Saturday, September 29, 2012

Our local park, Washington Grove Park, gets special attention on 100th anniversary


Peter Debes Washington GroveFor all who attended the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Washington Grove Park yesterday, September 28th, it rang in a new century of attention for a local park that has seen some updating.

Invasive species have been removed, and new endemic tress plants heralds a sharper focus by the City of Rochester on this quiet and ancient park.

Peter Debes of the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club has led the environmental efforts to restore and educate the public on our local park that is being given a new life. Read more:

  • Memorial tree planted to celebrate Washington Grove's 100th anniversary Celebrating 100 years in Rochester was the theme of a ceremony held on Friday at Washington Grove. Nature enthusiasts, students and neighbors came together to plant a memorial tree at the Washington Grove, which is located just East of Cobbs Hill Park. (September 28, 2012)
  • Washington Grove Celebrates 100 Years Rochester mayor Tom Richards joined students to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the purchase of Washington Grove. Students from Martin B. Anderson Elementary School Number 1 helped the mayor plant native tree seedlings to honor the Rochestarians who preserved the land. (September 28, 2012)

Planting tree at Washington Grove

Friday, September 28, 2012

Climate Change at the presidential debates


debatesThe schedule for the presidential debates beginning on October 3rd does not include a section on Climate Change. Domestic and foreign policy rule the debates, though it’s odd to think that any of these topics could be discussed with any relevancy without talking about Climate Change. Having a presidential debate without Climate Change is like dickering with a drug dealer when you don’t have any money. What’s the point?

If you take the time to read the “THE NATIONAL GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PLAN: 2012-2021” that was released in April of this year by President Obama, you will see that the US government has no intention of avoiding Climate Change with 13 departments of government spelling out how their departments have planned to deal with this planetary crisis.

“The Obama Administration today released a 10-year strategic plan for research related to global change, identifying priorities that will help state and local governments, businesses, and communities prepare for anticipated changes in the global environment, including climate change, in the decades ahead.” Administration Releases 10-Year Global Change Strategic Plan

Everything the next president of the United States will do in the next few years will have to be orchestrated through the lens of Climate Change. Domestic issues that include energy, jobs, federal insurance coverage for natural disasters, policies on public health as heatwaves increase, protection for our forests because of an increase in wildfires, Fracking for gas under our feet as water issues intensify because of droughts, subsidies for farmers as climate jeopardizes traditional agriculture, and transportation issues will occupy the next occupant of the White House as greenhouse gases continue warm up the planet. Even social justice issues will intensify in the coming years as millions yearn to keep cool without the money for AC’s or the ability to pay higher electric bills.

On foreign policies too, the next president will have to consider how Climate Change will impact his decisions. The increase in wars due to the lack of water because of Climate Change will drive our military to be forever vigilant—which will cost a lot of money. Expected oil spills from the melting of the Arctic and ramped-up shipping and oil drilling will involve international concern when this pristine environment gets compromised. Our economic markets will fall as more countries out-compete the US in renewable energy options and the American public, desperate for jobs, will blame a president not on the ball.

Many Americans believe that the presidential debates coming up should include Climate Change. Many Americans believe that Climate Change is not a part of the debates because the media, drunk from billions from a disastrous Supreme Court decision (Read: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission), don’t want to kill the golden goose of fossil fuel money.

Billions upon billions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry, which get billions in US subsidies, is manufacturing doubt amongst the American public about the validity of Climate Change—and the fact that the rest of the world does not dwell in such paralyzing doubt.

Climate Change denial is an American problem fueled by the fossil fuel industry and it threatens our future. Go to the League of Conservation voters and send a message to debate moderator Jim Lehre to SIGN OUR PETITION TO ASK OBAMA AND ROMNEY AT THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: "HOW DO YOU PLAN TO ADDRESS THE CLIMATE CRISIS?"

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Will baby steps solve Climate Change? Sure would be convenient for US economics and politics.


Good article Climate's politics problem and I wish this was not the last in a series on Climate Change by Rochester City Newspaper, but a continual series, as Climate Change is becoming more of an issue, not less.

Also, regardless of who gets elected president, one of them will have to address the “THE NATIONAL GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PLAN: 2012-2021” that was release in April by President Obama:

“The Obama Administration today released a 10-year strategic plan for research related to global change, identifying priorities that will help state and local governments, businesses, and communities prepare for anticipated changes in the global environment, including climate change, in the decades ahead.” Administration Releases 10-Year Global Change Strategic Plan

Finally, It’s interesting to hear statements like "It really helps to frame it in different terms instead of vague climate change," because this kind of backdoor strategy for solving one of the greatest issues of our times seems to have caught the imagination of many.

