wrdforwrd

green and sustainable business

What’s in a name?

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A recent Bloomberg piece by Faye Flam, “Inspiring Terms Are Simple. ‘Climate Change’ Isn’t,” makes the point, I guess, that climate change as a term is not very effective.

Flam writes, “As scientific terms go, ‘climate change’ is failing. Good terms are specific, descriptive and help people to understand complex concepts. Climate change is ambiguous, referring perhaps to the most pressing human-generated environmental problem of the century, or to other kinds of changes that happen through natural forces and have been going on since long before humans arose.”

Basically, the term is “failing” because it’s too ambiguous, too confusing and too complex at the same time.

That’s right, climate change encompasses all those things; it’s not simple by its very nature. But why is “simplicity” the key to inspiring action?

I think I get the point — if only we had a simpler, sexier, more “inspiring” term for the climate change crisis, we could deal with it better and perhaps make progress. I think that’s specious reasoning: for one thing Flam is not giving much credit to people’s ability to understand what the crisis is and what it means for humanity, plus she is giving cover to the “climate is always changing” crowd of yahoos that will always question what is happening with the climate due to fossil fuel use, no matter what it is called.

The column has no purpose except to describe a minor sideshow about climate terminology. It’s not even mildly clever. And then it offers no alternative terminology, or terminology that is obtuse. If you are going to knock down climate change as a term at least offer a reasonable alternative.

Climate change is not a PR or marketing idea that needs to be “sold.” That idea just muddies the water and makes it harder to act. Better to debate what to do about climate change, not what it should be called.

The Bloomberg editors were correct to offer the disclaimer that the column “does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.”

Image: Danger Climate Change by Environmental Illness Network via Flickr CC

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Written by William DiBenedetto

14 May, 2018 at 11:56 am

James Balog and geologic-scale change

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“We are in the midst of geologic-scale change, and we humans are causing it.”

James Balog says this during Chasing Ice, a masterpiece of filmmaking and science. It’s perhaps the one film that that those who have any doubts about climate change—and even those who don’t—should watch, and maybe watch again with a group of friends.

Balog, an American photographer who explores the relationship between humans and nature, set out to record visual evidence of what we know is happening to our planet’s glaciers due to climate change.

In 2007 Balog founded the Extreme Ice Survey, a long-term photography program that integrates art and science to give a “visual voice” to the planet’s changing ecosystems.

Chasing Ice features the largest glacier calving ever caught on camera:

Balog, at TEDGlobal 2009, talked about the images from the Extreme Ice Survey and the network of time-lapse cameras recording glaciers receding at an alarming rate – some of the most vivid evidence yet of climate change.

Chasing Ice is available on Netflix. The film is stunning, astounding, inspiring, artistic and heartbreaking. If ever there was anything that is must-see, it is this.

Written by William DiBenedetto

12 March, 2018 at 6:00 am

Oil-by-rail project gets derailed

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It’s tough to find good things to write about on the climate change front these days, especially with the abomination that is Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA, and Trumpola still around…has it been only one year?

Anyway, something positive did happen recently when Washington Governor Jay Inslee rejected a permit that was required for Tesoro-Savage to build the Vancouver Energy oil-by-rail facility, the largest such project in the nation, at the Port of Vancouver. Inslee explained the basis of his decision, which followed a several years long process, in a letter to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council:

“When weighing all of the factors considered against the need for and potential benefits of the facility at this location, I believe the record reflects substantial evidence that the project does not meet the broad public interest standard necessary for the Council to recommend site certification.”

Inslee’s action on 29 January followed the Vancouver Port Commissions’ action earlier that month when it voted to not renew the company’s lease if the project did not have all required permits and licenses by March 31. This move effectively ended the project.

According to DeSmog Blog, momentum for the vote “began in November when Don Orange joined the port commission after a resounding victory against a challenger who was heavily funded by the oil industry. Orange, on the other hand, promised to oppose Vancouver Energy’s planned construction of the largest oil-by-rail facility in the country.” Washington State’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council recommended in November that the governor should reject the proposed project.

