Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Our Natural Selection Moment

The current renewable energy revolution lead by solar power emerges less as a technological revolution and more as human evolution.  Call it our next species, where we finally shake the mantle of our caveman selves.

It is the natural selection moment that may save us. Our fifteen minutes of genetic fame.  Not elongated toes to support walking upright or more expansive skulls this time.  This time it's cerebral.

We have the power to reason that we must change something fundamental in order to save ourselves.  It is no less real than using tools for the first time so that we can improve our diet and grow our survival.

The crux is plain as day -- early man burned things to create heat and light, and we’re still doing that.  It has been an amazing 400,000 year run, from the warm glow of coals in a chilly cavern on an ancient winter's night to coal-fired plants running a fantastic metropolis.  Outstanding, really, but it's still burning things.  Time to move on.

As most evolutions, it is required and necessary for a species to undertake or the species goes away.

This fits exactly in with moving – evolving – away from fossil fuel systems and toward renewable energy systems, especially solar, while the ravages of climate change begin to fray the edges of humanity and modern civilization.

We've all heard the dire predictions.  It does not bode well for us this enormous challenge called climate change.  But if we continue to adopt more and more solar power, we will be reining in climate change and thereby preserving our own species.

We will be embracing the next evolution.  We will have evolved as a necessity of survival.  It’s not a revolution as much as it’s an evolution, to a better species, a smarter species.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Help Horseshoe Crabs

Happy to be chosen as a guest blogger at The Safina Center, happier still that more people will get the word about horseshoe crabs and hopefully sign the save the horseshoe crab petition.

As it is, someone with a license in New York can take up to 500 crabs per day. That’s the kind of limit that represents no limit, says Carl Safina in The View from Lazy Point.

“There is something in man that hates natural abundance, and something that clings to excess,” wrote Dr. Safina.

In the Northeast, horseshoe crabs are declining and current catch levels are unsustainable.  Give them a chance.

Check out the post: Help Horseshoe Crabs Live Another Million Years 

Monday, July 27, 2015

God's Green Earth

Q: Is climate change a global challenge to humanity?

A: Is the Pope Catholic?

Yes, he is and apparently there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world.  Many of them look to him for guidance.

The Pope says it's humanity's responsibility to be good stewards of the Earth.  It's a moral obligation.

That's why I'm ecstatic.  Even though it was a month ago, I'm still buzzing.  There's so much bad news out there around the health of ecosystems, it's sometimes hard to believe the good news.

The pontiff didn't mince words, either.  "The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth," Francis said.  He called for a "revolution" and he called out fossil fuels.

Can I get a Hallelujah?  How about an Amen?

The great news is that the Pope is not the only revered religious leader who says we should take care of God's green Earth.  In January 2013, the head of the Christian Orthodox church went as far as to call pollution a sin.  The Dalai Lama himself has asked for an ethical approach to environmental protection.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Doubt Meets a Mean Upper Cut

I just found my latest heroine in Naomi Oreskes.  She is not a female boxer in the traditional sense.

Trained as a geologist and obviously smart as a whip, she has become the staunch challenger to the scientific community's career naysayers and deniers.  But she does it on their terms, with research and solid data, and that's probably what makes them so incensed.

Dr. Fred Singer and the staff scientists of the George C Marshall Institute are some of the most vocal.  They call her many things including a lightening rod.  Her response is: "But remember, the whole purpose of a lightning rod is to keep people safe.”

Her book Merchants of Doubt is a must read.  She calls out the very small part of the scientific community that has strategically sowed doubt about some of the biggest issues.  We're talking not only climate change but also the health impacts of tobacco and the effects of acid rain. 

With her climate change work, she shows that about 97 percent of working climate scientists accept that global warming is happening, that humans are largely responsible, and that the situation poses long-term risks.  She places the small minority of deniers on the wrong side of science and history. 

The plot twist that gets me is that while the tobacco companies and the fossil fuel companies are motivated by greed, the merchants of doubt are in it for a different reason.  Oreskes says they oppose these major findings and the necessary sea changes that follow for "a deep ideological reason: contempt for government regulation," according to the New York Times.

In the world of communicating the science of climate change and fighting the deniers, that's an eye opener.  Knowing the motivation, the end game, of your enemy is half the battle to overcoming them.  Course it always helps to have a Naomi in your corner. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Celebrate World Oceans Day

Today is a great day to celebrate the majesty and the life-giving power of the ocean.

One way to celebrate is to remember that climate change hits the ocean, too.  It doesn't sound like much of a celebration but people save what they love, and the ocean needs saving.

So support clean energy to stem two game-changing ocean ills caused by climate change -- warming seas and ocean acidification.

Another way to celebrate is to get in the water or on the water or even near the water if you're lucky enough.  But you knew that.  Happy World Oceans Day.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Constant Spill

I knew it was too good to be true.  For awhile there, it really seemed that the Obama administration was serious about protecting the Arctic from offshore drilling.

