Posted by: greeningwashington | April 22, 2009

Earth Day: About

 

Here are ten things you should know about Earth Day:

 

(the list is complied by U.S. News and World Report)

 

1.Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, is responsible for the first official Earth Day in 1970. He was inspired by the the anti-Vietnam War “teach-ins” that were taking place on college campuses across the country.

 

2. The idea, though, was first proposed by a businessman in the plastic industry, John McConnell. He became a lifelong activist.

 

3. Conspiracy theorists claim that Earth Day is held on April 22 because it is Lenin’s birthday. Not true. According to Kathleen Rogers of the Earth Day Network, the day was selected because it fell on a Wednesday in 1970, as it does today. The organizers figured they would get the most participation on a weekday. It was also a day when students would be on campuses, so the youth-driven movement could have more participation.

 

4. Twenty million people participated in the first Earth Day, and their gatherings embodied the zeitgeist of the 70s. Theatrical protest was used then and nowto get the message across.

 

5. Since 1970, the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in America has increased 75 percent. We also have more than twice as many cars on the road (but those cars have gotten more efficient).

 

6.  Earth Day isn’t just an American designation. It’s celebrated by 175 countries worldwide.

 

7. The first Earth Day kicked off a decade filled with environmental action. Later that year, the EPA was founded. Many important pieces of environmental legislation were passed that year, among them: Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

 

8.  Arbor Day, which celebrates the planting of trees, falls on the last Friday of every April, which happens to be the same week as Earth Day this year. Despite this, many famous people will plant trees on the more visible Earth Day instead.

 

9.  Earth Day is a day of service, and a great opportunity to get involved in community clean-up projects.

 

10.   Many environmentalists, for whom every day is Earth Day, scoff at the holiday. They claim that the mostly symbolic day encourages people to think green for 24 hours, but then return to their wasteful ways on April 23.

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 22, 2009

Earth Day

earth-planet

Today is Earth Day.

Why not go ahead and do something special for mother Earth?

I intend to take this day to reflect on how I can live a more environmentally friendly life.

What will you do?

This year marks the 39th anniversary of Earth Day. April 1970 marked the beginning of the Environmental Decade, which saw many progressive changes in the way American’s interacted with their environment. Clean air, clean water, reduction of lead and other harmful pollutants.

This Earth Day the focus is on ‘generation green.’ According to the Earth Day Network,

Generation Green includes ordinary people who are engaged in individual and collective activities to improve their health, to improve their schools, to participate in building a solution to urgent national and global issues, such as climate change or the world’s water crises.

Earth Day is about activism, spreading awareness, progress. But, at the very least, Earth Day is about reflection and introspection — recognize your natural surroundings and how you affect them. What small, everyday things can you do to improve the quality of your environment?

Managing our nonrenewable resources, preserving wilderness, maintaining parks, and protecting wildlife should be nonpartisan actions.

Humans are but one species living on this Earth. We are made from the Earth. We can use the Earth, but not abuse it. And whether we chose to accept it or not, our vitality is depends on the vitality of the Earth — its ecosystems, and wildlife.

But humans are busy; busy working or busy trying to survive. We are not all as enriched as Thoreau or Muir.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  -Walden Pond, Thoreau.

Find an Earth Day event near you.

Until next time.

 

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 21, 2009

Rain, Rain, Come Our Way

 

Texas Drought

Texas Drought

Texas’ summers are brutal. Hot, muggy nights, thirsty mosquitoes, what could be worse?

Well, how about a drought?

Last week government agencies reported that Texas is facing some of the most severe droughts in the nation. Central Texas along with the Gulf Coast regions have been most affected. The severe droughts have upset the region’s ecological balance and threaten coastal wildlife including oysters, crabs and whooping cranes, the most endangered crane species.

According to academic and government monitors, the intensity of the droughts in Texas are much greater than this time last year. In fact, the droughts are the driest on record for Texas and are currently the worst in the U.S. 

Currently there are only 270 whooping-cranes that exist in the wild and 23 of them died this spring due to hunger and disease brought on by dry weather, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

One of our very own is in the news, Sammy Ray, who has studied oysters in the Gulf Coast for 60 years, is Professor Emeritus for Marine Biology at the Texas A&M Galveston. Ray told the Washington Post,

“One or two days of rain won’t make a difference. In two weeks from now you might not even notice it had rained,” he said.

Warmer weather is expected throughout much of the Southwest this summer.

In California, effective July 1, the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will reduce the water supply for the first time since 1991.

 Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography report that the current rate of usage of the Colorado River water by seven states is unsustainable. This has prompted many states in the West to cut back on water supplies.

