Saturday, December 26, 2015

Rochester, NY’s downtown future during Climate Change

The foundation of a thriving downtown Rochester encompasses more than a desirable housing market. Consider the case of Flint, Michigan where a bad official decision to save money on public water infrastructure has resulted in the lead poisoning of many children and a drinking water crisis.  When you cannot drink the water, breath the air, or if your built infrastructures (transportation, water, waste, telecommunications, and energy) are crumbing, even a cheap McMansion will be undesirable.

In a changing world, where the past we knew is not an indication of our future prospects, one of the most dramatic changes Rochester and its downtown hub will experience is Climate Change. Our housing market, our job prospects, our public health, and everything else we hold dear will not thrive if our environment (our life support system) is collapsing. In the past we developed and advanced under the delusion that our environment would take care of itself despite our environmental interference.

Things have changed. Or rather, our recognition of our incredible negative effects on our environment has improved—culminating in our growing awareness of Climate Change. Our environment is a much more sensitive biological system that we previously thought. The Paris Agreement, agreed to by almost every nation in the world, should if nothing else remind everyone everywhere that sustaining a viable future must include an urgency to act at every level.

A year ago City Newspaper reported “Rochester to undertake citywide climate inventory” (January 21, 2015) and it looks like the city is finally getting around to it. How robustly the city embraces the community-wide Climate Action Plan (CAP) and other ‘green’ initiatives could determine whether we remain a desirable place to live regardless of downtown development. Rochester is and will be experiencing many changes due to the great warming but not as much as many other areas whose ability to get enough fresh water, maintain farm productivity, and protect themselves from extreme weather will fail long before these vital elements fail here. 

Rochester has been slowly addressing Climate Change, although we have yet to reach the degree of concern equal to the threat. And the public has not been engaged.

In other words, Rochester government is changing its energy profile, assuming I suppose that if they lead on energy efficiency, conservation, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions the public will follow. But if the public doesn’t know that Rochester is leading, the message is lost. 

Rochester has increased their focus on active transportation (walking and bicycling), which not only increases the likelihood that more folks will want to live downtown, but also decreases our fossil-fuel transportation system’s effects on our health and greenhouse gas emissions. But we have not educated the public about the importance of active transportation in combating Climate Change, we see the same old conversations about different transportation modes while the elephant sits in the room ignored.

Rochester has talked about its commitment to addressing Climate Change. But it has not demonstrated its concern to the public in a consistent manner that engages the public or the local media. Climate denial and its devastating obstructionism is still rife in our community. This means we are still talking about solving our existing problems and orchestrating our future development as if Climate Change doesn’t exist. Other areas, including other cities in our country, do not have this problem because they’ve presented their communities with strong climate action plans.

Because of climate refugees, downtown Rochester will probably grow in numbers—one way or the other. The best way would be to ready ourselves by planning and educating the public to gain their support. The other way, business as usual, will be madness.

Ultimately, the most important attraction for a city will not be its snazzy architecture. It will be the likelihood of its prolonged sustainability, and its perception among the affluent that it will flourish.

Time passes. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Not even Rochester, NY sits on the sidelines after the Paris Agreement

While everyone is still trying to get their heads around the Paris Agreement, as it is now called, we should probably spend a moment on what we have achieved. Humanity has finally admitted that Climate Change must be addressed on a level that will actually matter. No more fooling around.

Then we should probably spend at least another moment on what the world agreed to:

What are the key elements? To keep global temperatures "well below" 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and "endeavour to limit" them even more, to 1.5C To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100 To review each country's contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing "climate finance" to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy. (Global climate deal: In summary 12/12/2015, BBC News)

For a species disinclined to react to far-off threats, we agreed on a lot, although not enough to actually bring the temperatures down to a safe level or provide adequate funding for developed nations to thrive.  The Agreement has unleashed a lot of hope and despair and, of course, a lot of carping by those who still believe that all this climate concern is making much of nothing. (How wonderful for them.)

There is hope that the fossil fuel era will close and the renewable energy era will rise. There is hope that the Agreement will focus humanity’s attention on not only enduring this manmade warming phase with grace, but will actually allow us to emerge from it a better steward of our planet, with a healthier and more just society.

There is despair that we’ve started much too late to address this crisis and that our lesser angels will allow our short-term interests to override our long-term survival. That instead of being charitable towards others, we’ll devolve into a constant state of self-destructive meanness as we fight over the last scraps of the bounties we accumulated in the fossil fuel era.

Whether we thrive or perish is up to us, all of us. The Paris Agreement has demonstrated that none of us can watch Climate Change from the sidelines. Especially not the climate deniers, whose worldview is no longer acceptable. Climate denial is now on par with earlier hateful memes, like the belief that some people are inherently better than others.

Not even Rochester, NY can sit on the sidelines. We’ve misspent decades continually refusing to connect the dots to local consequences so we can adapt in a timely manner, or admit to ourselves that we have a moral mandate to help others because much of the existing warmth in the atmosphere is ours. Rochester and New York and the Northeast (and Europe, from whence the Industrial Revolution began) own those dangerous greenhouse gases that are already wreaking havoc.

