Category Archives: the environment

Stonewalling While Our Oceans Die

 
 
It is getting more and more frustrating to wait for the fruits of winning the 2012 election. The GOP has brought government to a standstill just because they won a majority in the House. They have their obstructionist agenda and they have their “wish” list. Oh boy, they say “we can stop everything until we get a whole array of the items on our “wish” list. In fact, we can get some of them just by stonewalling.” These deniers are hurting our nation and they are harming our planet.

Just take the matter of our oceans which, after several huge disastrous leaks and hundreds of smaller leaks, have been inundated with substances which are toxic to life under the seas. Dead oceans will eventually produce a dead planet. All the time these selfish, stubborn people in the GOP are farting around trying to get their way, is time that we should be spending in finding ways to save our oceans (besides tackling a few other problems we need to tackle). This may be a far more pressing need than we imagine.

All the time these selfish, stubborn people are obstructing our government we could be building the fleet of space ships we will need to flee our gorgeous planet which we will have to do if we don’t figure out how to clean our oceans and keep them clean.

We cannot afford to cling to the status quo, to a global schema which no longer pertains. I hear it as an old blues song: “that old status quo has up and gone away.” We are at the end of the fossil fuel era. We are probably at the end of the nuclear option also. We will have to shift to some more primitive, less toxic energy sources (sun, geothermal, wind). By 2050 there will be 9 billion people on this planet living on patches of land between the dead oceans; the very oceans which have always added so much to the glory and splendor of our little planet out at the edge of space, and which have provided so many eons of people with food and other necessary resources. We have always been the little planet that could; now we stand to become the little planet that couldn’t.

We need you Southerners and you in the Midwest and wherever you reactionary nuts reside to help save the earth. You need to stop acting stupid and entrenched. Maybe if we give you all federal jobs you will stop trying to bankrupt America and you will get real about the role America needs to play in keeping our Earth healthy. We can’t keep fighting these same destructive battles which threaten to undo our nation. We have a lot of problems to solve in the real physical world around us. Get over yourselves!
 

 

 

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com

Going Bigger, Much Bigger

 
 
These baby steps we are taking to stop climate change are not enough. Yes, I do believe in climate change. I will cast my lot with the scientists rather than the politicians and the oil men (the oligarchs). We need to go bigger. We need to go much bigger.

Solar panels

I have written about this before but I will keep urging that we act on some kind of Solar Panel Program for America. Perhaps it could be a program like the Energy Star Program which gave rebates if you updated to energy efficient windows, doors, and if you added insulation. There were also energy rebates for updated furnaces and appliances if they were more energy efficient. Since solar panels are so expensive, the costs might be prohibitive even with a rebate. Perhaps each year there could be a lottery that would update a certain number of homes without up-front payment. Payments could be made by paying your old average energy fee and subtracting the costs of energy with solar panels and then applying the difference against the cost of the solar panels. I’m not an expert in economics or in designing either public or private programs, but I’m sure there is someone who can turn this idea into a successful program. In fact, there are programs that allow you to lease solar panels.

If all of our homes had either solar power, or if solar power was not viable than perhaps a neighborhood could share and pay for a windmill or other wind capturer/converter, wouldn’t that stop a lot of CO2emissions?  I also saw that it is possible to make solar panels that also act as siding. We’d feel much better about our comfortable lifestyles (which we really would hate to lose) if we did not feel that in order to be comfortable we will end up destroying our planet.

Simplify, simplify

Americans like to go at life with passion, verve, and energy; and sometimes with ambition, chicanery, and greed. We are supposed to succeed and in big ways or we are seen as failures by ourselves and others. Everything in America is supposed to move upward and we have taken this to our hearts both figuratively and literally. We are climbers of mountains, riders of zip lines, bungee jumpers, and sky divers. We will work 80+ hours each week to climb the ladder of success, for corporate advancement, to be a leading entrepreneur, a sports or music figure, a doctor, artist, dancer, film star, inventor, lawyer, thinker, educator, or innovator.

But right now America is slowing down just a bit. Perhaps we are supposed to be slowing down, taking a breath, collecting ourselves, listening for the small voice of creativity that sometimes eludes us until we are in the shower, or driving home, or washing dishes. We have this big energy problem to solve. We use too large a share of the world’s available energy. While it is true that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can be changed into another form. The form that the energy we are using is changing into is CO2 and that CO2 is making our planet warmer. It is also true that the planet will not die off right away if it warms up. But the extra heat will have effects that we won’t like. It already is. Perhaps you are not one of the people who feels bad about the extinction of species (like the polar bear), but some of us do. And whether we believe or not that the level of the oceans will rise doesn’t matter because it is already happening. It does not really matter if you believe that climate change will bring more extreme weather because that more extreme weather is already here.

