Mad Men and Ralph Nader

I watched the wonderful Mad Men series finale last night.  Maybe it’s all those Disney movies as a child in the 60’s, but I love it when everyone (Betty the exception) lives happily ever after. Don didn’t jump off a building, and the main characters seem to have either found their true love or true self along the way. I’m praying we’ll have a similarly happy disney-esque ending with climate change, humanity’s most pressing problem ever, and my hopes were buoyed yesterday with Ralph Nader’s Pledge to Mobilize.IMG_1844

In case you’re unfamiliar with The Climate Mobilization (TCM), it is a grassroots volunteer organization created nearly a year ago around the time of the People’s Climate March. From the TCM website: “The Climate Mobilization is a new, all-volunteer organization. Our mission is to save civilization and the natural world from catastrophic climate disruption. We are dedicated to living in climate truth, and believe that working to solve the climate crisis is everyone’s responsibility.”  There’s more to learn by visiting our webpage: http://www.theclimatemobilization.org/home

So Ralph Nader has signed the pledge to mobilize against climate change! That is a happy ever after chapter ending in a complex, epic climate change story. We have many chapters yet to write as we attempt to stave off the worst case scenarios predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Climate Assessment, and the myriad of peer-reviewed reports by scientists world-wide. If we want the climate change story to end well, we need you. If you want to feel you’re making a difference, join us. Simple as that. Ralph Nader and 1,000 other concerned citizens have already taken the pledge to mobilize. Here’s your chance.

Click here to sign the pledge.

An Unbalanced Bottle Earth

We live in a bottle called planet Earth. A big, big bottle that cycles water, nutrients, carbon, oxygen, and all else necessary for life over and over again. It’s a closed system, meaning everything we need comes from within the bottle. When balanced, our closed system can sustain life for eons. But when put out of balance, say by an asteroid strike or a change in Earth’s orbit, things get messy as equilibrium reestablishes itself. Life generally suffers when something within the bottle, planet Earth, is disrupted.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 7.17.27 AMOne particularly disruptive event 250 million years ago killed off 90% of marine organisms and 65% of land dwelling creatures within the bottle. The culprit was tremendous volcanism that spewed huge quantities of carbon dioxide over 60,000 years into the bottle’s atmosphere, altering ocean acidity and causing mass extinctions. Unfortunately for us, researchers believe today’s carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels match those which occurred during the massive Permian-Triassic extinction described above. Not good news.

We live in a self-contained bottle, and whatever we put in the bottle impacts us. If we continue to dig up and burn old carbon that’s been locked in the ground for millions of years, our closed system will be out of balance. The impacts are already evident, though they can certainly become more severe as shown by the massive Permian-Triassic extinction 250 million years ago. We can and must do more to and protect our planet.

 

Two 5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

AND

Want to support renewable energy, then push divestment of fossil fuels.  Go to Fossil Free to learn what you can do.

Technology and the Pied Piper of Climate Change

“What is technology?” I’d ask my middle school science students each year during the first week of school. After some tween hesitancy, they’d start calling out things like CD Players, computers, cars, televisions, and VCRs (it’s been a while since I taught middle school science). Probing a little deeper, I’d ask for the common theme in all their examples. Ultimately we’d get to the textbook definition: Technology is the application of science to meet the needs of society.
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There’s an omnipotence to technology, as if it carries great powers to remedy our needs and cure all ills. Omnipotent for good reason. Technology has been the solution to every challenge humanity has faced for millenia. Want to plow that field faster than old Nellie can? Here’s a gas-powered tractor. Want to cure polio? Try this vaccine out. Want to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers take on Philadelphia at Ebbet’s Field but don’t have tickets? No worries. Here’s a television set. Want to cool that house down during those hot summer days? How about air conditioning? Want to store and play 1,000 of your favorite songs anytime or anywhere you like? How about an iPod? Want to tour Europe and see the Roman Coliseum, Eiffel Tower, or Big Ben? Welcome aboard Pan Am Airlines. Technology has earned its text-book definition of using science to meet our wants and needs. And that’s a good thing and a bad thing.

Technology has allowed humanity to thrive and flourish, as evidenced by our numbers fast approaching eight billion, with 10 billion projected by 2050. We’ve used technology to cure diseases, dam rivers, reshape harbors, create a virtual universe, and make our species masters of the planet. The bad part is our belief that technology can solve any problem, including climate change. We forget the side effects, byproducts, and unexpected surprises technology creates. Most worrisome is the technology of geoengineering which would “fix” climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reducing solar radiation. Just imagine a fleet of high altitude jets spewing sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to “dim” sunlight hitting the Earth, or artificial polymer trees that pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. There are better, safer solutions that don’t require opening Pandora’s Box.