Overall, environmentalists were hopeful for a successful Paris Agreement in the sense that the baseline for worldwide consensus on the validly of addressing Climate Change would hold, but not so hopeful that the Agreement in and of itself would save us. That, they know, is ahead of us. Bill McKibben, as usual, says it best:

Climate deal: the pistol has fired, so why aren’t we running? | Bill McKibben There can be no complacency after the Paris talks. Hitting even the 1.5C target will need drastic, rapid action With the climate talks in Paris now over, the world has set itself a serious goal: limit temperature rise to 1.5C. Or failing that, 2C. Hitting those targets is absolutely necessary: even the one-degree rise that we’ve already seen is wreaking havoc on everything from ice caps to ocean chemistry. But meeting it won’t be easy, given that we’re currently on track for between 4C and 5C. Our only hope is to decisively pick up the pace. In fact, pace is now the key word for climate. Not where we’re going, but how fast we’re going there. Pace – velocity, speed, rate, momentum, tempo. That’s what matters from here on in. We know where we’re going now; no one can doubt that the fossil fuel age has finally begun to wane, and that the sun is now shining on, well, solar. But the question, the only important question, is: how fast. (December 13, 2015) The Guardian

Time passes. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle article on Climate Change breaks records

This Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (D&C) article is hands down the most important local article on why COP21 Paris matters to Rochester. This connecting-the-dots article between Climate Change and the local consequences is crucial for our public to understand why Climate Change needs to be communicated in such a way so that the pubic backs their leaders to strongly address Climate Change. We hope to see more continual coverage of how Climate Change is affecting our region so we here in Rochester can plan for and adapt as quickly and painlessly as possible to this worldwide crisis. 

Paris on the Genesee: Why it matters As the global climate summit known as COP21 begins its second full week, Paris seems a long way away. But what happens at the climate talks there does matter here. Western New York, like everywhere, is vulnerable to severe stress and disruption as our climate warms and the weather changes. The talks by officials from 195 countries are intended to minimize the scope of those disruptions, which have already begun. The goal of the COP21 talks is to agree on universal goals to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. (If you must know, the acronym signifies the 21st Conference of the Parties, meaning the countries that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The first COP was in  Berlin in 1995.) These gases, principally carbon dioxide but others as well, are warming the Earth's climate by trapping heat that would otherwise escape into space. The predominant source of man-made carbon dioxide is burning of fossil fuels — coal and natural gas in power plants, gasoline and diesel fuel in vehicles — plus the burning of wood and some manufacturing processes. (December 8, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

This article manages to communicate to a wide and diverse local public: that the COP21 Paris Climate Summit matters to Rochester, that Climate Change is changing our weather, that manmade greenhouse gas emissions from our transportation and energy sectors are the cause of this Climate Change, that we are already experiencing heavy rainfall (flash flooding) as reported in official climate studies, that Rochester is already “2.3 degrees higher than it was 150 years ago”, that the melting of the Arctic is making our winters too whacky to predict, that our growing season has changed, that some of our worst weeds may thrive and our best crops not fare so well, that our wildlife will be more stressed, that there are more blue-green algae blooms in our ponds and lakes, and that we must evolve towards better and cleaner energy options. All of which I have been reporting on for years, hoping our media, environmental groups, public officials, and our pubic would recognize the gravity and urgency of our situation and start planning for this new normal. We have frittered away a lot of precious time by not tackling this sooner.  

The local environmental community understands the significance of this D&C article on Climate Change as the numbers of ‘reaches’ on their social media have broken all records. On the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition Facebook page alone, almost 600 folks have viewed this article and the numbers go well over a 1,000 when more groups are included. Those numbers exploded to these highs in only two days—and trust me we never get those kinds of numbers on a single posting. (Cute puppy videos doing cute tricks get these numbers but we don’t.) Those waiting for mainstream media to connect the dots with the local consequences of Climate Change have been waiting a long time for this kind of article—and they want more. The public must be engaged on Climate Change and despite the rise of the Internet, whoever rules mainstream media gets to talk to all of the people.   

Today (12/11/2015) while waiting for the outcome of the Paris summit, two stories I came across highlight why articles like the D&C article are so important. Both are about our infrastructures—transportation and wastewater. The first is about the continual inadequate funding for local highways. Keeping our local transportation system infrastructure safe and sound not only means keeping up with the needs of the system but also preparing it for the extreme weather that comes with Climate Change—more heat and more flash flooding. The public needs to understand the problem so we can properly prepare. When our transportation system fails, you cannot get around or address emergencies. A crippled transportation system is not something you can fix at the last minute. Climate Change means planning. 