When I first heard that some states were breaking paved roads up and turning them into gravel roads I was shocked. Are they doing this because we are poor or because they are deep into their small government campaign? My guess is that both things are true. However, maybe for our own reasons we ought to think about simpler lives, less spiffy roads, really switching out our gasoline-powered cars for cars powered by electricity (once again there could be programs to help us switch). We could just slow our lives down just a bit, not go at life like it’s an obstacle to be overcome or beaten into submission. We could be more Zen, more jazz, and less MMA, less hard rock, or rap. We could still be modern with our jets and our high speed trains but our pace would just be less assertive, less aggressive. We’d still work hard, but maybe 40 hours a week will be enough or 60; not 80. If we slow down just a bit who knows how many things might occur to us. We might even get more exercise and stay fit. We could savor that coffee, smell those roses. And stop adding to global warming.

Whatever we do let’s go big! Let’s pick at least one strategy that will lower our fossil fuel use a lot and let’s stay with it. I just do not have faith that my little blue bins are getting the job done. Keep in mind: we are not wealthy. We will need help if America decides to go big.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com

 

Environmental Wars

Another article sent to me by the Republican in my back yard (TRIMBY) was about global warming. If you watch any of the news channels you probably already realize that many Republicans argue that global warming is not real. They believe that any warming trends we see are just part of the cyclical nature of rising and falling temperatures on earth. It did not help that the study on which Democrats and others based their conclusions about global warming contained made up data. Republicans argue that Democrats invented global warming to rein in Big Business and, that by calling Big Business to task as the cause of the pollution that in turn caused this “supposed” global warming, they forced businesses out of America and destroyed our hegemony. I cannot imagine why Democrats would want to drive manufacturing out of America. Most Democrats are not socialists; they believe in the economic energy of a capitalist market place. It makes no sense to believe that Democrats would create an imaginary environmental problem, lay it at the feet of Big Business, and deliberately destroy the American economy. This is either deeply paranoid or is an argument being used for political spin by the GOP to tar and feather the Democrats.
As to whether global warming is real, it looks like we do not have enough data to draw a definitive conclusion. There is evidence on each side, none really definitive. The article that the Republican in my back yard sent to me contained a number of graphs that supposedly prove that global warming is not only hogwash, but that the opposite is true; the earth is actually cooling a bit. The problem I had with this article is that the author has a background in statistics which I do not and used quite technical language to make his points many of which rested on whether data was statistically significant or not. I must admit that my brain turned off a little bit and my eyes started clouding over and I went off into my to-do list for the day. To me it looked as if the temps in the charts actually did trend upward.
On May 3rd, 2012 the article in question appeared in the publication American Thinker, a conservative on-line journal. The article “Global Warming Melts Away” by Randall Hoven is a scientific article with many graphs and even a bibliography and is worth checking out.
When the author started talking about linear regression trends for the extent shown that’s when my eyes really started to glaze over, but those of you with a good background in statistics can check this out and see if these graphs have merit. I can wait until the evidence is clearer, but I still believe that the activities of 7 billion people on our little planet do have some powerful effects on our environment, that these effects are not always positive, and that, in our search for greater comfort, we have not always been careful caretakers of earth.
So TRIMBY and I had an email exchange about these topics of global warming and pollution.
Me: Whether the earth is warming or not, the effects of humans on the earth are huge and not all positive (TRIMBY) (true, so you are admitting that global warming is crap??). (He’s a witty guy.) The enormous amount of trash we have stashed all over the planet, the chemicals we have pumped into the air, the soil and the water are real.  The earth has much more capability to recover than people understand.  That is not to say I (or Republicans, or Conservatives) want to pollute the earth.  The reality is, that we do, we will and there will always be some.  Great example is how the ocean “ate” the big spill from the well that exploded in the gulf a few years ago.  The spill is gone…   The difficulties all this “pollution” presents to the cycles of nature that keep the earth refreshed are real. The exponential growth of the size of the human population on this planet is real. True in some place, not all;  in Europe, they are having problems with shrinking populations, except for the Muslim populations.  The eventual exhaustion of the fossil fuels stored under our planet is real (true, but it has been greatly under-estimated when it will happen.  Further, as it does occur, economics says that we will find alternatives.  We are searching for alternatives now and if they are more economical, then we will use them.   It is not wrong to look to ways we can lessen the negative effects so many people have on the state of our planet.  Look is fine, force is not. Planning should be more intense rather than less intense. You know I worry that fresh water resources may be our most pressing problem can be in some areas but shortages will raise prices and make people more conscious of the problem. and that our reliance on fossil fuels is wreaking havoc on what fresh water we do have (and even on our salt water resources) (How so??). I don’t understand why people argue that it is harmful to take care of our planet and to find ways to keep it healthy. It is about balance.  You can’t have zero pollution, or you can but we would be living in grass huts.  It hurts all of us – not just business.  You would not be able to afford to eat, shop, or own a home.  It hurts business! That’s it? But a polluted earth will hurt business and it will hurt all living things. We can’t listen to corporations when they complain that environmental concerns are hurting their profits (which by the way they are not sharing) (they share their profits with the owners of the business, as they should) if ignoring the needs of our planet will eventually kill us. Corporations who are far-sighted would realize that helping to take good care of the earth benefits their bottom line far, far into the future.  It isn’t about being farsighted, the environmental movement has raised awareness of pollution, buy things and really directly influence corporations.  This is good.  Corporations are about making money- which is good.  If they can make money by being environmentally friendly, they will.  You and I are both old enough to remember the 60’s and early 70’s… the air quality, the quality of the water in the lake, just the general amount of pollution.  The environmental movement has been good for everyone. Today, corporations know that by being green, they will attract more clients, generate more business – make more money… If a corporation is bad, a polluter, then shine the light on it and it will change from public pressure.
As for the fact that our environment is cleaner than it once was, that is because our businesses took themselves off to places where there are fewer laws against pollution and are now dirtying up other, once pristine locations.  Again, not really true; there is bad pollution in China today (probably one of the worst), but by far and large, those are companies that are owned by China.  It is really up to the people there to take control of the country – that is problem with Socialism, Communism, dictatorships… they don’t care how the people live.  From what I understand, they are getting better.  Also we are not the world’s policemen, we have helped and continue to help this country clean up.  If the liberals want to do something about it, publicize it, figure out which companies are the worst and boycott them, put them on the spot… democracy at work.   If we don’t regulate what businesses can do to the environment they will have no qualms about abusing it for profit.