We are discovering the pied piper side of technology as environmental costs of air conditioning, motorized transportation, high-tech farm machinery, fast computers, etc., come home to roost. Those costs include rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and all the other climate change nasties of 21st century civilization. We’ll need to change the proverbial paradigm that technology can fix anything and be vigilant against geoengineering quackery. Technology will have a role in solving the climate change problem through renewable energies, energy conservation, water management, and sustainable agriculture, but the biggest factor will be our resilience and collective efforts to redefine how humans live on this fragile planet.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Check out Prince Ea’s Sorry video and then help get some of those carbon dioxide molecules out of the atmosphere by planting a tree.  No room to plant trees?  No problem. Check out standfortrees.org for other ways to protect our forests.

 

Adirondack Climate Reality 2015 Conference Reflections

Two weeks ago 160 people showed up for an Adirondack Climate Reality Conference on the SUNY Plattsburgh at Queensbury Branch Campus. The entire event was free thanks to the generosity of Glens Falls-based Apex Solar, Healthy Living Market and Cafe, and The Adirondack Mountain Club. SUNY Plattsburgh also kicked in money to help pay for the event. It was a full 9:00-5:00 day, and many folks hung in there for the last and, what turned out to be, most meaningful session–brainstorming actions to address climate change.302

Don’t get me wrong. Our presenters were unbelievable (bios here). Adirondack expert, author, and wildlife biologist Jerry Jenkins wowed the crowd as our first plenary speaker, and Poet Alison Hawthorne Deming wrapped up formal presentations as the second plenary with a powerful talk on the arts and climate change. In between we had authentic research sessions on the psychology of climate change denial and conservation by Dr. Jeremy Grabbe, Dr. Edward Sturman, and Dr. Michelle McCauley. Jeremy and Eddy work at our Branch Campus, and Michelle travelled over from Middlebury College.  We also had a poignant talk by Jeanine Pfeifer on the impact climate change is having on indigenous cultures. Jeanine hails from San Jose State University, and being cognizant of her carbon footprint, elected to present virtually from her computer terminal in San Jose, California. And SUNY Adirondack’s very own Tim Scherbatskoy spoke about new strategies for agriculture under climate change.

Immediately before lunch, conference co-director Michelle Howland with fellow members of Juxtapoze, Vinnie Leddick and Tim Ellifritz, sang three environmental songs for the audience–one of which was written for the event and featured the Adirondack photography of artist-photographer Carl Heilman playing in the background. The music brought tears to many in the audience as the acoustic music and climate change themed lyrics played in synchrony with breathtaking photos. After lunch, Stephen Danna presented a session on Climate Reality.

Getting people hopeful, action-oriented, and resilient in the face of climate change were the goals of this conference, and 90 minutes during the afternoon (which were not enough time) were dedicated to brainstorming solutions in small groups to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Each team had a facilitator and all ideas were recorded and later shared on chart paper. The room was abuzz with strategies and solutions shared throughout the session (Click here to see those results).

It was a good day. So good that we will hold our second annual Adirondack Climate Reality Conference on June 17, 2016. Put it in your calendar.  Peace.

 

Solar Energy Costs Less Than Fossil Fuels

Imagine you could put solar panels on your home, pay nothing for materials or installation, and cut your electricity costs by 30-40% for the next twenty years! Five years ago that would have been a pipe dream, but today it’s reality thanks to a drop in solar panel prices, efficient rooftop installation, and renewable energy incentives. Solar is at or below grid parity in large swaths of the world, and will continue to become less expensive than dirty fossil fuels (And we’re not even including the external climate change costs of fossil fuel emissions).Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 8.52.01 AM

Forget the whole climate change problem. People are going solar because it’s cheap, and that is a wonderful thing for the economy and our planet. The environmentalists among us go solar, wind, geothermal…not necessarily to save money, but to do what’s right given the state of our climate. Unfortunately, climate change science is not yet clearly understood in the public’s eye. Oh, we’ve made huge gains in the awareness and concern for climate change, but there’s still a significant and vocal group of deniers and skeptics clouding the issue.

So let’s forget the climate change concerns and stick to the bottom line: Solar energy is cheaper than fossil fuels. More specifically, electricity generated by solar energy costs less than electricity derived from fossil fuels. Discussion over. To hell with the climate. Go out there and get those solar panels on the roof and start saving money. Encourage your town board to put up a few of those fancy wind turbines for good measure, and feel good about yourself. In the process, you’ll join the majority of Americans interested in renewable energies over more traditional fossil or nuclear energies.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Save yourself money and divest from fossil fuels. Seriously. Investing in a deadly energy source is risky business. Check out gofossilfree.org for more info.