Ontario County highway crews push for fair infrastructure funding Upstate roads and bridges are in are in need of work — and the money to pay for it, highway crews and local state legislators say. Ontario County has more than 1,200 culverts, which carry water from a stream or open drain underneath a road. Over 46 percent of them require major work, said Bill Wright, commissioner of public works for the county. And it can be costly — a culvert replacement project this year on County Road 16 in the town of Canandaigua cost in the neighborhood of $1 million. (December 10, 2015) Brighton-Pittsford Post

The other story is out of Portland, Oregon, a city that has been preparing for Climate Change for over twenty years. This story highlights how just any kind of planning is not enough. The public must understand the nature of the beast, as it were, so their officials fund and plan adequately. Portland had planned for a one-in-twenty-five-year flood, thinking the public would never go for more dramatically expensive updates. But Portland just got a one-in-one-hundred-year flood.

Why Portland's drainage system failed to stop this week's flooding PORTLAND, Ore. - Parts of Portland looked more like a lake this week after the city saw near record rainfall. On Monday, Portland's third wettest day ever, the Pearl District flooded as manholes overflowed. The brown water they spewed was around 90 percent storm runoff and 10 percent sewage, according to the city's Bureau of Environmental Services (BES). Similar scenes played out throughout the city this week as creeks and drains overflowed and people had to take sometimes desperate measures to avoid being stranded and stay out of the muck. So how did it happen in a city with a massive and expensive drainage system? (12/9/2015, KATU)

I believe that if our media continually reported on local consequences of Climate Change in the way the D&C did this week, public attitudes would change. When attitudes change, the public will begin voting differently. The public will vote for leaders who understand all the implications of a warming climate quickly and address it properly.

Once the public understands what has been set in motion with Climate Change, that a great giant has been awakened by our deeds and that this giant is now stirring, they will understand the urgency and level of threat this crisis poses. 

Now we know our media knows the nature of the problem. Could this recognition of our new climate normal will become the new norm for local reporting? For all our sakes, let us hope so.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Best media coverage of Rochester’s Global Climate March was Indymedia Rochester, NY

Getting adequate media coverage on Climate Change in Rochester, NY has been a long struggle. While not openly denying Climate Change, most local media fail to connect the dots between the local consequences of this worldwide crisis. This leads the public to think that Climate Change is not a local issue that needs public support for planning and a citizenry not engaged in the crisis of our age.

What may happen if mainstream media continues to bury this crisis as a separate silo of concern?  For one, these former leaders of the public communication networks may become null and void. The public will go elsewhere to find out about their reality of a warming world and leave the media that only panders to their prurient interests far behind.

This is what great news coverage of last Sunday’s downtown march, complete with police escort, looks like:

Rochester Rallys for Climate Justice Over 400 people attended the Rochester March for Global Climate Action on Sunday November 30 2015. The event coincided with  United Nations Climate Summit beginning that day in Paris, France.  President Obama and 140 other world leaders are attending the summit.  A large march in Paris had to be cancelled due to the recent armed terror attacks on November 13. But people turned out in solidarity in over 2200 cities around the world including Rochester. The event was organized by the Rochester People's Climate Coalition, formed in 2014. (December 2, 2015) INDY Media Rochester

Two events during the proceedings stand out in my mind: The City of Rochester’s Commissioner of Environmental Services spoke eloquently about how Rochester absolutely has to address Climate Change. Climate deniers have the luxury of carping about the inconvenience of Climate Change, but governmental officials do not. It’s the job of our public officials to protect us from clear and present dangers. This talk before the march gives great credibility to the importance that Climate Change plays in our present lives.

The other event was when the Rochester police, who helped guide our march, allowed 400 of us to take over one of the bridges downtown for a few minutes so we could take photos.
Granted there was some minimal coverage of the march by other media:

And there was valuable pre-march coverage that explained why we were marching, which went far in getting 400+ folks to the march.

I know, if our march was a sports event these numbers would look pathetic. But for local public concern about Climate Change, getting 400 folks out into the streets just after Thanksgiving on a cold day is amazing.

The problem with the coverage was its lack of prominence in our mainstream media. Our march not only didn’t appear above the fold in our major newsprint media, it didn’t appear anywhere. (Don’t you miss the old days in Rochester when we had competing print media?) Most of the TV stations didn’t show up, none of the radio stations, and our public media was not there. Which meant we marched alone—all four hundreds of us with no onlookers cheering us on to a successful Paris.
So, instead of engaging with the rest of the 700,000 folks in Monroe County, we were left in large measure to selfies, which by the way we did very well. Check out this incredible interaction on the event’s Facebook page.  

If mainstream media continues to ignore Climate Change, other media venues will pick up this crucial role. One of the more fascinating ways to reach the public has been social media, especially one social media that connects all Rochesterians in all our neighborhoods. is a wonderful way for neighbors to message neighbors about pending crimes, yard sales, finding specialized contractors, and even discussing local stuff. Later, after I posted the press release for our local march, an explosion of actual interactions on Climate Change took place amongst ordinary local folks. For a moment, lost cats and yard sales gave way to a local focus and discussion within a media that includes all neighbors who are concerned with all sorts of stuff. Although we discovered (in over 100 exchanges) that there is still deep cynicism about Climate Change locally we found many opportunities for enlightenment. We need to break through our silos and discuss Climate Change in all venues where local folks lives are concerned.  