How Likely Are Water Wars?

I am not the only person on the planet who worries about water shortages. I have been doing some reading online and there are many reports about the worldwide shortage of fresh water resources. Scientific American reports about it and CNN, and Web of Creation (which may not sound quite as good as the other two sources). Some places never had great reserves of fresh water, places that are obvious like deserts and interior areas of Africa which only have rain for a part of the year and may have droughts that last for several years. We know the American Southwest also is a desert or near desert climate and lacks fresh water resources. If an area is unpopulated the lack of fresh water is not a problem (nature adapts), but as we have spread into areas where fresh water is scarcer, which people have done all over the world, water supplies in these areas become more problematic. Redirecting rivers will no longer do it for us.
The lack of water can mean a lack of food for obvious reason. Crops do not grow without water. When populations try to grow food in low rain or snow environments they must irrigate. To irrigate one takes groundwater and exposes it on top of the earth. It will evaporate and fall again as precipitation, but perhaps not in the same area where it evaporated. It takes 1 ton of water to grow 1 ton of wheat, which makes wheat a water-costly food, says BBC News. Many other foods do not require as much water but do not have the appeal of wheat. We may find ourselves having to get used to things like soybeans. Of course meat is also a very water-costly food.
Irrigation, farming, and raising farm animals are also activities that increase the pollution of fresh water. Manufacturing waste pollutes water, or air and therefore water. Retrieving and using fossil fuels also pollutes water in all kinds of ways. Of course, polluted water cannot be used to quench thirst without negative outcomes, including death. Children are especially susceptible to diseases borne in polluted water, especially in poorer countries without water filtration systems and in low-water environments. There are dead water zones even in salt water off many of the coastlines of developed nations worldwide.
Scientists also say that global warming is having an effect on water reserves as snow packs, glaciers and ice caps dwindle in size. The Yellow River in China never used to run dry, then it ran dry for about 15 days a year, and now it is dry for over 200 days a year. It is not the only river that dries up for part of the year when it never did before.
The 10 worst cities in America in terms of available fresh water are not at all surprising. We could almost name them without a list. However, more and more people are moving to these areas. Some populations have grown as much as 20% in the last decade which creates a larger demand for water. They are, as named in an article by Yahoo Finance:
1.       Los Angeles – Major water supply, Colorado River Basin, Pop. 3,831,868
2.       Houston – Major water supply, Jasper Acquifer, 2 Lakes, Pop. 2,257,926
3.       Phoenix – Major water supply, Colorado River Basin, Pop. 1,593,659
4.       San Antonio – Major water supply – Groundwater – Pop. 1,373,668
5.       San Francisco Bay Area – Major water supply, Various, Lake Hetch Hetchy – Pop. Over 1.5m
6.       Fort Worth – Major water supply, Multiple – Pop. 727,577
7.       Las Vegas – Major water supply, Lake Mead/Colorado River – Pop. 567,000
8.       Tucson – Major water supply, Local ground water – Pop. 543,000
9.       Atlanta – Major water supply – Lake Lanier, Ga – Pop. 540,922
10.     Orlando – Major water supply, Floridan Aquifer – Pop. 235,860
There are spots around the world with water problems similar to these problems of United States cities or some areas with even more pressing needs for fresh water. Will those of us with plentiful supplies of fresh water be expected to share? Will companies privatize our water supplies and sell them to us for big bucks? Will water resources belong to public utilities which give people with plentiful water no choice about sharing water; water might essentially be sold down the grid like electricity. Will these water resources be distributed equally or go to the highest bidder? Will some of us take luxurious showers while others die of thirst? Oh, we already do this! Will we continue to develop wetlands out of existence although we know how much they contribute to a healthy water cycle? Will we need a Global Water Management Agency? How happy would privileged people be about this? Oh, the protests! Will we learn to control the weather so it will rain where and when we need it to? We can’t even desalinate the oceans because we have nowhere to put the brine that is produced as a side product.

