Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Petition: Remove the Koch Brothers

Just say no to Koch brothers. No place for fake science and denial while the world burns -- sign the petitions to remove the Koch brothers from the boards of public television and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History.

Petition:  "Remove David Koch from WGBH’s board of trustees and ensure that public broadcasting remains independent from the influence of radical climate change denial." Over 20,000 signatures so far.

Petition: "It's time to get science deniers out of science museums. Two of our most celebrated natural history museums have a serious Koch problem.

David Koch sits on the board and is a major donor for both the Smithsonian and the American Museum of Natural History. This from one of the two Koch brothers, Kansas billionaires who have sent $79 million since 1997 to groups denying the science of climate change."

Thank you Greenpeace and MoveOn. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ordinary Heroes Never Give Up

Last week's veto of the Keystone XL pipeline was wonderful news but it was curious how quietly it rolled through the media and the environmental community. It was like a calm-before-the-storm moment.

This is probably because the XL pipeline may be a minor skirmish in the looming battle with the Koch brothers. Certainly their massive machine of fake scientists, shadow nonprofits, and greedy officials are going to make it a bloody one.

The Koch brothers will spend more than anyone has ever spent -- very close to a billion dollars -- to preserve their status quo, according to Koch Brothers’ Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par With Both Parties’ Spending in the New York Times.

Right now the majority of Americans believe climate change is caused by humans burning fossil fuels but the Koch brothers will try to change that.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is on track to shut down the dirtiest coal burning power plants, and hundreds of millions of Americans acknowledge that they want clean air and water, but the Koch brothers will do everything they can to keep those plants spewing.

They've successfully rigged an already-rigged system.

"The Koch brothers funnel most of their money through specially created nonprofit groups that are not required to reveal their donors. Any outside group — with unlimited donations from corporations, labor or wealthy individuals — can make a direct pitch to voters right up until election day.

The issue is whether their influence, by virtue of their campaign spending, should be so exponentially larger than the sum interests of millions of Americans whose quest for basic health care or a modest piece of the pie would be adversely affected by the Koch-promoted policies," notes John Diaz in Koch Brothers' Hostile Takeover of Our Democracy in the San Francisco Chronicle.

It's a travesty. Big changes in the way things are done need to happen sooner than later, especially when it comes to powering the planet and fueling vehicles. Yet 900 million dollars can be a huge roadblock in the U.S. where votes often go to the highest bidders.

I find solace and inspiration in Nebraskan Mary Pipher's words:

"Our coalition allowed us to transform our feelings of sorrow, fear, anger and helplessness into something stronger and more durable. We became a state of ordinary heroes who decided that money couldn’t buy everything and that some things were sacred.

The campaign to stop the Keystone XL is not over. It won’t be over until we give up, and we aren’t giving up." 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Manatees Push Back

Manatees in their 'refuge'. Photo: CNN

I saw this headline Florida Manatees Crowd Out Humans, and shouted, "It's about time!"

It's about time the manatees got in a little payback after years and years of the reverse. It's not only manatees.

Habitat loss is one of the main reasons species go extinct on land and sea. A synonym for habitat loss easily could be: people crowding out ____________ (enter animal name here).

Humans love to claim territory, grab everything within  reach and consume it, conquer it. Straighten its curves and bury its green gifts.

What's really happening is we're knocking healthy ecosystems out of balance, which is bad for us, and we're destroying features like wetlands and forests that are there for good reasons, which is also bad for us.

It's almost unnoticed this crowding out of our wild brethren as it often happens slowly, foot by foot, acre by acre -- like a million small cuts until we've bled the place of nature.

I swam with the manatees in the Crystal River -- the exact Florida location mentioned in the article. It's as if swimming in a suburban neighborhood where the streets are the river. Houses jut into the water and boast impossibly trim lawns, cement patios, and tar-covered bulkheads hard against the flow.

This is where we find one of the last refuges for manatees -- a small roped-off area. Signs everywhere read Do Not Cross. I saw three people slip under the rope to get closer to the huddled animals. Boats laden with tourists chugged nearby, and people fell and jumped into the water, splashing and shouting on the edge of the manatees' tiny sanctuary.

But seeing nature can be a great thing. "Swimming with manatees is a tremendous experience, and I know that when done properly, everybody benefits," said Andrew Gude, who manages Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, according to the article.

Just wish we humans could handle it better. We act as if we own everything natural so we can do whatever we want, including disrespect it and the wildlife within.

I bet somewhere, perhaps deep in their cerebral cortex, there are people who read that headline -- Florida Manatees Crowd Out Humans -- and are angry at the manatees. How can they get away with that? We need to push back! 

That's right humans, keep pushing and consuming everything in sight and soon enough, we'll be standing alone, knee deep in our own waste. In many ways, we already are.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Front Page News

Nice to see the ocean as front page news. Not so nice the context, but it certainly deserves the spotlight.