The scientists’ study found that with a 20 percent reduction in runoff, by 2050 nearly 9 of every 10 scheduled deliveries would be missed. Meaning that with warmer weather, less water will be available to the states.

Whose idea was it to build that sinful city in the middle of the desert anyway?

In all seriousness, water is such a precious resource that is vital for human survival.

According to Word Water Aid and UNICEF, 884 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world’s population.

Only three percent of the world’s water is freshwater. And even then, most water is polluted to some extent.

Do you really think your tap water is pure? If so, think again. Salts, minerals, and other low level toxics in amounts we can tolerate are left in tap water.

Chlorine, Fecal Coliform and E coli (animal wastes), Combined Radium 226/228 (causes cancer in the long run), etc.

Water is a precious resource.

One solution is to conserve more water. Turn off your sprinkler system after a rainstorm. Don’t wash one piece of clothing in the washing machine.

Another is to spend more tax dollars on improving water quality and conservation systems in the U.S.

Until next time.

 

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 20, 2009

Talk to Talk

By a strange turn of events, radio talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh have somehow made a name for themselves on the political stage.

As a testament to Limbaugh’s (inflated, and undeserved) political clout, the RNC Chairman Michael Steele has even had to apologize to the conservative ‘Boss’ who believes that feminists and environmentalists are a bunch of ‘wackos’.

It is probably no coincidence that the only AM station that is clearly broadcast in College Station is 1620 WTAW news talk, which happens to play Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham.

What do all three of these people have in common besides being affiliated with Fox News?

They purposefully, and sometimes maliciously, use aggrandized one-liners in place of facts or evidence. Haven’t we learned yet that by simply stating, ‘global warming is a lie, invented by a bunch of environmental wackos,’ nothing has been disproved?

This post is not meant to demonize talk-show hosts who feed off the ignorance and complacency of the masses. Instead, it is to point-out that there is a real lack of critical thinking in the political arena.

In his book, The Way Things Ought to Be and See, I Told You So, Limbaugh makes broad, sweeping statements about the environment which are based on nothing at all.

The following are clips from his book:

What “environmental wackos . . . really want to do is attack our way of life” in the effort to limit CFC’s.  “Their primary enemy: capitalism.”

“Scientists say a supernova 340,000 years ago disrupted 10 percent to 20 percent of the ozone layer, causing sunburn in prehistoric man.  Wait a minute – I thought only man could destroy the ozone. . . . And if prehistoric man merely got a sunburn, how is it that we are going to destroy the ozone layer with our air conditioners and underarm deodorants and cause everybody to get cancer?  Obviously we’re not…and we can’t …and it’s a hoax.”

Oh how I sometimes wish I were a scientist, so I could rip him a new one.

Until next time.

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 20, 2009

Thanks, but No Thanks

(c) www.bendib.com/newones/2005/

As promised, Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, today completed the last of four public forums he hosted around the country to gather input from States on offshore drilling and renewable energy development. 

The West Coast consensus? A resounding No to the expansion of offshore drilling by many California and Oregon state officials (I am sure some Washington officials were in the mix).

According to the Environmental News Network (ENN), officials expressed concern over offshore drilling and the potential threat to the coastline (think tourism and pristine beaches), economy and ecosystem.

The bottom line for California is that the risks far outweigh the benefits.

The following is a clip from the ENN article:

Secretary Salazar was intent on hearing the details for what might really work. With both the elected officials and the public making comment he pushed for more specific data regarding the viability of different renewable energy projects, particularly the time frame in which they could be contributing to the larger grid. Politicians are good at not being pinned down, and none of these would commit to a time frame, but various business owners in the audience did.

One principal of an offshore wind platform company said their first installation will be in Portugal in 2010, finished in a few years and will generate 150 Megawatts of energy. They will have a project in Oregon within about 5 years, and sited 13 miles offshore, so people can still have their ocean views. That seems like a good investment as opposed to getting 1% of our oil by 2030.

If the federal government wishes to push for expansion of offshore drilling, they may have a fight on their hands.

Until next time.

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 20, 2009

Climate Change Lobbying

If you are a company/organization with a stake in policy outcomes in Washington and you want to ensure you are not at the losing end of legislation, you hire lobbyists. Lots and lots of them for that matter.

Before taking office, President Obama promised stricter regulations on lobbyists and limitations on the influence of lobbyists in the White House. However, even the ambitious, young president could not keep lobbyists at bay. The Obama administration employs one hundred and fifty staff members throughout government agencies who were former lobbyists. I am beginning to suspect most Washingtonians were lobbyists in their past lives.

