Saturday, March 30, 2013

You go into Climate Change with the environment you have


BringItOnIn 2004 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld infamously said, “You go to war with the army you have---not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” He said this in response to a soldier’s question about the lack of sufficient armor for our troops in Iraq. The statement was infamous not so much because it was factually untrue, but because Rumsfeld failed to mention that the Iraq War was a war of choice—something Bush II cooked up in a moment of hubris. Rumsfeld should have said something like, “In a war of our own choosing, we should have waited until we were better prepared.” But that’s not what you say when you think you’re top dog and you want what you want when you want it.

In much the same way we are going to battle against Climate Change with the environment we have today, an environment not as robust and resilient as we would wish it to be. Five-hundred years ago, a blink in geological time, our rivers were teeming with fish, our air clean, wildlife plentiful, birds in numbers that darkened the skies, and our soil free of manmade chemicals. Today, just staying in place, keeping our environment healthy, is a challenge. We must stock our streams to have enough fish to fish.

Here’s a wonderful way to express the incredible challenge of wildlife adapting to Climate Change in one pithy sentence: “Some migratory species yo-yo from the Southern Hemisphere to the Arctic and back, countering the planet’s seasonal tilt, to remain in more or less continuous summer all year.” NY Review of Books. You can view seasonal bird migrations as their strategy for staying in the same climate they are adapted to. (Which, is great if you have tens of thousands of years to adapt.) But we are warming the planet far faster than birds, or most plants and animal species for that matter, can evolve their way to survival. There is going to be a lot of collateral damage—and our present environment doesn’t have much cargo we can spare to throw overboard.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a report this week on our streams and rivers that revealed they are in seriously degraded condition. They are in very poor health, not in the kind of health needed to withstand a rapid warming.

Most streams, rivers in poor health for water life: EPA Fifty-five percent of U.S. river and stream lengths were in poor condition for aquatic life, largely under threat from runoff contaminated by fertilizers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday. High levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, runoff from urban areas, shrinking ground cover and pollution from mercury and bacteria were putting the 1.2 million miles (1.9 million km) of streams and rivers surveyed under stress, the EPA said. "This new science shows that America's streams and rivers are under significant pressure," Nancy Stone, acting administrator of the EPA's Office of Water, said in a statement. Twenty-one percent of the United States' river and stream length was in good biological condition, down from 27 percent in 2004, according to the survey, carried out in 2008 and 2009 at almost 2,000 sites. (3/26/2013) Reuters

If you don’t have the time to read the whole report, you can read the two-page fact sheet here: The National Rivers and Streams Assessment 2008-2009: A Collaborative Survey

Another report released by the US Department of the Interior describes how our fish, wildlife, and plant resources are going to be challenged during Climate Change: National Strategy Will Help Safeguard Fish, Wildlife and Plants in a Changing Climate. It says just about everything that constitutes our environment—fish, wildlife, plants, deserts, forest, shrublands, aquatic tundra, inland waters, grasslands, marine, Western pines, waterfowl, salmon, oysters, butterflies, commercial fisheries, polar bears--are in trouble. Again, you can read the short version if you don’t have time for the long version.

The report says “The problem is serious and urgent. The nation must prepare for and adapt to a changing climate.” But the report also says, “The Climate Adaptation Strategy … provides specific voluntary steps …. The strategy does not prescribe any mandatory activities for government or nongovernmental entities, nor suggest any regulatory actions.” The key words here are ‘voluntary” and ‘does not prescribe any mandatory activities…’ and they are sure to please libertarians and Climate Change contrarians.

A sort of bring-it-on attitude suffuses our government in that our leaders are aware of the dire consequences of Climate Change, aware of the poor state of health our environment is in, yet fail to lead with any mandatory activities. That’s like asking a multi-national oil company that has just trashed a large part of your marine life to pretty please clean that up. Please. Stiff fines and jail sentences are the only thing polluters understand.

