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.

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