They say (I know, Yogi said it best), it ain’t over until it’s over, and Paris still has many days to go. In Rochester you can stay focused locally on the Paris Climate Summit by checking out the rest of the 12 Days of Climate:

“Following our November 29th kick-off celebration at Rochester’s March for Global Climate Action, RPCC’s Twelve Days of Climate will span the length of the 21st UN Conference on Climate Change.  Twelve Days of Climate is a series of opportunities for Rochesterians to join the fight against climate change.  Each day highlights a distinct approach to solving the climate crisis, and actions you can take.  See the calendar here” (from Rochester People’s Climate Coalition)

Indymedia’s* coverage of the march was the best because they stayed with us. They videoed the speakers’ speeches and allowed the public to express their hopes and concerns as our warming planet gets warmer. When most of those media outlets who are supposed to be informing the public about important stuff were out shopping (or whatever they do on a ‘non-news day’), at least one media stayed with us for the long haul, the long dramatic struggle to get the rest of the public to pay attention to this worldwide crisis.

What has to jump out at you on the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris proceedings is the great silence from our local media at this historic moment. At the end of the COP21, we will be living on a different planet: one where its brainy inhabitants will curb their irresponsible energy use, or one will we will have given up on our collective ability to solve big problems—threatening the future for all. But still, despite all that has passed on Climate Change, our local media either doesn’t know how or is unwilling to report on something that will have profound impacts on every aspect of our lives—even in Rochester.

Time passes. 

* “… a non-commercial, democratic collective of Rochester area independent media makers and media outlets, and serves as the local organizing unit of the global Indymedia network.”

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Why are we demanding that Climate Change messengers make the math work for renewable energy scalability?

Is it the job of environmentalists, renewable energy companies, and scientists to prove that renewable energy is scalable (able to replace the amount of energy we desire) now? It appears as though it is when Climate Change discussions focus on whether renewable energy is ready to fully substitute for the current energy of choice.  

Environmentalist find themselves in the absurd position of having to prove -- to the public, to the media, and (even more absurdly) to economists -- that existing renewable energy options and costs can compete with fossil fuels in order to replace our dependence on fossil fuels. Many environmental groups, in their heroic attempts to appear optimistic and hopeful about a situation that  becomes more dire each day, have in effect promised that humanity can shift quickly to clean, renewable energy options (yes, I’ve been doing this myself). But is it appropriate or even useful to place responsibility for proving this extraordinary claim on the folks explaining the threats of Climate Change, instead of on the very individuals and institutions whose job it is to make our energy options doable and sustainable.

In fact, those pushing for rise of renewable energy and the fall of fossil fuels are doing a superb job at making the case that renewable energy is scalable, fair, and they are even advocating policies to help workers with the transition from bad energy to good. But the conversation about addressing Climate Change continues to be hijacked by scalability and costs and jobs, which are always couched as “gotcha” issues. This allows the public the dangerous delusion that there is an option when there isn’t (suggesting that we can do something else if renewables aren’t scalable). Continuing to burn fossil fuels will perilously warm our planet, period. There’s no either or.

If surviving is a top priority, there is no choice between the renewable energy camp and the fossil fuel camp. It’s like saying humanity has two choices: We can play Russian roulette with one bullet in the chamber or none. If you wish to continue to live, leaving bullets in the gun’s chamber will eventually lead to your demise. (Ok, it’s technically a choice but only for insanely suicidal people.)

Isn’t it enough to make the case that renewable energy won’t warm the planet beyond dangerous limits, whereas continuing our addiction on fossil fuels will? Climate deniers get quite smug about demonstrating to environmentalists, the public, and the media that renewable energy just isn’t up to snuff on providing for our energy needs. They have more facts to back up their position than you can shake a stick at.  

But think about this: Shouldn’t it be the job of our economists and politicians to either show how our present economic system is capable of enabling renewables to provide for our energy needs, or else show us an alternative economic system that is? Isn’t it the job of the economists, the engineers, the politicians to make renewable energy work on a scale that will matter?

Think about this too: What if environmentalists and renewable energy companies fail to make the case that renewable energy as it exists right now is scalable, is able meet our present and future energy demands? If environmentalists and renewable energy companies cannot provide all the energy we want to do whatever we want, despite the proof that manmade Climate Change will bring our life support system to a screaming halt, does that mean we should continue business as usual and destroy human civilization?

Much of the heavy lifting at the COP21 Paris Climate Summit will be shaping a worldwide structure for an energy option that won’t threaten our existence. The net effect of those opposing renewable energy will be a few more years of profitability and then a quick collapse as the economics of stranded assets and biophysics overcome our ability to adapt.

