municipal wastewater and storm water, are disproportionately concentrated in the state’s older, urban areas (and particularly in neighborhoods with high concentrations of low-income, minority residents). Combined sewer systems contribute to localized flooding and serious water quality problems during periods of heavy rainfall. These flooding events, known as combined sewer overflows (CSOs), are likely to become worse with more frequent heavy rainfall events under climate change. Adaptation planning needs to take into account the concerns of environmental justice communities that are affected by siting decisions and/or CSOs. (Pages 67-68) Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID).

This means that as our region becomes inundated by the Likely Changes coming with Climate Change, most of the sewer systems around the Great Lakes may be dumping a lot of sewage into the water we drink, bathe, and fish in. This map (the little black dots are CSOs) gives you a nice visual:


Photo from: EPA - CSO Demographics “Combined sewer system are remnants of the country's early infrastructure and so are typically found in older communities. Combined sewer systems serve roughly 772 communities containing about 40 million people. Most communities with combined sewer systems (and therefore with CSOs) are located in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, and the Pacific Northwest”.

BTW: The ClimAID report mentions our fair city:

The degree to which combined sewer overflows may increase in frequency in a changing climate is dependent on the rainfall threshold at which a combined sewer overflow is initiated in a given sewage system. For instance, the City of Rochester reduced combined sewer overflows by constructing 34 miles of 12-to-16-foot diameter tunnels that can store sewage until it can be treated. While these tunnels will store the combined sewage generated by most rainfall events, Environmental Protection Agency regulations allow up to four combined sewer overflow events per year. An EPA study of the upgraded systems concluded that daily combined sewer overflow discharges could increase by 50 percent with climate change due to two additional large storm events (USEPA, 2008). However, as is often not clearly noted, this 50-percent increase assumes that only four combined sewer overflows currently occur each year. (Page 95) Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID).

If you are starting to get alarmed, you’re getting my point: We might be doing OK if Climate Change were not in the picture. But it is. Extreme weather events, including large storms, can very well happen with more frequency than our present CSOs can handle. Our Great Lakes could become extremely polluted.

NYS Senator Schumer gets it on how we need to update our aging sewer systems and knows it’s going to cost a lot of money:


But our senior senator from New York does not mention Climate Change in his press release. So, the money he’s talking about probably won’t cover the kind of change that needs to be made to our waste water infrastructure as large storms threaten to overwhelm our sewage systems. Our county doesn’t mention Climate Change in their description of our waste water system: pure waters. The NYS DEC does mention Climate Change, including a spot on reference:

“Klaus Jacob, from Columbia University, and Betsy Blair, from the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve described the expected impacts of sea level rise in the Hudson. The predicted sea level rise of between 4 and 33 inches in the Northeast by the end of the century, coupled with increases in extreme weather events, pose a threat to low lying transportation and sewage treatment plant infrastructure” Hudson Valley Climate Change Conference, December 4, 2006 - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Yet, this issue where our waters might easily become inundated by sewage overflows as Climate Change worries our environment has found little traction with the public. That matters because without public awareness of this issue, coupled with the Climate Change element, few funds are going to be squeezed by an already financially stricken public who’d rather not think about sewage at all.

However, it makes little sense to make recommendations for buttressing our wastewater infrastructure without mentioning Climate Change because not only are our sewer systems getting old, they were planned for a planet that doesn’t exist anymore. This planet, the one we plan to get drinking water from for some time into the future, is warming up, and your grandmother’s sewage system just won’t do.

* To learn more about water quality issues in our Rochester, NY area, check out these two events:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Climate Change skeptics are a drag on us all


While Climate Change skeptics still get to grab the US public’s attention and spew doubt about Climate Change your government through its various agencies—wildlife, transportation, health, and many more—are preparing and adapting to imminent change. Our collective ability to provide funding and public participation for the may projects that will help us adapt to Climate Change is oftentimes foiled by senseless arguments by those with another agenda:

Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong by William D. Nordhaus | The New York Review of Books The threat of climate change is an increasingly important environmental issue for the globe. Because the economic questions involved have received relatively little attention, I have been writing a nontechnical book for people who would like to see how market-based approaches could be used to formulate policy on climate change. When I showed an early draft to colleagues, their response was that I had left out the arguments of skeptics about climate change, and I accordingly addressed this at length. But one of the difficulties I found in examining the views of climate skeptics is that they are scattered widely in blogs, talks, and pamphlets. Then, I saw an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal of January 27, 2012, by a group of sixteen scientists, entitled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” This is useful because it contains many of the standard criticisms in a succinct statement. The basic message of the article is that the globe is not warming, that dissident voices are being suppressed, and that delaying policies to slow climate change for fifty years will have no serious economic or environment consequences.  (March 22, 2012) Home | The New York Review of Books

Added to the problem of making it easy for those who don’t want to change to adapt to Climate Change is the issue of poisoning the minds of our children, our future decision makers, who will have to make critical choices on adapting and mitigating the most important issue of this century. That’s going to be difficult to do if our children minds are filled with mush:

Science Educators Troubled by Heartland's Climate Curriculum and Author's Credentials | InsideClimate News The revelation last month that the Heartland Institute, a libertarian group based in Chicago, is trying to teach climate skepticism in schools has sparked a flurry of criticism and debate over the entry of global warming doubt into the classroom. But how easy is it, really, for a group with an ideological mission to influence science curricula? While it's hard to judge how Heartland will fare, climate denial materials have already begun to creep into public schools, said O. Roger Anderson, chair of the math and science department at Teachers College of Columbia University, in an interview. That's what Anderson says concerns him. (March 15, 2012) | InsideClimate News

Those who have honest skepticism about the difficult science of climate and wonder how various knowledge gaps in the science are being investigated are a legitimate part of the science process. Those who purposely sew doubt where there is now little on the wholesale warming of our atmosphere by our activities are a drag on our collective ability to act to adapt.

It’s scary to think how much havoc those who have no idea what they are talking about can do to stop us from adapting to Climate Change. Maybe we can hold these skeptics who don’t think environmental matters are important accountable:

Study - Young People Not So 'Green' After All - CHICAGO (AP) — They have a reputation for being environmentally minded do-gooders. But an academic analysis of surveys spanning more than 40 years has found that today's young Americans are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources — and often less civic-minded overall — than their elders were when they were young. The findings go against the widespread belief that environmental issues have hit home with today's young adults, known as Millennials, who have grown up amid climate change discussion and the mantra "reduce, reuse, recycle." The environment is often listed among top concerns of young voters. (March 15, 2012) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

One of the recommendations of the IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report” is “awareness campaigns” (pg. 61) where governments and all vested groups educate the public on the ramifications of Climate change in their area. But that’s going to be made more difficult by those dragging us down with their lies about this issue.

BTW: Regardless of the Climate Change skeptics inability to prove greenhouse gases aren’t warming up the planet, daily we read more stories like these, which prove we have to get moving:

Rising Sea Levels a Growing Risk to Coastal U.S., Study Says - About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research. If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century. (March 13, 2012) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

Monday, March 12, 2012

Will the Fracking boom bypass NYS and set us up for a greater economic boom?


New York State seems to be balking at the idea of riddling our countryside with natural gas production. The rise in public concern over Fracking in New York State and current low natural gas prices appear to be giving the gas companies the jitters. Some perceive that NYS is over-regulating the drilling industry, which might mean that the boom could go bust.

That is added to the cascading of Fracking moratoriums (60 as of today) being passed by localities in the state, in part because of concerns over water quality due to the reluctance of gas drilling companies to reveal what’s in their Fracking fluids. (See What the Frack is in That Water? - ProPublica).

Amidst myriad other issues related to Fracking—increased road wear by heavy trucks, possible conflicts with mortgages, well water contamination, possible earthquakes, public health concerns, and many more problems—some may be wondering if there is a chance NYS will miss the Fracking boom altogether. And if so, might this loss of opportunity for the fossil fuel industry make way for the next opportunity for all New York State businesses—the financial boom that will come as the Likely Changes due to Climate Change drive water-thirsty folks in the Southern and Western United States back to New York?

OK that’s a lot. I didn’t want to bury my lead, so let me unpack all this.