Lobbyists are like God, in a way. They are omniscient, according to industry standards, omnipresent on Capitol Hill, and, depending on whom you talk to, they are just looking out for the misunderstood. Whether they possess divine-like abilities is debatable, but what is not is the fact that lobbyists are deeply rooted in our country’s history and politics.

According to the nonpartisan, independent, and nonprofit organization OpenSecrets.org,  companies, labor unions, and other organizations spent over $3.24 billion in 2008 lobbying for control in Washington.

Who shells out the most for the biggest  piece of the legislative and regulatory pie? The Pharmaceuticals/Health Products industry. Is anyone surprised?

So what is the goal of hiring men and women to nag and woo government officials to death, or in some cases into Congressional ethics proceedings? Influence.

Corporations, labor unions, industry groups, and other organizations spend the $3.2 billion each year to gain the highest form of access to decision-makers in government ultimately to influence their thinking.

And we wonder why average Joe’s letter to his representatives goes unanswered.

The point of my babbling about lobbyists is to point out that no issue is left un-lobbied.  According to the Center for Public Integrity,  analysis shows that “more than 770 companies and interest groups hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists to influence federal policy on climate change in 2008”.  Their analysis also shows that signifies an “increase of more than 300 percent in the number of lobbyists on climate change in just five years, and means that Washington can now boast more than four climate lobbyists for every member of Congress”. Wow! What a statistic.

Could you imagine having the ‘Clean Coal’ person talking in your left ear about the ecological friendliness of coal, the Greenpeace person in the other discussing the destruction of national forests, and two ‘Big Oil’ people assaulting you from the front about offshore drilling?

I guess whichever one is offering to pay your expensive lunch bill would probably win. No?

The Center for Public Integrity’s website offers many important and interesting statistics on climate change lobbying. For instance, simple math shows that the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity spent $10.5 million in 2008 on climate change lobbying ; whereas, the Environmental Defense Action Fund spent a combined $1.3 million. I would say Lady Liberty’s scales are tipped.

If you are ever bored, you should check out the site. Lots of hidden, juicy information.

 

 

Climate Change Lobbying (c) Center for Public Integrity

Climate Change Lobbying (c) Center for Public Integrity

 

 

Until next time.

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 17, 2009

Regulating Global Warming

As expected, the EPA today declared that carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases threaten public health and welfare. This long anticipated move by the Obama administration marks the first time the United States will regulate the gases blamed for global warming.

In support of the proposed endangerment finding, the EPA said that the science was “compelling and overwhelming.”

I support the EPA’s move toward responsibility and accountability.

Until next time.

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 15, 2009

Perils of the Pinyon Pine

(c) Radeka Photography. "Pinyon Pine and Sandstone, 2004. El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico"

(c) Radeka Photography. "Pinyon Pine and Sandstone, 2004. El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico"

Yesterday, I listened to a story on NPR about research that links rising temperatures and massive tree die-offs.  

More specifically, the researchers at the University of Arizona posed this question: Do warmer temperatures make trees more susceptible to drought?

My response is an intuitive, yes! I was correct. However, the science behind the answer is what really matters.

When asked about the basic nature of the hypothesis, biologist David Breshears, one of the Arizona scientists, admitted that there is still much scientists do not know about trees.

“Like, what does it take to kill a tree, and do warmer temperatures matter in terms of killing trees?” Breshears says.

Breshears and his colleagues’ questions also grew out of the differences between drought related tree die-offs during the 1950s and 2002, which affected New Mexico pinyon pines. Why did more trees die in 2002 even though the drought was less severe than the droughts of the 1950s? One significant factor that had changed was the temperature of the region.

In order to study the effect of warmer temperatures on the drought tolerance of trees, the University of Arizona scientists uprooted 20 mature pinyon pine trees from their native location in Ojitos Frios, N.M., and transported them approximately 600 miles to Biosphere 2 in the Arizona desert outside Tucson, AZ.

Biosphere 2 is essentially a giant greenhouse with simulations of different climate zones inside.

The researchers then put the trees into two areas: one where conditions resembled those in the trees’ native habitat, and the other with a temperature of about 8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer.

Finally, they stopped watering half of the trees in both of those spaces.

“What we saw was that trees in the warmer area died 30 percent faster on average than trees in the ambient area,” says Adams.

“If what we see for this pinyon pine species also applies to other widespread tree species,” says Breshears, “then there’s potential that we could have a lot of die-off in a lot of places.”

“It was important to do this sort of work to demonstrate that this does occur in biological systems,” he says.