Historically we have treated environmentalist as the complainers along the way to our development of a super species. Because we have put the burden of proof of environmental damage on the victims, we’ve created the absurd stance that only a relatively small group of people need our environment.   
Environmentalists cannot save the world, while the rest go out and shop. We’re too few. All we can really do is ask that the rest of humanity focus on the priority of a life support system that supports us all. If we don’t quickly change the Climate Change discussion so that humanity accepts responsibility for this worldwide crisis, we will perish.

Make renewable energy work!

That is why we ask that thousands come to the streets this weekend to show our support for an ambitious deal at the COP21 Paris Summit that will avert the worst impacts of climate change.  In Rochester, come…

Updated Press Release:

Local Organizations Unite to Launch The

“Rochester March for Global Climate Action”


During the 21st United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris,

Rochesterians will join forces to urge global action against

growing climate problems.


Sunday, November 29, 2015- A coalition of concerned nonprofit organizations, churches, and businesses will march through downtown, to coincide with rallies, marches and other actions world-wide. The march is geared to urge leaders at the 21st United Nations Conference on Climate Change to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.


Supporters are scheduled to meet at The Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene (Two Saints), 17 Fitzhugh St S, Rochester, NY 14614 at 1 p.m. Bishop Prince Singh, Imam Mohammed Shafiq, Norman Jones, Commissioner of Environmental Services, and Mary Lupien of Mothers Out Front, will speak briefly before the march starts. Organizers will lead the march to several locations in downtown Rochester relevant to climate change. By around 2 p.m. the marchers will return to Two Saints for more fellowship and music by the Mt. Hope World Singers and the Dady Brothers. Information will be available on ways to remain involved and on upcoming programs.


WHO: Rochesterians concerned about climate change

WHAT: March for Global Climate Action

WHEN: Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 1 p.m.

WHERE: The Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, 17 Fitzhugh St.

WHY: To urge action from leaders at the 21st United Nations Conference on Climate Change and to raise awareness throughout the Rochester community. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rochester, NY joins with 2,000 actions in 150 countries to highlight COP21 Paris Climate Summit

Due to security concerns, the public Paris Climate March is understandably canceled in Paris, making it all the more important that we march en masse locally.

UPDATE: Citing the heightened security situation in Paris, the French government is prohibiting the Global Climate March planned in Paris for 29 November. While this tragedy makes it difficult to go forward with our original plans, we will still find a way for people in Paris to make the call for climate justice heard. There has never been a greater need for Global Climate Marches throughout the rest of the world, and they will continue as planned. Love will win out over fear, and our movement will win over injustice. We encourage everyone around the world to join a Global Climate March and raise their voices louder than ever. Global Climate March

We need thousands to march locally to show our support for an ambitious deal that will avert the worst impacts of climate change. And yeah I know, everything is against having the media and the public to show up for a major march in downtown Rochester on Sunday November 29th at 1:00 p.m., beginning and ending at The Episcopal Church of St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene, 17 Fitzhugh Street S, Rochester, NY 14614. The march, Rochester March for Global Climate Action!, will occur just after Thanksgiving, the start of Christmas shopping season, while TV sports kick into high gear, when it’s probably cold outside, and during a time when the media is focused on the flurry of activity to address heightened security issues in the aftermath of a major international tragedy in Paris.

We get it. We absolutely care, and yet our attention is once again turned away, as it always is, from addressing the existential crisis of Climate Change. It is human to prioritize immediate threats rather than those perceived to be far off. Except Climate Change is now and far off.

The best encapsulation of this uphill battle to focus on a successful COP21 Paris Climate Summit amidst the Paris tragedy is here:

Why a Climate Deal Is the Best Hope for Peace, BY JASON BOX AND NAOMI KLEIN “After the attacks, the French government stated that the COP21 climate summit would begin as scheduled at the end of November. Yet the police have just barred the huge planned marches and protests, effectively silencing the voices of people who are directly affected by these high-level talks. And it’s hard to see how sea-level rise and parched farmland—tough media sells at the best of times—will have a hope of competing with rapid military escalation and calls for fortressed borders. All of this is perfectly understandable. When our safety feels threatened, it’s difficult to think of anything else. Major shocks like the Paris attacks are awfully good at changing the subject. But what if we decided to not let it happen? What if, instead of changing the subject, we deepened the discussion of climate change and expanded the range of solutions, which are fundamental for real human security? What if, instead of being pushed aside in the name of war, climate action took center stage as the planet’s best hope for peace?” (11/18/2015, The New Yorker.

While we put off the hard work of quickly bringing down our greenhouse gas emissions and failing to appreciate how Climate Change will vastly increase the urgency of all the crises we face, the consequences of a warming planet have marched on relentlessly: 

  • ·         We are going to experience the warmest year in human history.
  • ·         At 1C° we are already halfway to hell and 2C° (the universally agreed upon state of hell) will happen in about two decades if we don’t stop our fossil fuel addiction.
  • ·         The insurance industry is worried about their ability to pay up after Climate Change related disasters.
  • ·         Ocean acidification, where the ocean absorbs much of our CO2 emissions, is already making dramatic changes—and not in a good way.   
  • ·         The permafrost melt is beginning to release methane gas, which is a lot more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. With massive permafrost melt, all bets on a slow and gradual warming are off.  
  • ·         The permafrost melt is beginning to release methane gas, which is a lot more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. With massive permafrost melt, all bets on a slow and gradual warming are off. 
There’s a lot more proof that Climate Change is upon us, but more facts seems to make more people’s eyes glaze over even more. Granted, we are in a very hard place. But shutting down and ignoring what we are up against won’t produce a favorable outcome.  