Learn more about renewable energies by signing up for this free newsletter: https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/account/user/register

Fossil Fuels Have Broken My Heart

I’m going to be honest. I love fossil fuels and how easy they have made my life. I love how they provide heat during the cold winter months. How they are always there when I need them for my automobile. And how they help generate the electricity that powers everything in my house, including this laptop computer I’m working on. Yup, I’m truly, truly in love with fossil fuels. And it’s breaking my heart to have to say goodbye.Screen shot 2013-08-02 at 6.46.44 PM

Fossil fuels are the last carbon pool for humanity to tap into. First through agriculture and then most recently with the industrial revolution, carbon pools helped our populations grow without bounds. The creature comforts fossil fuel carbon provides can not be denied. And as humanity merrily used her expansive frontal lobe to expand technological advancements through fossil fuel carbons, the side effects of a growing love affair grew. We didn’t fully recognize what was at stake when we started drinking at the fossil fuel pool, but we do now.

The Fossil Fuel Pied Piper called us on a happy march through an industrial and technological age that seemed without end. Our giddiness with each new advancement, be it the steam engine, gas-powered auto, or air conditioning, left us blind to the growing calamities of a world steeped in carbon dioxide emissions. We could conquer anything. Dam the raging Colorado River. Break the speed of sound. Put men on the moon. Create artificial intelligence. But there was a price, and now we’ve got to face the daunting reality of a changing climate. It’s dry in California. It rains hard in the Chilean desert. It snows heavy in Boston. And high tides are getting higher and higher. Yes, it’s time to end the fossil fuel age.

I’m sorry my love, but I’m leaving you. Some of my friends will think I’m crazy to throw a good thing away, but you and I know better. You’ve hurt me, and you’ve hurt others. You weren’t honest with me. You didn’t tell me the damage you would cause. And you’ve made me so dependent on you. It’s not going to be easy for me, but I’ll find someone new. Someone cleaner than you. Someone who will be part of the solution, not the problem. I’ll get by. And what’s left of you will remain where you belong: in the ground. Good bye.

Two 5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

AND

Want to support renewable energy, then push divestment of fossil fuels.  Go to Fossil Free to learn what you can do.

Mitch McConnell’s War on Climate

I am so tired of hearing Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell constantly declare war on the Earth’s climate. Any time he utters “War on Coal”, what he’s really saying is “dig baby dig” and “burn baby burn”. And his latest fiasco of paving a complex, strategic series of actions for other like-minded climate-denying politicians to follow in efforts to block the EPA from controlling fossil fuel emissions is so very disappointing and frustrating. Worse yet, Mitch McConnell compromises our nation’s credibility to fight climate change.Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 3.27.13 PM

I guess Mitch is unaware of the tremendous environmental damage coal has caused to the climate. I guess severe storms need to get more severe; oceans more acidic; western droughts more crippling; polar ice caps more threatened; rising seas more concerning; and the future of humanity more dire before he’s willing to stop the craziness.

How do we fight the politics of climate deniers?  How do we bring logic and understanding to the climate change conversation? How do we tell Washington, state and local governments “enough is enough!”? Well, two organizations worth your time are The Climate Mobilization and Climate Reality Project.  Do this world a favor and join both. Then go out and raise hell about Mitch and the other deniers creating confusion and havoc about climate change. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.

Climate Change Is Not A Religion

I believe in God, and my faith has helped me cope during tough times. My trust in a greater entity is steeped in what I’ve learned through my religious practices, particularly the Sunday sermon. I’ve learned where to find God in my life, and I’m comforted in my beliefs. But when it comes to climate change, I’m not a believer. Climate change is not a religion to be followed or believed in, but a scientific body of evidence studied and confirmed by every national and international science organization worldwide. No, there’s a sharp distinction between scientific fact and religious beliefs, and climate change’s scientific evidence trumps faith or beliefs.OneWordE-26

It’s hubris to “believe” climate change doesn’t exist, or that present day climate change is something to be explained as a natural occurrence. Natural, yes, when it occurs over millions of years, or when a six mile wide asteroid strikes the earth, creating winter-like conditions across the planet. Unnatural when human activity elevates atmospheric greenhouse gases 50% in less than 200 years by tapping fossil fuels to sustain an ever-growing population and thirst for creature comforts.

I’m not sure what God thinks about the mess we’ve created, but I doubt God approves of how we’re addressing the problem.  What is happening runs contrary to God’s words. The least of us are suffering the most. The love of money is the root of all climate change evils. And climate change is directly and indirectly killing or harming many of God’s creatures. I do believe God is sorely disappointed.

I pray God will help the “deniers” and “skeptics” who don’t believe in climate change to “see the light”. I pray that people like you and me will speak up and demand action now, while there’s still time, to end the fossil fuel era. I pray for my daughter and the sons and daughters of others, and those yet to come, that we don’t burden them with a sick planet. And I pray for all God’s creatures as they instinctively, and for many unsuccessfully, try to adapt to a rapidly changing planet.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Go to your favorite quiet area and make a list of all Earth’s treasures you are thankful for. Whether it’s blue skies and warm southern breezes, or red cardinals and chickadees at the bird feeder, jot them down and then reflect on what might happen to these treasures with unchecked climate change. Finish your reflection by making a list on what you will do to fight climate change. Then go out and do it.