The environment we are taking into Climate Change (and it is our treatment of our environment that has put it in this poor state) is certainly not the one we would want or wish for at a later time. At a later time, our grand children will probably be trying to figure out why we created the circumstances that brought on Climate Change if we were not willing to properly prepare for it.

If we were willing to properly prepare for Climate Change, we’d have long ago addressed this craven absurdity:

IMF: Want to fight climate change? Get rid of $1.9 trillion in energy subsidies. What’s the simplest way to tackle global warming? Make sure that fossil fuels are priced properly and not subsidized. That’s the core idea behind a large new report (pdf) from the International Monetary Fund, which argues that the world “misprices” fossil fuels to the tune of some $1.9 trillion per year. Eliminating these subsidies, the IMF argues, and replacing them with appropriate carbon taxes could cut global greenhouse-gas emissions by 13 percent, curtail air pollution, and shore up the finances of many poorer countries now in debt trouble. (March 27, 2013) Washington Post

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Plant-Based Nutrition Course at the JCC


Taught by Ted D. Barnett, MD

This is the third time this course has been given. Over 115 students have already taken the course including MD’s, RN’s and RD’s.

All profits are donated to charity.

When: Every Tuesday evening for 6 weeks, April 2nd through May 7th, 2013

Time: 7 PM to 9 PM

Where: At the Rochester Jewish Community Center

Cost: $100 for JCC members, $125 for nonmembers 

To register, call the Rochester Jewish Community Center at: (585) 461-2000

Why?  Many people have become interested in learning how to live on a diet that does not include animal products. Their curiosity may have been aroused because of an interest in health, the environment, sustainability, factory farming, animal abuse, social justice, or all of the above. This course was created to meet their needs.

Goal: Participants will learn the rationale behind eating a low-fat, whole-foods plant-based diet. By the end of the course, participants will be comfortable feeding themselves and their families a healthy diet that contains no animal products. They will have learned how to eat out at restaurants and at the homes of friends and family. They will be able to explain how eating this diet benefits their health, the future of the planet, the welfare of animals, and our nation’s prosperity and security.

Course Instructors: Ted D. Barnett, M.D. (primary instructor) with Carol H. Barnett, Ph.D., J.D. assisting. Dr. and Mrs. Barnett are Co-Coordinators of the Rochester Area Vegetarian Society (RAVS). They and their three children (ages 25, 23, & 20) have been vegan for over 21 years. Dr. Barnett graduated from Yale College in 1976 and Tufts University School of Medicine in 1980. He received his board certifications in Diagnostic Imaging in 1984 and Vascular & Interventional Radiology in 1995. He has practiced in the Rochester area since 1986.

Details about the course: This is a 6-week course, with each session lasting 2 hours. The cost is $100 for JCC members and $125 for nonmembers. Attendees will receive printed materials and other handouts; they will also have access to a wealth of websites, resource lists, and recipe files to complement their learning. Attendees will benefit from taking any one of the classes, as the main concepts will be repeated at each class.

There will be two lectures per class with a break in the middle for food sampling. There will be plenty of opportunity for question-and-answer both during the break and at the end of class. During the break, students will be able to sample dishes prepared by Carol Barnett according to recipes included with the handouts for that class. This is not a cooking demo but students can see and sample the dishes as prepared, and Carol will be happy to answer questions about ingredients, techniques, and variations on the recipes.

For more information go to and click on “Course Resources” or contact,

Saturday, March 23, 2013

New York State faces critical lack of environmental data


EVDataAs Governor Cuomo gets pummeled by gun control and Fracking issues, the media downplays a recent major accomplishment. It is ",” a state-sponsored web site that provides all kinds of raw data pertaining to New York State for free, in various formats, including apps. It may not sound like much to you, but that’s due to our media’s bizarre ability to place emphasis on news in the reverse order of its importance. Considering the present media crisis, you’d think they’d make a bid deal of it. Think of it, the media has just been given a goose-laying pile of golden information that means they can spend even less time and money on investigative reporting.