By now it must be obvious, even to the field of psychological science, that most of the public are not inclined to be motivated by either the facts or the ethics behind Climate Change.

Improving Public Engagement With Climate Change Five “Best Practice” Insights From Psychological Science Despite being one of the most important societal challenges of the 21st century, public engagement with climate change currently remains low in the United States. Mounting evidence from across the behavioral sciences has found that most people regard climate change as a nonurgent and psychologically distant risk—spatially, temporally, and socially—which has led to deferred public decision making about mitigation and adaptation responses. SAGE Journals 

Although the social sciences have some theories and action bullets for getting folks to focus on Climate Change, they aren’t much better at predicting human behavior than our politicians. In fact, the public doesn’t want to hear about Climate Change—it annoys them. They are either overwhelmed or underwhelmed. If you tell folks that Climate Change is a great big complicated problem that will change everything, they get overwhelmed and give up. And if you tell the public that the problem is easy and it won’t inconvenience them they don’t feel compelled to act on a scale that will matter.
Honestly, there are no psychological experts who can study us out of this problem of Climate Change and get humanity to act responsibly. How do you get 7 billion people in a small room with a couch? 

We must stop analyzing why our efforts have been so pathetic and act!

The COP21 Paris Climate Summit is humanity’s best shot for a sustainable future—somehow we have to evolve quickly into a more responsible species. We have to keep our eyes on prize: the prolonged effort it will take to address Climate Change, since even if we reach our emissions goals, we will still have to deal with the emissions we’ve already unleashed. We have to help change our media so that they keep us informed and updated on our progress. We can also Become The Media! Submit your video of your group’s participation in this march to the Fast Forward Film Festival. (Also, help get everyone to the march on November 29th. Take a selfe, post it here with these hashtags #‎RocTheClimate, #‎COP21, #‎LowerEmissionsEverydamnday, and post to the world.)    

We have to get out into the streets and march to demonstrate to the world and our media that the public understands and cares about the gravity of our situation.  If we sit this one out, the media will think we just don’t care that we are about to pass a benchmark that will decide our future.  

We take pride that Rochester was engaged in the battle for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery over century ago. Now, we must hold up our heads to the world as we march for a sustainable existence.  

* If friends and relatives from out of town are visiting, bring them along to the march, with their kids, it’ll be fun and rewarding. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Humanity must change in less than a month; Rochester can help

The negotiations to keep greenhouse gas emissions 2C above preindustrial levels, and do so fairly, begin in Paris on November 30th and continue through December 11th. Humanity, which has developed and thrived in the last two centuries on a fossil fuel energy base, must quickly divert to a renewable energy base for our collective survival. The heat caused by this sudden, manmade Climate Change is jeopardizing our environment, our public health, and our way of life. While much of the public, the fossil fuel companies, and many climate change deniers still (immorally) scoff at these dire predictions, 97% of climate scientists know this to be true. Even the fossil fuel industries know this, although they have been saying otherwise. In fact, many climate scientists believe that the politically-generated goal of 2C is too high and may be too dangerous. Many are hopeful that Paris will set a more realistic emissions threshold.

Success at Paris is far from a done deal. There isn’t enough money to compensate (as promised) the poor nations for Climate Change catastrophes and allow them to develop without more dangerous emissions.  

The rich nations don’t want to make the treaty binding, which is to say they want it to be toothless.

Paris climate talks not just hot air, France tells U.S.  Any global climate change agreement reached in Paris next month will be legally binding and have a concrete impact, France's president and foreign minister said on Thursday, reacting to U.S. comments that questioned the status of the accord. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was quoted as telling Wednesday's Financial Times that December's agreement was "definitively not going to be a treaty". Kerry's remarks drew a stern response from French President Francois Hollande, who was attending a European Union-African summit on migrants in Malta. (November 12, 2015) Reuters 

The rich nations, despite their encouraging rhetoric, are still subsidizing the fossil fuel industry (which have more money than since money was invented).