In a controlled environment, it is easy to test singular independent variables. Did the scientists factor intervening variables into their equation? Without actually reading the full report, I am assuming that they did. If they did not, then the possibility of experimental error remains.

The researchers’ findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Once again, the results seem obvious, but that is what good scientists do — they test their hypotheses and support them with cold, hard facts instead of relying on their feelings.

Until next time.

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 14, 2009

ClimateDepot.com

Marc Morano speaking at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change

Marc Morano speaking at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change

For all of your global warming dissenters out there, this post is for you.

He has been called the “drum major of the denial parade” and a barer of misinformation. He has worked for Rush Limbaugh, poking fun at the “liberal establishment,” and more notably, he was a spokesman for Oklahoma Senator James M. Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Marc Morano is probably best known, however, for compiling a report listing hundreds of scientists who oppose global warming — whether those scientists were climatologists or studied in related fields is another question.

Perhaps now Mr. Morano will be best known for his new website ClimateDepot.com.

A portion of the About section of ClimateDepot.com reads as follows:

CliimateDepot.com (notice the misspelling which was not due to my typing error) will serve as a premier news and information center for global warming and related news on environment and energy. The news outlet will be a climate and environmental clearinghouse complete with special investigative reports, voluminous data bases, and guides for policymakers, parents, teachers, scientists, and the general public. “For far too long, climate and environmental news has been tainted by the woeful reporting of journalists like ABC’s Bill Blakemore, the Associated Press’ Seth Borenstein, Newsweek’s Sharon Begley, CBS’s Scott Pelley, NBC’s Anne Thompson, Time Magazine and many others,” Morano said. “Sadly, many of today’s mainstream climate reporters would be better suited writing newsletters for Al Gore than attempting to inform the public about the latest climate science developments,”Morano added.

According to reports, ClimateDepot.com is being financed by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization in Washington that advocates for free-market solutions to environmental issues, and which organization has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Exxon Mobil Foundation.

ClimateDepot.com has a similar layout as sites such as the drudgereport.com. It features few pictures but colorful and catchy headlines. While the site links to some major news sources such as the Associated Press and the Financial Times, it also links to less known and obscure sites.

With its predictable headlines and ploys, ClimateDepot.com really isn’t much different than the mainstream media sites Mr. Morano has openly criticized. It is convenient to link to a New York Times article filled with skepticism and dissent on climate issues but equally so to dismiss mainstream media as bias when its articles do not serve as oppositional ammo.

Mr. Morano and all climate skeptics alike need to discern between reporting biases and science.

Until next time.

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 14, 2009

Wind Energy, The Texan Way

 Everything is bigger in Texas — even wind energy production.

Texas leads the nation in wind energy production and it has since 2006 when it surpassed California. Wind farms in Texas now generate three percent of the State’s electricity, enough to supply electricity to nearly one million homes.

What once was a marginal source of electricity, wind power has grown steadily in the United States throughout the past decade, showing with no signs of slowing down. In fact, according to a recent study by Emerging Energy Research, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., the United States will have invested an estimated $65 billion in wind energy production between the years 2007 to 2015 — no small price tag for an energy source that supplies only one percent of the nation’s electricity. Moreover, in certain areas wind power can be unpredictable. Turbine blades can kills birds and bats and interfere with wildlife. Additionally, litigation has ensued regarding large wind farms that are considered eyesores.

But naysayers don’t speak too soon, wind energy has the potential to provide clean alternative energy while stimulating local economies as the video suggested. Wind energy is inexhaustible and with the proliferation of the turbine technology the costs associated with wind energy production should fall.

According to the Texas State Energy Conservation Office (SECO),

wind resource areas in the Texas Panhandle, along the Gulf Coast south of Galveston, and in the mountain passes and ridge tops of the Trans-Pecos offer Texas some of the greatest wind power potential in the United States, with consistently high wind speeds capable of sustaining a productive wind farm.

Texas is also home to the largest wind farm in the world. Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Texas has the generating capacity of 735 megawatts (MW) spread across approximately 47,000 acres in Taylor and Nolan counties near Abilene in west central Texas. According to the SECO One MW of electricity can serve 230 Texas homes on average each day.

The Obama Administration’s focus on clean energy, coupled with the clean energy tax incentives in the stimulus bill, has provided the wind industry the boost it needs.

Texas has already taken steps to update its electricity grid to provide for wind energy in addition to back-up sources of energy when there is a wind black-out.

I am betting that if we play our cards right, Texas wind energy will not only help provide renewable energy but help the Texas economy in the process.

Until next time.

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