Friday, September 19, 2014

Let's Get it Right

“We’ve watched the summer Arctic disappear and the ocean turn steadily acidic. It’s not just that things are not getting better. They are getting horribly worse. Unlike any other issue we have faced, this one comes with a time limit. If we don’t get it right soon, we’ll never get it right,” said Bill McKibben.

Let's make some noise. Hope to see you at the People's Climate March in spirit if not in person.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's Always Been About the Pace

Unable to keep pace with dramatic weather changes due to climate change, many species of birds will perish from the earth. Is this a Biblical prediction? No, a scientific one. Unfortunately.

Ever since life arrived, evolution has helped species adapt to changes if given some time, as in millions of years or generations. It is a pretty genius way to ensure the survival of life. Lately, however, time is not on the side of nature.

David Yarnold of the Audubon Society said that birds are resilient, but that climate change will test their limits. In a recent New York Times story he said:

“We just don’t know whether they’ll be able to find the food sources and the habitat and cope with a new range of predators. Maybe they’ll all be incredibly hardy and find ways to survive. That doesn’t seem likely, given, one, the number of birds affected, and two, the pace at which these things are happening.

If this kind of news bums you out, there are things you can do to help birds and other species by slowing, and even stopping, climate change.

Like purchase renewable energy through your utility, drive an electric car, ride a bike, eat local, make your home energy efficient, support divestment from fossil fuel companies, support clean energy legislation and technologies, stay informed, and tell everyone you know that the time is now for the clean energy revolution.

I heartily hope you will try.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Specially Interested in One Thing

The good news is renewable energy continues to be more affordable.

"The price of a solar panel has dropped more than 60 percent since early 2011, and the price of wind power is down by more than 50 percent in the past four years. Approximately 29 percent of the power added in 2013 in the United States was solar energy," according to the Huffington Post.

The bad news is fossil fuel companies and utilities continue to fight the future.

"Edison Electric Institute released a report in January 2013 entitled "Disruptive Challenges" detailing the threat that distributed energy (especially solar) poses to the traditional utility industry business model. The group began taking action on the issue in 2013, pushing to repeal solar policies to protect utilities' financial interests.

The real genius of this attack by special interests is the widespread use of additional front groups to lobby, spread disinformation, and pressure decision makers to eliminate clean energy policies.

The fossil fuel lobby aggressively uses lobbying and propaganda to achieve their goals and self-identified "free market think tanks" are among the most effective advocates for the fossil fuel industry to lobby for policy changes," says Gabe Eisner.

Every small victory, every hurdle they throw into the path of clean, renewable energy makes it that much harder to stop climate disruption. High time to go on the offensive and defend our beautiful planet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In the Shark's Eye

The first catch and release shark tournament in Montauk, NY last year was a great success. No sharks killed, people happy, prizes awarded, and a number of big sharks tagged and named by schoolkids.

I asked one of the organizers how the 2nd annual Shark's Eye Tournament went this year. He was less enthusiastic. I could almost feel the deflation and helpless anger coming through the email. Many of the sharks caught, released, and tagged last year had been killed, finned by fishermen.

"Of the 4 fitted with satellite-tags last year, the first, Princess, stopped signaling a few months after it was tagged, while the last stopped pinging in June 17. It was out in the Hudson Canyon. It had traveled 11,000 miles. Named April, by the angler Joe Gaviola, after two April’s, one important to him and one important to the event, it either perished, has remained submerged (the tags only transmit when they break the surface), or the battery died. We don’t know.

What we do know is this. Our mako shark Rizzilient was caught and killed by a Portuguese long-liner in the middle of the Atlantic last winter.  And the blue shark Beamer, named by the Montauk School 6th grade class, was caught 3 times by commercial fishermen after last year’s tournament — once off Portland, Maine, once off Norfolk, Virginia (US commercial fishermen immediately released the shark), and finally on a 60-mile fishing line off Costa Rica.

Beamer had traveled 9000 miles. Not edible, the fins on this 200 lb. fish were removed for the Asian market,"  Rav Friedel of Montauk wrote in an email.

They were tracked thousands of miles only to be pulled from the water and all their fins sliced off for someone's -- most likely in Asia -- shark fin soup. It takes about a minute to do it. Inglorious to the point of criminal.

A magnificent fish that lives on the top of the food web and travels great distances, and a species that has survived hundreds of millions of years placed on the brink by mindless human consumption. Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year this way.

Although these handful caught and named and released off beautiful Montauk were closer to my heart -- I wanted them to survive -- I mourn less for one fish and more for a whole planet at the will of a species unaccustomed to thinking about anything but itself.  I'm talking about us. Humans. We create beauty, sure, but often we destroy it.

Many thanks to all the people that worked hard to make the Shark's Eye Tournament happen including Carl Darenberg and Rav Friedel, and to sponsors Dan's Papers, Guy Harvey Foundation, and LandShark. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Drill Baby Drill Punctures Alaska's Seafood Market

Red areas are most intensely impacted. 

Ocean acidification from climate change could take five billion dollars in seafood away from Alaska annually.

The ocean absorbs carbon naturally but there's so much carbon pollution in the air that it's changing ocean chemistry. This makes the ocean more acidic, which is bad, very bad, for most creatures in the sea including the ones we love to eat like salmon, haddock, clams, and crabs.

Dismal as this is, this research is a welcome red flag because many people don't start to care until they see how much money is at stake. The frightening economics around ocean acidification might inspire action.

"The fishing industry in Alaska supports over 100,000 jobs, and generates more than $5 billion in annual revenue. Beyond commercial fishing, around 120,000 Alaskans, roughly 17 percent of the state's population, rely on subsistence fishing to feed their families, according to the report.

The analysis found that communities most reliant on fishery harvests, with relatively lower income and fewer alternative job options, face the highest risk of ocean acidification," according to scientists in Newsweek.

What to do? Support clean energy and a phase out of fossil fuels. Alaska itself will have to re-think its "drill baby drill" mentality, or continue to shoot itself in the proverbial foot.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Renewable Energy Continues to Thrive

More people are working in the renewable energy industry globally according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

"With 6.5 million people directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy, the sector is proving that it is no longer a niche – it has become a significant employer worldwide," said agency director Adnan Z Amin in The Guardian.

The 14% growth in the clean energy industry is led by solar as more and more businesses and people are tapping into the sun's clean power. Read the full renewables report here.

Meanwhile in Germany, the perennial leader in renewable power not just World Cups, the offshore wind power industry enjoys over 100K employees and over $10 billion invested, according to Bloomberg.

With the need to support clean energy breathing down our necks and climate change flooding our feet, nice to see some good news. Thanks to Neighborhood Energy for pointing it out.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Leaving Sea Shells by the Sea Shore

I see people with buckets full of shells on Florida beaches as if prospecting for gold. What can they possibly be using them for? Aren't they just going to be thrown away in a year or ten, or left to collect dust in some box in a garage or attic?

Collecting seashells by the seashore seemed harmless enough until now. Researchers have found that collecting seashells is not good for the beach ecosystem. Shells support the beach structure, provide homes for all kinds of critters, and grow algae, which is lunch for many.

Nature has a purpose for everything.

The old wilderness mantra -- leave only footprints take only photographs -- certainly applies to the beach.

Does the damage compare to other ocean harms like ocean acidification and overfishing? Nope, but it's still a negative impact.

I did it. I had a large collection. I still hang onto a nice looking shell once in awhile, but I leave it on the sand when I depart. Fair enough.