“We will not become just another polluted oil town,” said Rebecca Ponzio, director of the Stand Up To Oil Campaign. “This should be a signal for communities across the country, the oil industry does not get to decide your future. Together, people are always more powerful than the money of oil companies.”

In a written statement issued 30 January, Vancouver Energy officials said Inslee’s endorsement of the council’s “faulty recommendation” sets an “impossible standard for permitting new energy facilities in the state.” In addition Inslee’s decision sends an “anti-development” message that will have far-reaching consequences for industries across the state, Vancouver Energy officials added.

It doesn’t ever have to be development versus the environment…

Image is from the Stand Up To Oil website.

Things in the wind

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Recent news on the environmental front is full of wind chimes.

Did you know, for example, that Mars Inc. is making M&Ms with wind power? In fact Mars has engaged two popular spokespersons from its M&M entourage, ‘Red’ and ‘Yellow,’ Red, the self-proclaimed leader and Yellow, his faithful sidekick, have become the latest advocates for renewable wind-powered energy, tackling climate change in the launch of M&M’s Fans of Wind energy crusade.

“We want to make sure that everyone understands that climate change is a real issue,” said Berta De Pablos-Barbier, president of Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S., in a recent interview for TheStreet. “A wind turbine spinning for one second produces the energy equivalent to what’s needed to make eight packs of M&M’S,” she said. Here’s her video.

The Fans of Wind campaign is part of Mars’ Sustainable in a Generation Plan that includes $1 billion investment over the next few years to tackle climate change and the scarcity of resources.

Microsoft has signed a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for 100% of the electricity from GE’s new 37-megawatt Tullahennel wind farm in County Kerry, Ireland. Microsoft said the deal will help support an expansion of its cloud computing services offerings in the country.
 As part of the deal, Microsoft also signed an agreement with the Dublin-based energy trading company ElectroRoute to provide energy trading services to Microsoft.

In addition to producing energy, the project will produce valuable data on energy storage. Each turbine will have an integrated battery; Microsoft and GE will test how these batteries can be used to capture and store excess energy, and then provide it back to the grid as needed. “This provides more predictable power to an increasingly green Irish grid, by smoothing out peaks and valleys in wind production. This will better enable intermittent clean power sources like wind energy to be added to the Irish grid,” Microsoft said. This will be the first deployment of integration into wind turbines to store energy in Europe.

Then, according to a Washington Post article last month, “there’s enough wind energy over the oceans to power human civilization, scientists say.”

The article cites National Academy of Sciences findings that there is so much wind energy potential over oceans that it could theoretically be used to generate “civilization scale power” — “assuming, that is, that we are willing to cover enormous stretches of the sea with turbines, and can come up with ways to install and maintain them in often extreme ocean environments. ”

That sounds very theoretical, expensive and probably extremely unlikely, but it’s nice to know the potential is there if we need it — and we probably will someday.

We might as well try and catch the wind.

Image: Turbine B W by richardghawley via Flickr CC

Canadian retailer puts organic on top

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You probably don’t travel to Montreal to visit the local IGA, but make an exception because the roof of an IGA Extra store in Montreal, owned by the Duchemin family, has a huge organic garden, billed as the largest in Canada. It’s worth a look-see.

The grocery chain has been working with urban gardening and agriculture company La Ligne Verte and the urban beekeeping company Alvéole to grow a range of organic vegetables and honey.

According to a report in Strategy, the 25,000 square-foot garden – which the food retailer claims is the largest organic vegetable garden in Canada – will provide produce and honey under a new store brand, “Frais du toit” (“fresh roof”), though they are only available at the Duchemin family’s store.