It's clear from the Ocean Faces Mass Extinction in the New York Times that we are killing the ocean right now. Forget Shakespeare, this is a tragedy like we’ve never seen before.

I would have liked the article to describe a little more about why we should care about the ocean, like it produces most of the oxygen we breathe and it feeds over a billion people daily. 

Also, ocean acidification deserves more attention. Of all the ills, and there are many, changing the chemistry of the sea by pumping excess carbon into the air has the potential to undermine everything marine. Already, scientists have found that even slightly more acidic ocean waters support fewer phytoplankton, the foundation of the food web. 

If tiny plankton that fuel ocean life can’t survive in the more acidic waters, then it does not matter how many ocean reserves we set aside or how many fish we leave. 

There are things we can do.  The number one way to help the ocean – and to check ocean acidification -- is to support clean energy and any reduction in carbon. 

As odd as it may sound, what we do on land impacts the entire ocean, including those vast reaches far out of sight, but hopefully, not out of mind. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Different Year, Same Bad Idea

Speaking out against the LNG Port. Photo: Sane Energy

I'm re-posting this because the Port Ambrose LNG monstrosity is back like a recurring nightmare. Public hearings are being held in New York and New Jersey as we speak but the problems with the facility have not changed from the first meeting in July 2013. The line to speak against the facility snaked out the door at that meeting. It was a bad idea then and it's a bad idea now. 

If you cannot attend the most recent meetings, please post your comments online here. It takes only a few minutes.  Below are listed 11 reasons to oppose the project. 

July 2013

The first Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Terminal public scoping hearing in Long Beach, NY was an eye opener not without some lively drama.

When I got off the train at Long Beach, appropriately, ocean breezes led the way.  The LNG Terminal intends to receive gas imports just off the coast.

There were so many people who wanted to speak and who spoke that the hearing went way over its scheduled time. The line to speak snaked out the door.

The good news is that only two speakers of easily fifty plus favored the terminal -- two guys who have one mindset: jobs.  Research expects the facility to generate only 6 jobs.

It's possible that all six of those guys were at this meeting.  At one point, one of them said, "Shut up all you tree huggers!" before he was succinctly drowned out by a chorus of those nefarious huggers of trees.

My list of three reasons to oppose the terminal quickly grew to eleven as speakers young and old made thoughtful and impassioned comments.

Eleven reasons to oppose this facility; a summation of many voices: 

1. I don't see how it could ever be good for healthy oceans.

2. It's more of the same old fossil fuel mindset. Support clean energy -- it's the future.

3. I don't want New Jersey's rejects.  No offense New Jersey, but this is the exact same project that was recently rejected by NJ Governor Christie.  Doesn't that smell fishy?

4. The public comment period is way too short.

5. There are no assurances that this will not switch to an export facility, which will greatly increase the desire to frack gas in New York.  This is a genuine concern because natural gas is abundant and cheap in the US and expensive elsewhere and switching to an export facility does not require extensive review.

6.  The impact on the nearby proposed wind turbine farm is unknown.

7. A highly explosive super pressurized gas facility just offshore -- seems like a viable homeland security issue.

8. What happens if there is another BP-like blowout?  Is that ridiculous "junk shot" in the plan?

9. It is a huge safety issue very close to many people and viable fisheries.

10. Has sea level rise even been considered, or the facility's ability to withstand the 30-plus foot waves recorded during Sandy?

11. The guy called me a tree hugger; hurt my feelings.

Take Action: 

Contact your state and city representatives.

For more information, see Sane Energy ProjectClean Ocean Action, Bayshore Watershed Council, and/or Surfrider to name a few great organizations who are all over this old-new bad idea.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pump Nature Out of Miami

Developers in Miami, Florida, are spending $55 million to build luxury condos on an active floodplain yards from the ocean.  The city itself plans to spend $300 million on a system to pump water out of areas that now flood even on sunny days.

Ideas like these might be called "bold" and "innovative" by some people but other words come to mind like "futile" and "shortsighted".

The ability of people to control nature has repeatedly been disproved.  Many instances come to mind not least of which is the Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

In New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers and others have been trying to control the giant muscular snake called the Mississippi River for a century.

They even built a neighborhood, the doomed Ninth Ward, below the water level on three sides.  Unfortunately, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the city it only took one levee to breach even a little for water to come pouring into the Ninth Ward, filling the streets like filling a bathtub.

Given that tragedy, it is difficult to appreciate the Miami plans.

“We’re showing the world that you can fight back," said one city official in Miami.  I think he meant to say we're showing the world that we have no original ideas, and yes, fast money flies.

It might be a better idea to learn to work with nature.  Cede the Miami floodplain to the ocean; it's there for a reason.  Keep intact important natural features such as coral reefs, wetlands, and dunes.  We might see that they not only enrich us but also protect us.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays

Hope your holidays are filled with natural beauty and wonder.