Carbon Footprint, Green Electrons, and Climate Change

Charge the smartphone this morning? Listen to the Morning Show while getting dressed for work? Have Pandora or Spotify running in the living room wirelessly on that new Bose Soundbar while brewing coffee? Take an extra long hot shower to shake off the morning chill after yet another night of Polar Vortex winter weather? Odds are your electric meter, like most Americans’, is working overtime during the morning hours as you prep and ready yourself for another day on planet Earth.Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 7.38.52 AM

The role electricity plays in our lives cannot be overstated. We need electricity. We crave electricity. We relish electricity. And ironically, we rarely, rarely think about electrical energy until the power goes out or we receive our very reasonable electricity bill (yes, reasonable compared to the cost of electrical energy in other parts of the world). Americans love their electrical energy so much they consume a whopping 20% of total global energy output even though they represent only 4.5% of Earth’s human population. Couldn’t we do with consuming fewer electrons?

“The greenest electron is the one that’s never used,” said Nilda Mesa, director of New York City’s Office of Sustainability. I found Mesa’s comment in a recent New York Times article on New York City’s efforts to slash fossil fuel emissions 80% by 2050. Kudos to New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio for their ambitious effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions AND save the city hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Hell, if New York City can slash electricity use to the tune of 80% fewer fossil fuel emissions, we can too!

We speak so often of renewable energy technologies. Solar panels, wind turbines, passive solar homes, smart grid technologies, energy storage devices, etc. . . . Technologies that will make fossil fuels energy dinosaurs in the not too distant future. Renewables are a grand and major part of the climate change solution. However, without addressing rampant energy consumption and ever-increasing global population numbers, we’re not going to win the climate change battle.

Conservation gets short shrift in the climate change news media. Perhaps it’s not as glitzy or sensational? Who knows? What we do know is if you turn your thermostats down at night during the winter, you will burn less oil or natural gas. We do know that LED and compact fluorescent bulbs use a fraction of the electricity that incandescents do. And we know turning lights off when out of a room, insulating the attics in homes, caulking around windows and doorways, and a myriad of other energy conserving measures reduces energy use. Just imagine what would happen to the pace of climate change if we buckled down on our energy consumption? We can do this!

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Use this carbon footprint calculator to learn how many tons of carbon you and your family members release into the atmosphere each year. Then discover and act on ways to reduce that imprint.

 

Climate Change White Lies

Question: “Does this outfit make me look fat?” Response: “Not at all. You look great.” Question: “Did you really like my mother’s meatloaf?” Response: “Yes. It was the best meatloaf I think I’ve ever eaten.” Question: “Are you sure you’re not mad I dropped your iPhone in the lake?” Response: “No. I’m glad. Now I can buy a new one.” Question: “Are humans causing climate change by burning fossil fuels?” Response: “No, no. Climate change is happening because the sun is getting hotter.” Comment: Whew. Good news! I was starting to worry.

Sometimes people tell little white lies so as not to offend or worry others. And sometimes people tell lies to profit from others.Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 8.52.01 AM

We like to be reassured. Whether it’s about looks, relationships, or performance, it feels good when your worries and concerns are assuaged. But when the emperor has no clothes on, well, then there are problems. Years ago a supervisor gave me sage advice when he said, “Surround yourself with people who will tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear.” What wonderful advice. After all, don’t we all want to know the truth so we can do the right thing?  Usually, but sometimes the truth hurts. I don’t think anyone wants to hear they’re trashing the planet, and it’s not pleasant knowing that burning gasoline to get places in our cars contributes to climate change, or that our dietary choices have planetary ramifications. And who can bear to think they’re leaving their children and future generations a planet that may have lost the climatic conditions necessary for a healthy biosphere? Sometimes it’s just easier to believe the lies.

Big oil, coal, and natural gas know this, and just as with the tobacco fiasco of yesteryear, they are working hard to tell little white lies so we idle along as the planet gets hotter and the future bleaker. The recent news about Willie Soon is yet further evidence of Big Fossil Fuel funding “scientific” studies  designed to cast doubt and little white lies about anthropogenic (human caused) climate change. It’s so much more assuring to think changes in the sun, not human activity, are causing climate change.  We like to hear the things we want to hear, and the fossil fuel industry is happy to whistle sweet nothings in our ears. Be honest with yourself and dig deeper for the truth which 98% of all climate scientists know and will tell you: Humans are changing the Earth’s climate. Then go out there and do something about the problem.

Two 5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

AND

Want to support renewable energy, then push divestment of fossil fuels.  Go to Fossil Free to learn what you can do.