If anything, it’s convenient to believe that Climate Change, the warming of our entire atmosphere, can be solved if it accommodates our crazy economics and loony politics. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s the other way around.

In order to solve Climate Change (and this is what most do not want to hear) we are going to have to change our economics so that our environment is not simply a negative externality and our politics so that ideology gives way to reality.

Baby steps, little changes here and little changes there, by individuals, business, and political leaders sounds nice, but baby steps will not turn back our atmosphere’s carbon dioxide concentration from its present 394ppm to what many experts believe should be at 350ppm.

Find out more at

Monday, September 24, 2012

Climate Change: Don’t give up, never surrender


When I was a kid, I used to bike to Grant’s cottage once in awhile. The cottage, where General Grant finished his memoirs, was a long climb up Mount McGregor in Wilton, NY on my single-geared bike. A kindly curator would guide me through the cottage—the chairs placed together so Grant could sleep while being devoured by throat cancer, the clock on the mantle stopped at his death, and the funeral wreaths all about. At ten, I didn’t really know who Grant was, except that he was an exceptional general and a so-so president.

What I have come to learn over the years is the incredible tenacity that was Grant. Though he did not do well at West Point—both Robert E. Lee and General George McClellan were at the top of their class—he turned out to be the winning general in the US Civil War. Grant knew two things that most of the other generals did not, on either side of the war. He knew that it was more important to destroy the opposing side’s ability to wage war than it was to conqueror a place—like Richmond. He also knew that the North had more men and more materiel than the South and continued to press a battle when many other generals would have given up. Mary Lincoln, the president’s wife, used to call Grant “The Butcher” because of the horrible causalities his strategy inflicted on both sides.

I mention all this about Grant’s tenacity to make a point about fighting Climate Change. Adapting to and mitigating Climate Change looks hopeless. The fossil fuel industry, drunk with more money and US tax subsidies than any of the environmentalists opposing them can even dream of, appears on a juggernaut to get their man elected. Fracking is going to be rammed down New York State’s throat and the oil industry is set to drill for more fossil fuel in the Arctic that they helped warm. Mainstream media won’t connect the dots between Climate Change and the predictions made from a litany of expert Climate Change studies. A visage of a world dominated by extreme weather, drought, and incalculable suffering for those incapable of gating their communities against what’s coming looks inevitable. (To get an idea of what’s coming, read 2052 A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, and any one of these studies: Climate Change studies).

But what Grant had going for him was a realistic appraisal of the war’s probable outcome—what most other generals in the Civil War failed to grasp. So also do those who understand that despite the wealth of Climate Change deniers and the public’s disinclination to take responsibility for this manmade phenomenon, there can be no backing off in our efforts to inform the public and stop Climate Change. As more and more people, businesses, and governments realize that things are only getting worse doing business as usual, they will not be supporting those who told them Climate Change is a hoax. Their lies and denials will fall away as the predictions of a warmer planet become more obvious. It will be the efforts of those who have continued to warn about Climate Change, despite all those who became bored, hoodwinked by the press and lied to by the fossil fuel industry, who will prevail. Don’t give up, never surrender to the feeling that our efforts to change the direction of Climate Change are in vain.

Grant wasn’t a brilliant man, but a man who could hold to his objectives despite all odds. Unconditional Surrender Grant, as he was sometimes called, moved inexorably towards his goal of defeating the South because he knew the nature of war. The nature of Climate Change is such that no amount of money spent on making some individuals richer will defeat the reality we are headed for. Only a great change in collective human behavior will change that.

One way to make that change is to make sure our presidential elections don’t ignore Climate Change:

SIGN OUR PETITION TO ASK OBAMA AND ROMNEY AT THE  PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: "HOW DO YOU PLAN TO ADDRESS THE CLIMATE CRISIS?" Put Climate Change on the Agenda in the First Presidential Debate: Dear Debate Moderator Jim Lehrer, In your role as moderator of the first presidential debate, you have the opportunity to ask questions about the most pressing issues facing our country. We urge you to ask President Obama and Governor Romney how they will confront the greatest challenge of our generation -- climate change.  This summer, the climate crisis has fallen right into America's front yards--in some cases literally. With trees crashing through their windows, fires burning through their neighborhoods, water flooding under their doorsteps, and droughts destroying their crops, Americans have been hurting from the effects of weather extremes that climate scientists have predicted would happen as a result of global warming. "  - League of Conservation Voters

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why the public is blind on Climate Change? Ans: Local Media.