I know, if it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead. So we’ll go straight to the primary source, the governor’s press release:

Governor Cuomo Launches Open.NY.Gov Providing Public Unprecedented User-Friendly Access to Federal, State and Local Data Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today launched "," a new and comprehensive state data transparency website that provides - for the first time - user-friendly, one-stop access to data from New York State agencies, localities, and the federal government. The website, featuring economic development, health, recreation, and public services information, was unveiled today during Sunshine Week, a nationwide initiative designed to raise awareness about the importance of open government. " creates unprecedented transparency across all levels of government and gives the people user-friendly access to vast quantities of information on our State," Governor Cuomo said. "This new website will dramatically increase public access to one of our most valuable assets - data. As it expands and evolves over time, will spark innovation, improve efficiency, promote accountability, and bring the people back into government." Albany, NY (March 11, 2013) Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

However, Rochester and most communities around the state and the country have a critical shortage of environmental information (raw data) available to the public. In order to adapt to and mitigate the challenges we face by Climate Change, we need to know as much as we can about what’s actually going on in our environment--not what the press, government, industry, or private groups want us to think. Grant writers, both private and public, need data to buttress their efforts to address environmental health degradation, like lead poisoning. Planners for our water infrastructure need to know if our extreme rainfall events have increased, threatening overflows in our present combined sewer systems. Our health agencies need to know if our summer temperatures are increasing so they can properly protect the public from overheating and dangerous warmth-related diseases like malaria, Lyme disease, and West Nile Virus.

To properly plan for our warming future, we need to know the exact state of our environment, including all the niggling little details. We also need to know Climate Change indicators. Here are samples of the information the governor’s new data collection might contain: By how many days has the growing season in our region lengthened in the last century? How much has ice cover diminished (think evaporation and lower water levels) on the Great Lakes in the last thirty years? What manmade chemicals and heavy metals are in our lakes, rivers, and streams? How often are our beaches closed and why? How many of what kind of fish are being restocked in what bodies of water and how often? How many coyotes are there in New York or around Rochester? How many (domestic and feral) cats are roaming around killing how many of what kind of birds? How many wind turbines, cars, glass buildings, and property disruptions are killing birds? What birds do we see earlier each spring? What are our bird wintering ranges? How many wells fail? How many Climate Change studies pertain to our area—including the one Cuomo yanked? What percent of the land around public bodies of water are privately owned? What businesses are reporting toxins and what are the toxins they are reporting? How many cars, bikes, and pedestrians accidents are there in our area? How many commute by bike? How many folks opt for green alternatives to pesticides and herbicides—like Integrated Pest Management Control? How many rabies incidents are there in our region, carried by what animals? Where are all the old dumps in our region and what are in them? Are these old dumps leaching heavy metals into our water and soils and if so what metals and in what concentrations? What kind of litter is blowing around in our environment and in what amounts? What manmade chemicals are in our land, water, air, and in our bodies, and in what amounts? How many high ozone days do we have each summer? How many unused phone books are lying on folk’s porches? Heat-related deaths? Streamflow? What is our air quality? What is our county’s recycling rate? Is that going up or down and how does it compare with state figures? How many days over 90 degrees are there in our region and how many nights over 85 degrees? What is the plastics concentration in Lake Ontario? How many private and public facilities use solar power, wind power, or geothermal? What are all the pharmaceuticals in Lake Ontario and which ones get filtered out by our wastewater treatment plants? How often does local news connect the dots on climate change? How many teachers teach climate change in local high schools? How many Brownfields are there in our region and how many need to be cleaned up? What are our flora’s leaf and bloom rates? How many businesses build on cleaned-up Brownfields? How much of our dirt (soil) is covered by pavement, highways, buildings, parking lots, and driveways? I could go on.