No matter how indifferent you are to how we use our energy and whether our energy consumption will affect Climate Change, you can’t have missed the ruckus caused by the Fracking issue. Not even our dysfunctional media could have blinded you to this story. (Although they have been able to blind the American public on Climate Change in this year’s presidential race. Corporate-backed media just won’t ask presidential candidates about Climate Change even though it threatens our future. OK, ‘nuf said on that issue.)

Here’s the worry pro-Fracking people envision:

Fracking boom could go bust in N.Y. But with that not-in-my-backyard movement growing and the state proposing the nation’s toughest fracking controls, gas companies that flocked to the state several years ago are now downsizing or pulling up stakes. Add it all up, and New York’s once-envisioned gas boom is starting to look like a bust. “I think we’re losing the battle,” conceded Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Operators Association of New York State. (November 31, 2011) The Buffalo News

While other states have rolled over for the promise of jobs and great wealth, New York State has proved to be more resistant to the lure of short-term gains at the expense of possible long-term environmental issues. One by one, communities in New York are balking at Fracking. At present the courts are holding up their claims.

Another hydrofracking ruling backs home rule ALBANY — For the second time in a week, a state Supreme Court judge has upheld the ability of municipalities to ban hydraulic fracturing and gas drilling within their limits. Otsego County Acting Supreme Court Justice Donald Cerio ruled late Friday that the town of Middlefield was within its rights under state law when it passed a ban on oil and gas drilling in June.  (February 25, 2012) Democrat and Chronicle .

Whether NYS lifts its present Fracking moratorium, deciding instead to support Home Rule laws that impose local moratoriums on Fracking, it’s still going to take a while for our state to begin drilling. The governor and DEC chief promised that they wouldn’t go ahead with Fracking until it was safe. And it’s going to take some time to sift through all the tens of thousands of public comments made to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) with a staff that has already been gutted by state budget cuts.

Seen from a longer perspective than the recent fracas over Fracking, New York State has historically been leery of using our own backyard to power our lives. We have fought wind, nuclear, and other power options. Much of America’s view that government should curb the excesses of the free market to protect our environment has come from New York State—highlighted in the environmental accomplishments of two NYS governors-turned-presidents, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt. The Adirondacks, the largest park in the continental US, resides in New York, so too the Love Canal catastrophe that produced the Superfund for cleaning up industrial messes.

Those who thought that New York State was merely another domino in the ‘Drill-Baby-Drill’ boom had forgotten who we are. Learn more about New York State’s role in leading the way on environmental regulation here: The Nature of New York, An Environmental History of the Empire State

So while we wait for these ingredients of drilling for gas in NYS to cook, let’s consider an aspect of Fracking in our state that we haven’t really concerned ourselves about—the Climate Change connection. Drilling for natural gas could possibly release more greenhouse gases in the form of methane making it worse than coal. And, at the end of the day, burning more greenhouse gases in a time when our atmosphere has too much of them is crazy. Read this excellent encapsulation of the Fracking issue that nails this Climate Change point by our foremost environmental leader and writer, Bill McKibben.

Why Not Frack? by Bill McKibben "As the International Energy Agency reported last summer, the numbers are significant: their projections for a “Golden Age of Gas” scenario have atmospheric concentrations of CO2 peaking at 650 parts per million and temperature rising 3.5 degrees Celsius, far higher than all the experts believe is safe. In September, the National Center for Atmospheric Research tried to combine all the known data—everything from methane leakage in coal mines to the cooling effects of coal-fired sulfur pollution—and concluded, in the words of the scientist Tom Wigley, that the switch to natural gas “would do little to help solve the climate problem.” " Table of Contents - March 8, 2012 | The New York Review of Books

Also a recent report that links Fracking and Climate Change:

Report warns of oil shale risks | The American Independent BOULDER — Pursuing oil shale production in the face of increasing water demands and climate change concerns is ill-advised, a new report from a Colorado-based environmental group warns.  Colorado’s population is projected to swell by 57 percent over the next 30 years while its next-door neighbor, Utah, could see a 105 percent population spike, the Western Resource Advocates report notes. Corresponding water demand from municipalities and industry, in Colorado alone, could increase by as much as 83 percent. Studies estimate large-scale oil shale could drain the West of 122 billion gallons of water by 2050. “Water is the defining resource in the West,” Mike Chiropolos, chief counsel for Western Resource Advocates, told reporters on a conference call this week. “There is an enormous uncertainty of what the impacts are of utilizing large quantities of that supply.” (March 9, 2012) The American Independent