Only one major mainstream media in Rochester, NY has a dedicated ‘environment news’ section. Unless I am mistaken (please contact me if I am) The Daily Record is the only newspaper, radio, TV, or local cable show that has a section solely devoted to reporting on the state of our environment.

This is dysfunctional and delusional for a city the size of Rochester, NY to leave one of the most important issues of our day, our environment, with Climate Change quickly framing all environmental issues, to be left as an ad hoc issue. So many of our major issues must be viewed through the lens of Climate Change—transportation, telecommunications, public health, Brownfields, water quality, invasive species, and preserving our forests –that cannot be understood by the public unless our media continually connects the dots. (BTW: does do this on a local level.)

Our local media has entertainment sections, sports, business, arts, music, and even games but not ‘environment.’ They all will report on an environmental issue once in awhile when something flares up (which, with environmental issues it’s often too late to do anything about them) , while rarely connecting the dots between extreme weather and a rise in vector-driven disease like West Nile Virus which are known to be affected by Climate Change, and that’s about it.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have many Climate Change studies that include our area and explain in-depth what environmental issues will be affected by warming in our region and what is predicted. Read these studies and connect the dots to what we are experiencing now—heatwaves, a rise in West Nile Virus, longer growing seasons, early spring warmings that affect our fruit farmers, and much more.

It’s no wonder that we are having a presidential election without a major discussion on Climate Change. Our media has allowed the public the delusion that Climate Change is still in doubt, still not status quo, still not a major issue understood to be a major issue around the world. But it is.

Our environment is changing rapidly and although it is not happening as quickly and as dramatically as a car crash, it is nevertheless going to dramatically affect all our lives—especially as Climate Change complicates all our environmental issues. Blinding ourselves, by a media that only wants to pander to our desire to ignore such a profound issue and responsibility must change. We will either have to change the media or become the media.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Great Big “Thank You!” to the Rochester, NY Greentopia Festival.


We thank the folks over at the Greentopia Festival for another great year of focusing a laser beam on environmental issues in our Rochester region.

The Greentopia Festival in Rochester, NY is now a major conduit for bringing together the public, films, music, art, environmental groups, local businesses large and small, and the media to have a conversation about our environment.

That is no small accomplishment.

In these extraordinary times when our planet is heating up from Climate Change and our politics buries itself deeper into traditional pockets of denial, this festival and others like it highlight how the realization that our environmental situation is very important to the public.

When people come out and talk to each other about the major issues facing our region—Climate Change, Fracking, recycling, energy conservation, energy efficiency, water quality, and much more—the barriers set up by our traditional silos of informational insularity break down and we become the stewards of our planet.

We the people, that is. Not isolated groups with lots of money.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Film BIDDER 70 a great success in Rochester, NY.

Last night at the beautifully designed Forest Cinema  35 State St. in Rochester, NY 14614 ‘Bidder 70’ played to a full house of Rochesterians hungry to see the story of our newest Climate Change hero.

The Rochester’s Greentopia Film Festival showed the story of Tim DeChristopher’s heroic effort to do something concrete about Climate Change to a full house to very engaged audience. Tim “arrived at a Bureau of Land Management auction as a protestor; a few hours later, he left as nothing less than a hero.”

George Gage accepted the Greentopia Film Award and it is a tribute to both George and his wife Beth (both directors of this film) that Tim’s story, rather than a victory for the fossil fuel industry who plotted to drill oil on pristine Utah lands, ends up as an amazing heroic tail of courage and commitment and a message to us all, even in Rochester, NY, that Climate Change is real and must be address if the present generation is going to have a viable future.

Make a commitment to see this film and believe that Climate Change is more than vague mental exercise in physics—and then get as many in your social network to see it also.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Addressing Climate Change in Rochester, NY by biking to Greentopia


Of course bicycling is a great way to get around town, a method that’s fun and healthy. Think of bicycling as a way of curbing our national obesity crisis, or releasing those endorphins (that natural feel-good sensation after you’ve worked out). Not to mention (but which I will) all the benefits of not buying, financing, maintaining, insuring, fueling, and parking that gas-guzzling goliath that consumes a big part of your paycheck.

But that’s not all. There’s a loftier way of looking at active transportation (walking and bicycling), a way that makes an existential statement about our present collective consciousness. Ok, that’s a little too lofty. Let me ratchet that down a bit. Let me see… How about I use an anecdote? You’re at a large wedding party having a wonderful time. Meanwhile someone has broken into your car and stolen your purse with all your credit cards, family photos, keys, and money. I see the break-in, but fearing that I will upset your day, I wait until the entire wedding is over, including the clinking of glasses, and those maudlin melodies about love and being married that every wedding band marches out. People weep with joy.