G20 fossil fuel subsidies four times higher than renewables support  Despite their repeated pledges to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, G20 countries – which produce about three-quarters of global emissions collectively – are still pouring nearly four times more support into coal, oil and gas than renewable energy gets globally, a new report shows. The G20 countries hand out $452 billion per year to fossil fuel companies for production alone, with renewables receiving just $121 billion, says the report, entitled ‘Empty promisesG20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production’, from the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International. This continue support stands in stark contrast to their pledge, and come despite clear analysis warning that three quarters of current fossil fuel reserves have to be left in the ground if the world is to limit the worst impacts of climate change. It also stands in stark contrast to the economic analysis that point towards declining returns in coal and new hard-to-reach oil and gas reserves (November 12, 2015) tcktcktck

All of the above issues with the COP21 compels us to a worldwide Global Climate March to convince our leaders that COP21 Paris must be a binding legal treaty. Nothing else will bring the age of fossil fuels to an end—or it already would have.
In Rochester, find out about our “Rochester March for Global Climate Action” here. 
Ask not how the greenies are going to solve their little problem. Ask how you can help Rochester show up for our worldwide reality check. 
There are many ways to get involved: First, consider listening, calling in, and telling your friends and family about the Monday, November 23rd at 1PM Connections (1370 AM) program on “Rochester March for Global Climate Action” (1-844-295 8255, emailFacebook or Twitter).

Rochester is hosting a major march in downtown Rochester on November 29th to galvanize our leaders to make the COP21 Paris Climate Treaty a legally binding treaty—and meet its other crucial goals. Our march in Rochester will begin the day before the Paris Treaty and it will be a part of a worldwide march to make our voices heard. Connections, with Evan Dawson, will have several local leaders including Dr Sandra Steingraber (biologist, author, activist) talk about the importance of the Paris treaty and why Rochester needs to chime in. Please help us make this march a success—we need thousands in the streets. 

Contact everyone in your social networks about this historical moment in our existence. Learn more about the march locally here: Attend one of the 12 Days of Climate Action (to coincide with the 12 negotiation days of Paris). Share the march event Facebook page with everyone and get them to share this event. Attend ” YOUR FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT YOUR MOST POWERFUL WEAPON AGAINST CARBON, MADE EASY" and learn how to divest from fossil fuels from a local businessman Wednesday, December 2, 7PM- 9PM, The Harley School (1981 Clover Street Rochester, NY  14618). Ask that your media highlight the march. Print and post our flyer wherever permissible—in your college, coffee shop, bar, restaurant, laundromat, wherever.  Print our business-card flyers and hand them to other people. Take a selfe with you and our flyer and post it march event Facebook page and all over your social media.  

Don’t sit this one out. If you cannot march on November 29, assign a proxy to march for you. Paris needs Rochester. Paris may be our last chance to keep GHG emission below dangerous levels.

Time passes.   

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Can we talk Climate Change in Rochester, New York now?

We couldn’t talk about Climate Change much during last week’s elections. (Which is odd because that’s the time when our leaders and our media are supposed to talk about important stuff.) Nevertheless, now that those elections are over and the Paris Climate Change Summit is coming up maybe we can talk about this crisis.

Paris may decide whether humanity dodges the climate bullet or not. So, at the very least shouldn’t we be talking about this issue now?
Climate Change seems to be a lot of things to a lot of people: Climate Change is just science. Climate Change is a moral issue. Climate Change is an economic issue. Climate Change isn’t an economic issue. Climate Change is a hoax perpetrated by some ‘idiots’ who want to socialize the world and take away everyone’s money. Climate Change is dreadful. Climate Change is boring. The oil giants mislead the public about the fossil fuel industries’ contributions to Climate Change. Climate Change is fixable. Climate Change is the end. Climate Change is the beginning of a fair and just world. Climate Change doesn’t have anything to do with folks in Rochester? Climate Change will affect every aspect of your life and everyone everywhere—including Rochesterians. Climate Change has always occurred. The present manmade Climate Change is like nothing that has happened in our planet’s history. We will find an app for Climate Change. We can put up a great big shield in the sky and stop Climate Change. If we pollute our air more, less sunlight will enter our atmosphere and make things cooler. Climate Change is like taking illegal drugs: before you took them, you had a lot of problems but after your hooked you have just one problem. There are a lot of other things more pressing than Climate Change.

Some of the above views are right, some are uninformed opinions, and some are sheer lunacy. But whether you like it or not, Climate Change is here in the room with us and we ought to talk about it because it’s not leaving. Bill Nye, the science guy, thinks talking about Climate Change is critical: 

Bill Nye demolishes climate deniers: “The single most important thing we can do now is talk about climate change.” In a Salon exclusive, the scientist discusses his new book, "Unstoppable," and the urgent need for climate action “To confront climate change, we all have to embrace two ideas. They are simple and familiar ideas, but that does not make them any less true. First: We are all in this together. Second: The longest journey begins with a simple step.” – Bill Nye On Nov. 10, Bill Nye will release a new book titled “Unstoppable.” As only Bill Nye can, he uses the book to explain the science behind climate change, debunks popular myths, and asks readers to take action in their own lives to create a sustainable future. The book is shot through with optimism, but Nye has no illusions about what lies ahead. The message is simple: Climate change is real; humans are causing it; and we have no choice but to build a better and cleaner world. (November 6, 2015) Salon

When we do talk about Climate Change should we set rules for how we talk about it? Should we only talk about it when it is unlikely to make others uncomfortable? Should we frame it only as an opportunity? Should we blame ourselves and everyone else for it? Should we be respectful—even if we are called bad names and get sticks thrown at us? Or, should we just talk about Climate Change and throw out the rule book?