Here’s where I’m going with all this: If New York State misses the Fracking boom and escapes ruining our fresh water by Fracking, we will be the Mecca for the onslaught of water refugees from the South and West. Climate Change predictions for New York State include a normal amount of precipitation resulting in no net water loss—although, we will experience less snow cover, more extreme precipitation in the Spring and more droughts in the fall. (Hey, it’s not all peaches and cream.) Areas of our country already experiencing water shortages and droughts in the West and South will experience more of that.

Freshwater resources will be affected by climate change across Canada and the U.S., but the nature of the vulnerabilities varies from region to region (NAST, 2001; Environment Canada, 2004; Lemmen and Warren, 2004). In certain regions including the Colorado River, Columbia River and Ogallala Aquifer, surface and/or groundwater resources are intensively used for often competing agricultural, municipal, industrial and ecological needs, increasing potential vulnerability to future changes in timing and availability of water.AR4 WGII Chapter 14: North America - 14.4 Key future impacts and vulnerabilities| IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

As other communities around our country endure more water shortage events, constraining their agriculture and even their ability to drink fresh clean water, New York State will be a godsend. Surrounded by the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes, and innumerable other lakes, rivers, and streams, our economy will boom with grateful new residents tired of continual water problems--provided we are untainted by the Fracking problems other states nearby have endured. Don’t let this happen:

New Report—Fracking Could Cause a Global Water Crisis « EcoWatch: Uniting the Voice of the Grassroots Environmental Movement New technology enabling the extraction of large quantities of oil and natural gas from shale and other rock formations could drive the world’s next great global water crisis unless it is banned, according to a new report released March 7 by national consumer group Food & Water Watch. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, combined with horizontal drilling, is poised to become a global environmental and public health threat as the oil and gas industry seeks more access to oil and gas trapped in rock formations far beneath the ground. “Fracking is a dangerous American export that should be viewed critically by countries just starting to engage in the practice,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Modern drilling and fracking have caused widespread environmental and public health problems, as well as posed serious, long-term risks to vital water resources.”  (March 7, 2012) EcoWatch: Uniting the Voice of the Grassroots Environmental Movement

To learn more about how Rochester, NY’s fresh water may be influenced by Fracking and other fresh water threats like the privatization of our waters, go to the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club’s 14th Annual Environmental Forum: Our Water’s Fragile Future: Hydrofracking, Climate Change, & Privatization.

“Where will all the water for fracking come from? What’s happening to Great Lake levels? Will our children have the same access to clean water that we do? We welcome Jim Olson, the environmental attorney who helped citizens in Michigan win a battle against Nestle’s bottling operation. Jim will share his expertise on protecting fresh water for the “common good” and how it pertains to our Great Lakes and Finger Lakes. Water! Our fresh water! Here in upstate New York, clean potable water is one of the most abundant and important of our resources. We live in the Great Lakes Basin, on the shore of bountiful Lake Ontario and near the beautiful Finger Lakes. We use these lakes as sources of drinking water and are fortunate to be able to do so. But along with the rest of the world, we may soon face challenges that end easy access to abundant fresh water for all.” 14th Annual Sierra Club Forum "Our Water's Fragile Future"

Don’t sit this one out. Our NYS Fresh water is at stake. Learn about this issue, and do something.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The 2012 Great Disconnect: During the presidential elections no talk of Climate Change.


Though we are social creatures and are heavily swayed by conformity and conventionality, we are also a reasonable species. At the core of our being is the thread finely weaved of four-billion years of survivors who learned about their environment so they could struggle successfully against our enemies and the harsh elements to arrive at this critical point.

We are now the stewards of this planet, whose every action affects our environment and everything else on this planet.

Incredibly (and many still haven’t ‘got’ it yet), how we use energy is going to determine the climate of our planet and this will determine our future and the rest of life on this planet.