You’re not happy with me right? Sure, you had an uninterrupted good time, but the thieves have run your credit cards through the roof and broken into your house and taken all your stuff. I’m sure you rather I had chased you down, told you about the break-in, and handed you my phone to call the police.

This little story is my way of saying this: We are at a point in our history where our actions are warming the planet. What we buy, what we eat, how we heat our homes, and how we travel about have an enormous effect on warming our planet. All these major activities consume energy, and most of our present energy burns fossil fuels and warms the planet, making Climate Change worse. In case you missed the heatwaves, drought, and wildfires this summer, read this short study Ruined Summer: How Climate Change Scorched the Nation in 2012, by the National Wildlife Federation.

I know, I haven’t completely connected the dots from my little story to the point I’m making, but I will soon.

In order to address something as profoundly complex as the heating of our planet, we need solutions that will work on a large scale and affect change quickly. One of those ways is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation segment of our lives, which according to the Environmental Protection Agency, constitutes 27% of those emissions. So, if you bike or walk those short distances (less than six miles) you along with everyone else can significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Hold on just a little more, I’m almost to the reason for my little wedding story…

There’s a big bike ride coming up in Rochester where you can help demonstrate to the rest of our community and our government that active transportation should be a major component of our region’s transportation network. This event is part of this year’s Greentopia Festival:

Greentopia Bike the Bridges: Rochester Cycling Alliance’s Bike the Bridges: This event is inspired by the original Bike the Bridges ride in Portland Oregon. It’s a self-guided bike ride, starting at 9am-10:30am, September 15th. The ride will start at Genesee Valley Sports Complex, cross the Genesee River, and end up at High Falls via the Pont de Rennes Bridge. Encouraging alternative transportation to and from the festival is our way of supporting healthy living activities such as walking, running, and biking. Click here to view brochure

I’m almost there, let me squeeze in this little bit…

Rochester, NY—a medium-sized city in the temperate zone (think snow, though not as much as there used to be)—has been slowly increasing bicycling as transportation, with the help of the Rochester Cycling Alliance. Over the years, our little city, challenged by the weather and a stubborn belief by some that our streets are only for their cars, has seen many advances in active transportation:

Ok, I inserted more than just a little bit. My bad. But, I promise, here comes my point of the stolen purse story…

There are some who’ll say that I shouldn’t try and promote this event by bringing up the specter of Climate Change—even after this crazy-weather summer that is probably the new normal. They say I should just say how healthy biking can be, how much fun you’re going to have bicycling at this demonstration ride, and hope (given the quirky autumn weather) that it’s a nice day.

But I say, all of us need to take responsibility for Climate Change and change how we use energy, change who we vote for, and look for events that will stovepipe our efforts for more clout on addressing the most critical issue of our time. This ride can be part of that effort. Rather than allow us the delusion that everything is fine (the wedding), we should recognize that our planet and our future is in trouble (the stolen purse) and that it’s better to stop the party and deal with this real situation (calling the police), rather than have to explain to our kids why we didn’t do anything.

See, I told you I’d connect the dots. Just one more little story…

FDR knew that the US would eventually have to enter the Second World War, despite a very isolationist American public. World War I wasn’t a picnic and the American public didn’t want anything to do with the conflagration overseas that ignited in 1939. So, FDR quietly ramped up US efforts with the Lend-Lease program to supply our allies with materiel for war. This in turn ramped up our economy for the struggles ahead. While FDR could not know precisely where and when we would be attacked, he knew that change was ahead and that we needed to prepare as best we could.

Today, we know Climate Change is happening and happening more quickly than we could have ever imagined. Let’s use every opportunity, like this demonstration bike ride to the Greentopia Festival, to move out of our comfort zone and into the zone of responsible inhabitants of this planet. Climate Change won’t be a wedding cake, but if we act together it doesn’t have to be a stolen purse.

Ok, that was a little forced. But you get the idea. Come on a bike ride with us and have some fun and help save the planet.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

“Bidder 70,” not DeChristopher, coming to Rochester, NY to talk about Climate Change


Bidder 70” is coming to Rochester, NY for the Greentopia Festival to talk about Climate Change on Friday, September 14, 2012, but not Tim DeChristopher because the fossil fuel industry had him thrown in prison for outsmarting them. The fossil fuel industry did that because they have an infinite supply of fantastically expensive lawyers who convinced the federal government that a private citizen shouldn’t try to protect our public lands from being exploited by them and warming the planet.