Even most recently optimism flickered as Secretary of State Kerry spoke in support of clean energy at the Arctic Council.

"My friends, clean energy is the solution to climate change.  If we got the whole world to embrace clean energy choices rapidly, we can meet our two-degree target.  But the window’s closing.  The extraordinary thing is all of the technologies we need – whether it’s wind or solar or hydro or whatever, they’re all there," said Kerry.

But it is not to be.  The Obama administration just agreed to allow Shell to drill in the Arctic.

An oil spill directly into the Arctic would be horrible and that's reason enough to object to this decision.  But it's bigger than that.

Every single minute of every single day we are spilling carbon and other greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.  It's the constant spill.

The main objection to drilling in the Arctic should be that it's just more of the same -- drill, burn, repeat.  It's what got us here in the first pace.

And now we know better.  But we're still doing it.

Based on the rules of evolution, technically, we should be selected out.  Maybe that's what climate change is.  We cannot adapt ourselves to a clean energy future so climate change will take care of it.  Even a mouse can learn to protect itself -- if it touches this thing, it gets shocked.  So what does it do?  The mouse stops touching it.

If we burn this thing, we ruin nature.  Let's keep burning it anyway.

The move to renewable and clean power is too slow, and that's exactly what the fossil fuel industry wants.  They fought (and are still fighting) the science and reality of climate change, but they've got so many other ways to hold onto their status quo.

Transition is one of those terms they've fed us.  Obama even used it in his recent announcement that we can expect more of the same, even drilling in the Arctic.  That we need to transition to clean fuels.  It sounds so nice and calm.  It really just means more time for the fossil fuel industry to make a killing while they're killing the planet.

I thought we had a moment of real inspiration, a chance for one of the biggest hogs on the planet, the U.S., to be a leader in clean energy.

"Rather than being a leader, however, the U.S. is simply following in the footsteps of Russia and Norway – two countries that have already begun or are making progress towards Arctic offshore drilling.  The decision in favor of Shell’s plans also puts Alaska on the pathway of dependency on oil extraction for many more years to come instead of turning it into a leader in more cutting-edge industries like clean energy," according to Cryopolitics.

Pale leadership, missed opportunities and the constant spill continues while the fat cats pop the champagne.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Don't Even Speak Of It

The ultimate form of denial: don't even speak of it.

The Florida office charged with protecting the state's natural resources -- from manatees to the buccaneer palm, from elkhorn coral to gators -- was muzzled by the state's highest officials.

"Though it was not a written rule, we were told not to use the terms 'climate change,' 'global warming' or 'sustainability'. That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors," said Christopher Byrd, a former attorney with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Office of General Counsel, according to USA Today.

What could Florida officials possibly be protecting by such a mandate?  Unfortunately, it's unsurprising in a state where renewable energy is illegal.

What really boggles the mind is that Florida is almost entirely at or barely above sea level.  Right now, flooding occurs with nearly every high tide in places that never flooded before including many of its famous beaches, which generate over $65 billion in tourism revenue annually.

The blatant disregard for the future of Floridians and Florida's economy by its own government is nothing short of breathtaking.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tea Party Blasts Koch Brothers

Who do you think said this? 

"Americans for Prosperity (Koch brothers' nonprofit) is supposed to espouse free-market principles, but they're trying to prevent Floridians from engaging in commerce in a free-market manner.  They are resorting to
outright lies." 

Nope, not a tree hugging environmentalist.  Not some big time liberal.  Not even a left-leaning journalist

Debbie Dooley said that.  She's a Georgia-based tea party leader and founder of Conservatives For Energy Freedom. 

She was speaking about Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers leading mouthpiece and purveyor of doubt and denial. 

In Florida, Americans for Prosperity is butting heads with the Tea Party.  The Tea Party supports solar in the state, also known as the sunshine state by the way.  Renewable energy is currently illegal in Florida. 

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity make it their mission to give no quarter to renewable sources of power because that threatens the profits of their corporate patrons. They want clean energy to remain illegal in Florida. 

This conservative scuffle is a stunning example of the Koch brothers' machine at work, mowing down everything in its path,  even fellow conservatives. 

"Proponents of the ballot measure (to make renewables legal in Florida) argue there aren't any subsidies or mandates in the measure -- just legal changes that would make it easier for people in the state to get solar if they want. 

Dooley -- the Tea Party leader -- has accused Americans for Prosperity of 'hypocrisy'. Dooley accused the group of kowtowing to its corporate benefactors (Koch Brothers) rather than the will of the people," according to the Huffington Post 

'You don’t throw your principles out the window to benefit your corporate benefactors,' she said. 

That's her mistake right there -- she assumes Americans for Prosperity and the Koch Brothers have principles or anything resembling standards.  

They seem to be willing to say anything despite how truthful it is.  There is no place for reason in their money-fueled animosity.  It's all to keep their status quo of making billions while the world burns, literally. 

Let's not even get into the fact that renewables are illegal in Florida.  What is wrong with people? 

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.