Some of this information already resides on, like the rise of farmers markets in New York State in the past decade, wind energy project numbers and locations, and data on NYS population shifts. But it’s not enough; not even close. Our environment is a pretty complex place and we’ve already challenged it a lot from pollution and industrialization over the last couple of centuries. Climate Change is coming on quickly. We need to know all we can to plan for Climate Change because, like a hospital expecting a deluge of patients from a massive car pile-up, everything must be stocked up and ready as possible for what’s coming.

Raw data about what’s going in all aspects of our environment is invaluable because our environment no longer runs on its own. We’ve seriously mucked with the biological machinery. We are the top predators, the main water users, the largest land disturbers, the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, the biggest energy and food gobblers, and the most numerous of all the animal species larger than a rat.

Some will whine that the state, private industries or our universities don’t have money or the bandwidth to gather this info. I’d drop that suicidal line of reasoning and ditch a lot of other projects and gather this environmental information. Train and pay citizen scientists. Offer students to volunteer to gather and compile this data and then write them up a great recommendation. Make this data collection a tax subsidy, like the billions we give away to the fossil fuel industry each year. You can help. Go to "” and suggest some datasets. Then, suggest that your communities use this information and get going on adapting to Climate Change.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rochester, NY solutions to Climate Change


GeneseeRiverA long time ago and far away, I remember a nun at my church admonishing me, “You don’t love candy. You love God.” Though it seemed to me that I very much did love candy (especially chocolates), I now understand what she was saying after a half-century—even though to her probable horror I’ve ended up as an atheist. There are things more important than the mere existential pleasures our culture has to offer. Like Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Sustainability (Life).

I mention this personal anecdote to bring up our present fixation on things that don’t matter much, forgetting the things we should love. However much we might ‘love’ our dogs, our favorite team, and our car, if we don’t make it through the wormhole of Climate Change those other things won’t matter much because just trying to survive will take up the whole of our existence .

I know, oftentimes it is hard to believe (like a kid trying to appreciate the concept of God) in things you cannot personally perceive. Though local warming has increased our growing season by a week or so since the 1800’s, this phenomenon is mostly invisible to us who only live for an average of 70 years. We cannot see species die off, the seas rise, or poor folks across the planet run out of drinking water. We have to trust science and history to give us the proper perspective on Climate Change. To that end, it’s worthwhile to Zen for a moment this sentence in the conclusion of Something New Under the Sun, An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World, by J. R. McNeill.

“Modern history written as if the life-support systems of the planet were stable, present only in the background of human affairs, is not only incomplete but is misleading.” (Page 362)

It’s misleading to think that because we have survived and thrived to this point in history that we shall continue do so in the future, given past environmental damage and the rapid warming of our planet. And it is ‘incomplete’ to think we can solve Climate Change in Rochester, NY (or anywhere else for that matter) by continuing to do the same things that got us in this predicament.

We can change that. We have solutions to Climate Change at the Rochester, NY level that will radiate to the planetary level; we just have to get going on them.

Probably the biggest bang for the buck in solving Climate Change in Rochester is increasing active transportation and decreasing present vehicular transportation. That’s going to be difficult as our new cars have more distractions than ever—a lot of which probably belong in our living rooms not in those metal capsules we use to barrel through our city streets. You can find out more about local efforts on active transportation by attending the Genesee-Finger Lakes Active Transportation Summit on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 from 8am-5pm at the Rochester Riverside Radisson Hotel on 120 East Main St, Rochester, NY. Also, coming up on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm Brighton Memorial Library, 2300 Elmwood Avenue, Brighton, NY  is a program by Color Brighton GreenGood to Go “The project is designed to encourage healthy lifestyles and promote the use of alternative transportation instead of driving alone.”

Then we should focus on increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has a lot of ways for businesses and homeowners to conserve energy and increase energy efficiency. That means unnecessary GHG’s going into our atmosphere—from leaky homes. As for renewable energy, just this week a major report out of Cornell University says that New York could drop fossil fuels altogether and have lots of energy by 2030: New York's fossil fuel: Gone with the wind ... water and sun  This means we can drop the insanity of Fracking in New York State altogether; the issue that is now splattered all over mainstream media, an issue that shouldn’t have been about Fracking in the first place. It should have been about energy use and production in a time of Climate Change.