Launched July 19, more than 30 kinds of vegetables and greens, including beets, tomatoes, eggplant, and kale, are grown and harvested on a half-acre, in six inches of soil. “A green roof garden allows us to nourish our passion for food while reducing our environmental footprint, something that is particularly important to us. We are happy to give life to this innovative project and hope it encourages other companies to follow suit,” said Richard Duchemin, co-owner, IGA extra Famille Duchemin, quoted in a FreshPlaza article.

The certified organic farm’s vegetables are grown in dirt, not hydroponic grow trays. The store’s dehumidification system pulls excess moisture from the store and delivers to the garden’s irrigation system. It’s the first system of its kind in Canada, according to IGA.

Image: The Montreal IGA rooftop garden; credit Ligne Verte

Written by William DiBenedetto

28 August, 2017 at 7:00 am

Shame and outrage – withdrawal from the Paris climate accord

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Just when you thought Trump and his administration lackeys/weasels/fools could not be any more ignorant and despicable – they surpass themselves.

The Paris climate agreement was the most comprehensive international accord to fight climate change ever. It was signed by all but two countries (Syria and Nicaragua), and hailed as an historic effort to save our planet.

So of course, Trump now says that the United States will withdraw. This means the United States will leave the world stage and abandon crucial environmental regulations that can make a huge difference in saving the planet.

By exiting from the Paris agreement, Trump is ignoring advice from the Pope, foreign leaders and even businesses like Exxon. He is even rebuffing pleas from his own daughter, and from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. This is really an effort to spite President Obama, who worked hard to craft the Paris climate agreement.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, called Trump’s announcement a “historic display of ignorance.”

Brune said: “Donald Trump is making a shameful mistake of historic proportions. Our grandchildren will look back with stunned dismay at how a world leader could be so divorced from reality and morality. He is abandoning millions of Americans who will bear the brunt of climate disruption — from record floods to droughts and hurricanes that destroy people’s homes and livelihoods.

“Leaving the agreement is also an outrageous abandonment of American leadership. The move will put Trump alongside Syria’s Bashar Al Assad and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega (who’d like to make it stronger) as the only three world leaders keeping their countries out of the climate accord. With almost 70% of Americans supporting the Paris Agreement — including majorities in every state — it’s clear that Donald Trump’s reckless action is completely out of step with the wishes of most Americans.”

China and Germany are now the world leaders on climate changes and trade policies. The U.S.? A third-class laughingstock and Russian patsy.

Mark the date – June 1, 2017 – a day that will go down in infamy.

Images: Climate Change by Jan and Donald Trump Caricature by DonkeyHotey via Flickr CC

Written by William DiBenedetto

1 June, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Washington State lawsuit hits Feds after Hanford tunnel collapse

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Washington state is taking legal action against the “other Washington” after a tunnel full of mixed radioactive and chemical waste collapsed on May 9 at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

“This alarming emergency compels us to take immediate action – to hold the federal government accountable to its obligation to clean up the largest nuclear waste site in the country,” said Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon.

Ecology is requiring the federal Department of Energy, through an enforcement order, to immediately assess the integrity of the tunnels and take swift corrective action.

“Our top priority is to ensure the safety of Hanford workers and the community. The collapse of this tunnel raises serious questions about how it happened and what can be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This enforcement order is necessary to make sure we get greater assurance about the condition of these tunnels and the Department of Energy’s plan to contain any further risks,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

“The infrastructure built to temporarily store radioactive waste is now more than a half-century old. The tunnel collapse is direct evidence that it’s failing. It’s the latest in a series of alarms that the safety and health of Hanford workers and our citizens are at risk,” said Bellon.

The enforcement order requires the U.S. Department of Energy to determine the cause of the tunnel collapse; assess the risk of further collapses; ensure the radioactive and chemical waste in the tunnels is stored safely; and submit a plan for permanently cleaning up waste in the tunnels.

Image: B Reactor Process Tube Nozzles by Shane Lin via Flickr CC

Written by William DiBenedetto

15 May, 2017 at 7:26 am

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