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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

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

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

Bill Maher: Make Earth Great Again

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Bill Maher concluded Friday’s show explaining why we should concentrate on saving our planet rather than dreaming about colonizing Mars:

I’m a big fan of science fiction and space exploration, but colonizing Mars makes no sense…it might be a neat adventure to visit the place, but not now; $450 billion would be better spent here on Gaia.

I also want to commend Bill McKibben’s (350.org) great piece last week in The New York Times“The Planet Can’t Stand This Presidency.”

“Trump is robbing us of the time we have left to fight climate change – time we will never get back.”

Written by William DiBenedetto

22 April, 2017 at 1:03 pm

The EPA climate change

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scott-pruitt_gage-skidmoreWith Scott Pruitt now installed at the EPA, what is arguably one of the most successful government agencies ever—remember the dousing of the Cuyahoga River fire? Or the reduction of smog in LA?—is now itself gasping, on life support.

Those environmental advances were in large part because the EPA was around to protect the nation’s air, water, ground and health. Now it’s pretty clear that an emasculated EPA under Pruitt will have a tough time merely surviving, rather than continuing its work. For one thing one of Barrack Obama’s boldest environmental legacies, the Clean Power Plan, is going away.

In his first interview (with the Wall Street Journal) as EPA administrator, Pruitt said he wants to refocus the agency on a more narrow role. Pruitt said he expects to quickly withdraw both the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule, the Obama administration’s attempt to clarify the EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.

“There’s a very simple reason why this needs to happen: Because the courts have seriously called into question the legality of those rules,” Pruitt said in the interview, as reported by ThinkProgress.

Simple?

ThinkProgress reported that Pruitt has challenged the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change, arguing that there is significant debate on whether it is happening and whether humans are the primary cause: “in reality there is little to no debate about those questions  – 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is both happening and that human activity is contributing to it.

“There will be a rule-making process to withdraw those rules, and that will kick off a process,” Pruitt told the Wall Street Journal. “And part of that process is a very careful review of a fundamental question: Does EPA even possess the tools, under the Clean Air Act, to address this? It’s a fair question to ask if we do, or whether there in fact needs to be a congressional response to the climate issue.” In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts vs. EPA that the EPA does, in fact, possess the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants.

As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt “disbanded the office’s Environmental Protection Unit, dedicated to pursuing environmental law violations, and pursued only three environmental enforcement cases during his six years as Attorney General,” ThinkProgress reported. In addition:

“Pruitt also said that, as EPA administrator, he would focus on creating regulatory certainty that will help industry and spur job growth. Pruitt has long been a friend of the fossil fuel industry — emails revealed during a 2014 investigation by the New York Times showed Pruitt sending a letter of complaint to the EPA, in his role as Oklahoma Attorney General, drafted by Devon Energy, the largest energy company in Oklahoma.

The night before Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator by the Senate, a judge in Oklahoma ordered Pruitt’s office to release thousands of emails between the nominee and oil and gas companies. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) had requested access to those emails two years ago, but Pruitt’s office refused. The office has until Tuesday to release some 3,000 documents, which may reveal more coordination between Pruitt and industry actors.”

Those documents likely will be alarming and reveal much more about Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry, but will they affect the EPA’s future? Get set for a bumpy four years.

Written by William DiBenedetto

21 February, 2017 at 7:00 am

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