We should have more public meetings on Climate Change like we had last Sunday—In the Hot Seat: Global Climate Change and its effect on us—where every community has a chance to learn and discuss how this crisis will affect our region. We should encourage more of our leaders to speak out on addressing Climate Change in Congress.  More leaders like Senator Sheldon Whitehouse must stand up against deniers and the fossil fuel lobby in our government if we are to implement government plans to adapt to and mitigate Climate Change: Sheldon Sets the Record Straight on Climate Change "I speak out on climate change each week because the cost of Congress' inaction is too high for our communities, our kids, and our futures."

We should have more public comment on environmental concerns as they relate to Climate Change when changes occur in our community like the City of Rochester’s Center City Master Plan Survey. Or, comment (you have until April 15th) when our state’s predominant environmental agency leaves out language that prohibits Fracking in one of our city’s drinking water regions: The Hemlock-Canadice Unit Management Plan (UMP) We should increase investigative reporting on Rochester’s environment, like the state of the Genesee River’s health, and we should increase environmental data so we can make informed choices with accurate information about recycling rates, air quality, water quality and much more. Go to ACT Rochester and do a great big ask for them to be the source for environmental data in our region. Like them at

We should, in short, get engaged in the most complex and urgent crisis of our time by acting locally in such a way that these actions get stovepiped to a planetary level. Don’t just use a transportation option that will be a solution for Climate Change for you; make sure everyone does. The solutions for Climate Change will never be found in our insatiable desire for things and sugary substances. It will be found when we straighten out our priorities, get those greenhouse gas levels in our atmosphere down, and do so in a way that makes of us a better, more compassionate species.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

As a standard for Climate Change risk, ‘Unlikely’ is unacceptable


ClimateChangeBotherBy some accounts, US folks accept that Climate Change is happening “with 61% saying the effects of climate change are already affecting them personally or will in their lifetime.” (Recent Polling on Climate Change, 2/ 12/ 2013 — League of Conservation Voters) I like to think this translates into a sense of urgency permeating our culture, but I suspect it does not in any meaningful way. There are still too many excuses why we, the predominate life form on this planet, are avoiding our responsibility. For it is not enough to know that our springs will arrive earlier (Spring May Arrive Five Weeks Earlier by 2100, Study Finds) giving us a longer growing season, then conveniently forgetting that everything—plants, insect pests, birds, butterflies, everything really—will be out of sync. And remember, radical though the warming may be, it’s the speed of the change that is truly frightening.

Not too long ago most Americans thought Climate Change was unproven or just a liberal hoax. Now, while many understand, they don’t understand the comprehensive disruption this will cause—and seek to avoid it. Some reason that that the costs of adapting to and mitigating Climate Change are too expensive. This reasoning isn’t really reasoning at all. It’s insane. It’s like refusing to don your space suit when walking in outer space because you find it too uncomfortable. Or some think their government, or somebody else’s, will address this world-wide crisis without it costing themselves much of anything at all. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

The latest dodge in Climate Change responsibility comes from a new line of argument—the improbability scenarios, or ‘unlikely’ events we need not worry about. (It’s an acknowledgement that Climate Change is happening, but everything will be Ok.) This ‘unlikely’ argument was just used as a reason not to bother commercial ships about bringing in the invasive Asian Carp into the Great Lakes: Study: Asian carp unlikely to stow away in barges. (2/28/2013 Wall Street Journal)

Locally, concerns about Fracking in what was previously a City of Rochester owned forest and drinking water source, but is now a state owned area, is dismissed as unlikely.