How many years of fresh water remain on our beleaguered little planet? What things can we do now to tip the fresh water resources in our favor? Humans are the only species on earth which can manage our water resources. Will we actually do any of those things unless laws are passed to force greater respect for fresh water resources, which for economic reasons, seems unlikely? Perhaps we could all go live in low water areas and leave the great water zones pristine. Then we can all have our water piped in. Humans, for all our capacity to evaluate and recognize problems before they become crises, seem unable to react quickly to take steps to lessen the impact of these problems. It could be a fatal flaw.

The Attack on Environmental Protections

Mick JaggerCover of Mick Jagger
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not fond of Republican stances on the issues of the day. I am not even very fond of their belief that the American electorate is so ignorant that basic high school propaganda will bring us all under their sway. In modern-speak they think “[they’ve] got the moves like Jagger.”
So it is no surprise that they are using the economic downturn to turn down the heat on environmental matters. They have placed “clean air, clean water, and clean soil” issues all in their sights. It is quite easy for them to justify their war on environmental protection because many Republicans say they don’t believe in “global warming.” Over and over, they insist that the evidence for global warming has been invented or exaggerated, or any other adjective that will defuse the issue and turn it into Democratic “sleight of mind”. This implies that Democrats are so anti-business that they will make up theories; but, I believe Democrats like money, profit and success as well at the next person and would not intentionally sabotage big business.
Republicans tell us ad nauseum that our environmental targets and levels have chased business out of America. They assume that if we suspend the rules and let companies “dirty” things up again that these companies will gladly return to do business in America. I think they are wrong. We cannot work for the wages that are paid in Asia and these businesses would have to pick up and move again, which they are unlikely to do.
If there is such a thing as global warming, and I believe there is, even Asia will not be able to operate forever without environmental protections. They may feel that unregulated capitalism is their right because it took so long to come to them, but if they experience an unregulated period equal in length to ours, given their populations and demands, our Earth may not be able to withstand the pollution levels and maintain healthy air, water and soil cycles. Nasty stuff will not stay trapped over Asia. Gases go everywhere, although prevailing winds determine main directions. Seventy-five percent of the Earth is water and water goes everywhere also if you count evaporation-condensation-precipitation cycles. So what happens in Asia won’t stay in Asia.
We cannot afford to let Republicans dismantle America’s hard-won schedule of environmental protections. I can understand dialing things back a bit while we deal with jobs and deficits, but we cannot abandon our human position as caretakers of our planet, at least not until we can escape a ruined Earth to live on other planets.

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