The truth is that the fossil fuel industries were really annoyed. Tim had so befuddled them by walking into a public meeting, filled with the incredibly rich fossil fuel industry bidders, and out-bid them with only his knowledge of what manmade Climate Change is doing to his generation. So, they threw the full weight of the US government on a man armed with only his brains. They thought they had so much money that they could out-bid anyone but were outflanked by a citizen who just started bidding on what was essentially his and our land. Stupidly, the fossil fuel industry forgot to set up a byzantine procedure for bidding with all sorts of industry cooked-up credentials, as they usually do, so that Tim was able to just start bidding—and beat their pants off.

Here’s a description of all that:

One day in December 2008, 27-year-old Tim DeChristopher arrived at a Bureau of Land Management auction as a protestor; a few hours later, he left as nothing less than a hero. His spur-of-the-moment decision to impersonate a bidder (the “Bidder 70” of the film’s title) and fraudulently offer $1.8 million for 22,000 acres of Utah wilderness earmarked for oil exploration immediately propelled him to the front lines of environmental activism – and into the crosshairs of a federal prosecution that ultimately led to a two-year prison sentence. Thoughtful, optimistic and inspirational, Bidder 70 explores the nature of activism, and echoes DeChristopher’s commitment to his cause. George Gage, Director in attendance and recipient of Greentopia | FILM Fork in the Road Award.  Awards Human Rights Watch Film Festival | Official Selection
Traverse City Film Festival | 2012 Best American Film –from

But let’s get real. The question is not really, why is Tim in prison? The real question is why aren’t we all willing to move out of our comfort zone to address Climate Change? Why does it take a few heroes like Tim DeChristopher to get the rest of us to the do the right thing? Why did it take the abolitionists, and only a relatively few others, to rise up in order to avoid a war that killed 600 souls to stop slavery? Why couldn’t have all those people, North and South, who knew it was wrong to subjugate and exploit another people to just stop doing that and treat them as equal? And why, despite thirty years of proof and consensus by a majority of the scientists in the world, do a few folks have to sacrifice themselves to get the rest of us to address something as obvious as Climate Change?

2012 should be a time to examine ourselves and find out how we can move together to solve the most critical issue that has befallen our species—our complicity in warming the planet and threatening all life on it. But instead, we fight the change needed to move us away from the greenhouse gas emitting industry. Instead, we give into their crazy arguments—that they only they can provide enough jobs and supply us with sufficient power without being subsided by the government, which isn’t true.

Instead, we are getting pummeled by mainstream media, which is bloated by billions of dollars from a disastrous Supreme Court decision, that greenwashing the fossil fuel industry and denying Climate Change is OK. Except for this dismissal by Romney--Romney treats climate as a punchline-- and this off-hand remark by Obama--Obama tells crowd: “Denying climate change won’t make it stop” --, we are not getting informed on Climate Change, nor are we having a discussion during this presidential election year on it.

How can we get beyond such a delusional system that will surely cook our children? One way is to listen to the heroes of our time. A hero, a word too often misconstrued as someone who makes a lot of money at a sports activity, is rather an individual who scarifies themselves for the benefit of all. There are many heroes fighting to bring Climate Change to the forefront of the public’s attention, though few have endured the harsh sentence passed on to DeChristopher.

So, even though addressing Climate Change is the US official policy (see Administration Releases 10-Year Global Change Strategic Plan, that includes input from 13 departments of the government) we are acting as if we are outsourcing Climate Change responsibility to the developing countries.

Let’s stop being that way. Let’s get engaged with the most important issue of our time. Tim cannot come to Rochester, NY right now and talk to us about Climate justice. But you can watch Bidder 70 along with many other environmental activist films at the Greentopia Film Festival that try, despite a dysfunctional media and a ludicrous presidential election, to put a little reality into our lives:

Greentopia | FILM is the documentary film festival within the greater Greentopia festival, which corrals film, music, art - even cars and fashion - to explore the themes of sustainability and innovation, broadly applied. During September 11-15, we will screen more than a dozen documentaries on topics from glaciers and wind power to community, health and economic sustainability. There are parties, dinners, multimedia installations, and a kids program.  See for details, but below are the 12 feature docs that will be screening at Nazareth College, The Little Theatre, the Forrest Cinema (a repurposed bank building at 35 State St.), and one screening at Tinseltown of a gorgeous 3D large format-film about reefs - a rare family-friendly environmental film.