But the DEC statement said the nature of Hemlock and Candice — surrounded by steep slopes, used as drinking water supplies and ringed by protected wetlands — would make the agency unlikely to grant a drilling permit there. (N.Y. has 'no intention' of OK'ing drilling near Hemlock, Canadice, 3/5/2013 Democrat and Chronicle)

Of course few are buying that unlikely argument and instead are intent on letting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation know it at the The Hemlock-Canadice Unit Management Plan (UMP), a public informational session on March 14, 2013, starting at 6:30PM at the Springwater Fire Hall, 8145 S. Main St. Springwater, NY.

But the most interesting ‘unlikely’ argument comes from an abstract of a new Climate Study: Global tipping point not backed by science (from E! Science News on 2/28/2013, but really you can find this report all over the Internet)

A group of international ecological scientists led by the University of Adelaide have rejected a doomsday-like scenario of sudden, irreversible change to Earth's ecology. In a paper published February 28 in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, the scientists from Australia, US and UK argue that global-scale ecological tipping points are unlikely and that ecological change over large areas seem to follow a more gradual, smooth pattern.

Sweet: a scientific study that proves a nice and slow and no-interconnected-world-wide crisis.

But I have to say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This story about the report seems delusional at best and reckless at worse (we haven’t been able to read the actual report yet). The story concludes: “Recognising [sic] this reality and seeking appropriate conservation efforts at local and regional levels might be a more fruitful way forward for ecology and global change science."

The problem in ‘proving’ that Climate Change tipping points won’t occur is that it is unlikely to be true. We know that biodiversity loss increases invasive species’ ability to gain control across continents. Certainly the Zebra mussel from a ship’s ballast from Europe has achieve a tipping point in billions of dollars lost in the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes. The reasoning that “the responses of ecosystems to human pressures like climate change or land-use change depend on local circumstances and will therefore differ between localities” reminds me of a famous Zeno’s paradox on infinite regression. This is where a local arrow can never hit it a world-impacting target because it will only be able to go an infinite regression of half-way distances before it ever gets to its target, i.e., local circumstances will differ in their response to disturbances and thus the whole planet will not be affected. Please.

That planetary tipping points are unlikely to occur because local changes are different and unlikely to affect a planetary change is ludicrous—as warming up and cooling down of our planet has always radiated around the world, changing every locality and every locality’s animal and plant life. Cyanobacteria, Earth’s first life forms, emitted oxygen that eventually hit a tipping point so only oxygen breathing animals could survive afterwards. Wildfires in Australia, the American West, and Russia caused by Climate Change have recently caused massive damage from a world-wide warming that is influencing continent after continent—irrespective of boundaries natural and manmade. The conclusion of this report is reductio ad absurdum, kid logic, where a cherry-picking of data comes to the wrong conclusion.

The only logic behind this study is that we must not disturb an economic system that serves us so well – if you’re one of the 1%, not the logic of a very complex and interrelated biological system where we have precious little data, especially in light of the monumental changes humankind has wrought upon the planet in the last five hundred years. [Read: Something New Under the Sun |An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World By J. R. McNEILL]

It is unlikely that you, however often you play the New York State Lottery, will ever win. Yes, it is possible you will win, but depending on a lottery win to support your retirement is foolhardy. It would be equally (though factors of multitudes worse) as foolhardy for all of us to depend on ‘science’ studies that ‘prove’ environmental accidents or tipping points are ‘unlikely’ to occur.

Instead of trying to rationalize our way out of Climate Change with ‘unlikely’ studies, we ought to gather all environmental information about environmental issues, fill in knowledge gaps, and make changes on a planetary scale in order to affect something as incredibly vast as our environment. I’d be leery about any study that told me not to worry my pretty little head about Climate Change and not do anything to disrupt business as usual. We cannot solve Climate Change by continuing to do the same things that caused it.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Changes in attitudes towards Climate Change are not fast enough


ClimateRealThough many are still jazzed from the amazing turnout at the “Forward on Climate Rally” on February 17th, there’s a long way to go. Somehow we have to get the GHG-related .8C temperature increase since 1850 back down to the levels where we thrived—the Holocene epoch. If Fracking proceeds in NYS, it could release as much GHG’s as coal while continually exposing us to ‘fraccidents’. Even if Fracking is blocked, there won’t be much time to celebrate.