Regardless of how we frame our discussions, Climate Change talks should take place in the open with lots of people around, during elections, during the holidays, at public forum, in any place where people gather.

Climate Change is not going away unless we make it go away but we cannot make it go away by trying to shut everyone up who tries to talk about it.

Time passes. 

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Preventing a crude oil train disaster in Rochester, NY too

You don’t need to understand French to understand this short video taken during the “Catastrophe à Lac-Mégantic.” [

Some background. The opening speaker at the “Oil-by-Rail: What’s Next” meeting in Albany on October 24th was a citizen from the small village of Lac Mégantic, Canada. Marilaine Savard, community leader from Lac-Mégantic--Quebec’s Citizens Committee--shared that community’s journey since the July 6, 2013 rail disaster. Marilaine showed the above video taken by a friend to a group of concerned groups from around New York State.

Her friend Adrien Aubert, risking life and limb, started taping this video from his cell phone immediately after the explosion—but it has only been recently released online. It’s raw and brutal, which can be felt regardless of what language you speak and seen when Adrien turns the camera on himself near the end of this powerful video.

The facts of the disaster are quickly summed up in Wikipedia:

“The Lac-Mégantic rail disaster occurred in the town of Lac-Mégantic, located in the Eastern Townships of the Canadian province of Quebec, at approximately 01:15 EDT, on July 6, 2013, when an unattended 74-car freight train carrying Bakken formation crude oil rolled down a 1.2% grade hill from Nantes and derailed downtown, resulting in the fire and explosion of multiple tank cars. Forty-two people were confirmed dead, with five more missing and presumed dead. More than 30 buildings in the town's centre, roughly half of the downtown area, were destroyed and all but three of the thirty-nine remaining downtown buildings are to be demolished due to petroleum contamination of the townsite. Initial newspaper reports described a 1-kilometre (0.62 mi) blast radius.” Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

But this description doesn’t quite cover the emotional toll which has taken this small village almost two years to begin their recovery. Now folks in Lac-Mégantic are starting to reach out to the world to help them find an economic recovery for their town that doesn’t rely on sending volatile crude oil through their beloved town and risking their lives many times each day. Our friends from Lac-Mégantic also want communities like Rochester to understand that we are subject to the same kind of threat as they were.

Senator Schumer has been trying to improve the safety of trains hauling crude oil for some time. Local firefighters are training for crude oil railcar accidents, though there’s no way to prepare for the kind of spectacular explosions when several ‘Bomb Train’ railcars blow up at once. Most of the folks who perished in Lac-Mégantic could not have been saved by any rescue team, no matter how well trained the first responders were, because the deaths occurred instantaneously from a fireball that rose hundreds of feet into the air.

Folks tend to ask when first learning about these crude oil railcar concerns, “Well, how else are we going to get our oil?” And we are told that we must provide an alternative to Bomb Trains by shifting dramatically to renewable energy. Which is the right thing to do. But when you think about it, shouldn’t the grave threat of a Lac-Mégantic-like disaster be enough of a reason to fix the problem right now—without the caveat that activists must come up with solution first? (If your neighbor likes blowing things up, should you be required to find something else for him to do before you complain?)

What can you do locally about this on-going crisis? Check this out recent press release:

“Mothers Out Front” Demonstrating in Fairport to Raise Awareness of the Dangers of Explosive Oil Trains

Fairport, New York Tuesday - November 3, 2015 Explosive oil trains are traveling right through the heart of Rochester. They travel through town centers, busy retail areas and right over High Falls. The oil in these tanker cars is more explosive than regular crude because it is obtained through a fracking process from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota. This “Bakken” oil has much higher levels of suspended volatile natural gas liquids. There have been over 30 derailments and explosions in recent years, including one in Canada that resulted in 47 deaths and the destruction of a town.

Each tanker car carries 30,000 gallons of Bakken crude, and according to the City newspaper, up to 300 of these tanker cars pass through Monroe County daily. The area within half a mile from the tracks in immediate danger from an explosion is considered the “Blast Zone,” and the evacuation zone is within a mile from the tracks. But the danger from toxic vapors that such an explosion would emit extends far beyond that. The tanker cars puncture at less than 20 mph. If even one tanker car explodes, it will require a multiagency disaster response for Monroe County. The public is urged to learn more and sign the petition at

Local “Mothers Out Front” members and allies will be demonstrating in Fairport where the railroad tracks cross North Main Street. So many people are simply unaware of the danger these “bomb” trains pose to the town and its citizens. The demonstration will occur on Tuesday November 3, 2015 from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM.

Mothers Out Front is an organization of mothers, grandmothers, and allies, organizing to address the climate crisis by calling for a just, swift, and complete transition off of fossil fuels to clean energy. For more information contact:

Keri Kaminsky, Bakken Team Leader, Mothers Out Front