Our planet is warming due to our activities. Don’t sit this one out. Get a sense of the gravity of our situation from a scientist committed to informing the public on Climate Change:

James Hansen TED Talk: 'Why I Must Speak Out About Climate Change' (VIDEO) Climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, began a recent TED talk with two important questions. He asks, "What do I know that would cause me -- a reticent, midwestern scientist -- to get myself arrested in front of the White House protesting? And what would you do if you knew what I know?" Hansen explains that his work as a climate scientist dates back to 1981 and a paper he co-authored on global warming. He and his colleagues found that "observed warming of 0.4 C in the prior century was consistent with the greenhouse effect of increasing CO2." He says that they also found, "that Earth would likely warm in the 1980s, and warming would exceed the noise level of random weather by the end of the century."  (March 7, 2012) Green News, Environmental Issues and Eco-Living - HuffPost Green

We must find a way to take this discussion to the media’s coverage of the US presidential elections and make the candidates defend their policies on the most critical issue of this century.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Extreme weather and Climate Change predictions: the true connection


No matter where you stand on whether recent extreme weather events are caused by Climate Change, these stories are not going away. They are not going away because even if it is very difficult to pin point a direct cause and effect relationship between this extreme event and another one, overall we know Climate Change studies predict extreme weather events. Overall, our climate is warming up because of the fossil fuels we have put into the atmosphere since the early 1800’s. And, in all probability insurance rates are going to go up on property and anything else insurance is connected to because, deniers’ enthusiasm or not, the reality is that insurance rates will go up as the likelihood of more expensive disasters goes up.

Extreme weather events--snow storms, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes—will always make it to the front page of the news—no matter how dysfunctional and anti-science media’s backers remain. It may take awhile for various media outlets to connect the dots between extreme events and Climate Change, but it will eventually be common to do so because reality is on the side of the view that our atmosphere is warming up because we are burning fossil fuels and the predictions that there are more extreme events are coming true. This becomes more evident every day.

Amid Tornado Cleanup, Worship in Indiana Town At least 38 people were killed, state emergency officials said Sunday, as the deadly storms blew across the Midwest and South late last week, spawning dozens of tornadoes that destroyed buildings, knocked down power lines and tossed around vehicles. Officials said 12 deaths were reported in southeastern Indiana with an additional 21 deaths in neighboring Kentucky. The size of the storm and the region affected made it difficult for officials to assess the full extent of the damage. (March 4, 2012) The New York Times

If you are in any way responsible for protecting the public during extreme weather events you are going to have to do more planning for the increasingly likeliness of extreme weather because you cannot be caught off guard. You will need to anticipate the possibility of more extreme events following each other and that means setting aside more public funds—regardless of public pushback.

Eventually, fortifying our public health and our various water, telecommunications, and transportation infrastructures will have to be addressed—no matter how grey the area that connects a single extreme weather event to Climate Change.

There are a lot of reasons why this issue will be fought vigorously, even if it doesn’t’ make it to this year’s presidential elections. Those who wish to see extreme events as merely a normal shift in weather patterns will want their ideology preserved where the ‘least government is the best.’ That view will be severely challenged as the public demands that they are protected by their government.

Admittedly, there’s a sizable portion of the public who hasn’t thought about Climate Change and refuses to delve into the matter much. But the public does realize that things are changing right in front of them and that is more likely to change their view of Climate Change:

Poll: Americans' belief in global warming rises with thermometer | - Nation/World WASHINGTON -- Americans' belief in global warming is on the rise, along with temperatures and surprising weather changes, according to a new university poll. The survey by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College says 62 percent of those asked last December think the Earth is getting warmer. That's up from 55 percent in the spring of that year and 58 percent in December 2010. It's the highest proportion in two years. (February 29, 2012) Everett and Snohomish County news from The Herald |

The connection between Climate Change and extreme weather events around the world therefore isn’t just a scientific one. As the reality of Climate Change confronts us in our daily lives the true connection between extreme weather events and Climate Change will become clearer: We must plan our future based on the preponderance of evidence not an ideology that doesn’t fit reality.