Indications are that the US is waking from its Climate Silence slumber and starting to stir. President Obama and governors around the country are beating the drum. Indeed, it was gratifying at the rally to see thousands of bright young folks who ‘get it’ on Climate Change. After all, it’s their generation that is going to get nailed by the consequences and limited choices of a warmer world.

Our local mainstream media is beginning to mention Climate Change because even if they don’t buy the science behind the crisis, they do notice things like ending moose-hunting season: Warmer winters bedevil moose in Minnesota (February 28, 2013) Democrat and Chronicle. People who love guns don’t like their lifestyle upset and they’ll make news if thwarted. That mainstream media still doesn’t connect the dots between Great Lakes water levels and Climate Change, as mentioned in many Northeast Climate studies, indicates that our comprehension of the problem is decades behind schedule.

Actually, the solution to Climate Change is maddeningly simple, one of quickly decreasing GHG’s that will brook no other remedy. We’ll either get our economics and politics in line with sustainability in a warming world, or we won’t. Our politicians need to know you have their back as they maneuver a sea change in how we treat our environment.

As for our economics, you’d think that implementing a Carbon Tax would be the best and easiest way to combat Climate Change.  But even this modest attempt, the Sanders-Boxer bill, to right our economics after centuries of environmental neglect (externalities) throws free market fundamentalists into fits of fiery frenzy.  Those hell bent on preserving an economic system that helped them, but trashed our environment, continue to say it’s their way or no way. When presented with a cap-and-trade scheme based on business-as-usual with emission thrown in, they carp about that and find ways to game it.

Here’s the thing about the Carbon Tax: It may be the last chance for Capitalism to squeeze environmental issues into its relentlessly mindless algorithm before the radical anti-capitalists (see: Occupy movement) start to look pretty darned sensible. Just listen to Janis: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” I know, bucking the system seems unimaginable, but so is trying to survive a 6C temperature rise by 2100. Something’s going to give.

You’d think that after the environmental challenges our species has wrought just in the last century—pollution, microbial contamination, wetlands destruction, and a seven billion population increase—we’d just hold on a moment and let our environment catch its breath. Find out what we’ve done before we move forward. Most probably think to slow down, look around, and think about our situation would be like pausing to smell the roses while racing across a busy four-lane highway. But it’s not our Nature that is compelling us to dash ourselves against reality—it’s an unreasonable economic system.

There are more indications that attitudes are changing on Climate Change. Nearby, there’s a conference on Climate Change that should be going on in every community: Climate Smart & Climate Ready . Meanwhile, Earth Day is coming up, the one day we turn our attention towards the system that created us and keeps us alive. One of the largest and longest running Earth Day events in Rochester, NY is returning for its 15th season:

Sierra Club - Rochester Regional Group to Host International Great Lakes Champion The Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club is bringing internationally renowned speaker Maude Barlow to Rochester for 15th Annual Environmental Forum. –.  The focus of the Forum is the growing movement advocated by Maude Barlow to protect the Great Lakes forever by establishing them as a Public Trust.  At last year’s forum, we began a conversation with Jim Olson of FLOW about protecting our water as a “common good” for future generations, through the legal and political structure of the Public Trust Doctrine.  This year, we'll continue that conversation in a bigger venue to accommodate the large audience that Maude is sure to bring, and we'll dive deeper with workshops the day after her keynote address.   The Forum will highlight the growing threats to our precious Great Lakes and begin building community networks to protect and manage them. Already we have seen increased threats to our water including: hydrofracking, invasive species, algal blooms, global climate change and lower lake levels. (March 1, 2013) Rochester Sierra Club

All this recent attention on Climate Change is welcome. But it is still far short of seven billion human inhabitants immediately shifting to a sustainable way of life.