Archive for March, 2010

If weather is the default topic of conversation on normal days, then, as you can imagine, on days such as yesterday it overwhelms the conversation.

As national TV crews converged in southern New England to cover the Second Rainiest Month Ever, hundreds of drivers were stranded and tens of thousands of homeowners dealt with water in their basement. It was the second massive rainstorm this March and one that introduced many people to the “water in their basement” problem.

When I overheard people talking at work about all the precautions they were going to take to their house to make it flood-proof, I had an urge to butt in and say “Yeah, but this is a once-in-a-100-years type of flood. I wouldn’t go overreacting.” But I stopped myself – and now I know why.

This isn’t a once-in-100-years type flood anymore. Climate change has done exactly that – changed everything, which forces us to adjust. So go ahead and add those french drains and a sump pump. But after you do that, ask yourself this: How many more things will you have to add to adjust to climate change? Wouldn’t it be easier to stop climate change by altering those habits that produce too many greenhouse gases? Take the pledge to turn off lights from 11-1 every day – and follow it.

Cap-and-trade has lost much steam in the past year (NY Times).

What’s one way to stop two nations from fighting over an island? Have the island sink, and climate change may have been a factor (LA Times).

This MSNBC article says 4,200 cities took part in Earth Hour, up from 88 just last year. And now the White House is planning for an April 16 conservation summit (LA Times).

A GAO report finds flaws in the Energy Star program (NY Times). On a similar note, the $5 billion weatherization stimulus hasn’t been all that stimulating thus far (MSNBC).

GM unveils a new vehicle that will make a smart car look like a Hummer (MSNBC).

Rhode Island tries to develop standards for offshore wind farms (Providence Journal). Meanwhile, the Wampanoag Indians fight against Cape Wind (LA Times).

The most fuel-efficient speed for highway driving is 55 MPH.

Days away from Saturday’s Earth Hour, organizers are touting it as the biggest event since it first began in 2007. China and other countries have signed on for the first time, but the buzz in the United States has been rather soft to date.

Maybe it’s health care fatigue or the leftover disappointment from Copenhagen, but U.S. media outlets have said nary a word concerning Saturday night’s event, which starts at 8:30. Regardless of the lack of U.S. press, the event goes forward with 118 countries having pledged to turn off their lights – and that’s quite a hefty pledge.

Earth Hour director Andy Ridley told the Epoch Times that the hour shows people are fed up with special interests: “We all have to take responsibility for the environment. Earth Hour is a rallying point where everyone’s voice is heard,” he said.

One Singapore cafe goes farther – not quite to following our 11-1 daily pledge to turn of your lights – but by turning off the lights in their cafe for an hour once each month. It’s worthy to note that Dottie’s cafe on North Street in Pittsfield follows our pledge daily.

And of course, there are naysayers – a thinktank is promoting Human Achievement Hour, which has people turn on all their lights at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday. In fact, one article claims Earth Hour verges on the occult:

This is not only the wrong image, it is the wrong policy. Earth Hour preaches deprivation (in principle, if not in practice) but wealthier countries are better environmental stewards than poor nations. That’s because people tend to look after their most basic needs first and the environment second. Saving the Amazon rainforest as vital carbon sinks is good and well if you live in a country like Canada, but some people in Brazil are desperate enough for survival that the army must fight illegal deforestation. Wealth and technology should be the celebrated hope for solving problems like climate change; instead, Earth Hour symbolically switches them off.

The author, however, misses the point that Lights Out, Green In espouses with its 11-1 pledge: technology is good, but sometimes we use it by habit rather than when it’s truly needed. Either way – take our pledge and follow Earth Hour – the louder the chorus, the better the results.

Compost your eggshells; they add valuable calcium and other minerals to the soil.

Not a lot of environmental news this week.  Or not a lot that I could find anyway.  With healthcare and the NCAA tournament, there just wasn’t room for stories in other areas.  But here are a few.

Florida’s proposed purchase of Everglades land from U.S. Sugar remains in question (NY Times).

Conservationists say that the Internet is a major threat to rare species (MSNBC).  And delegates at a UN conference rejected proposals to protect polar bears and to ban international trade of bluefin tuna (NY Times).

Sometimes it’s the small things that can add up.

When mid-March rolls around each year, I remember how much wasted paper I used to use filling out college basketball brackets for the NCAA tourney. Endless sheets of brackets have now turned to computerized brackets that don’t need to be printed out – and not only does it save paper, but it makes it things easier and more accessible. I don’t need to add things up by hand, there are fewer mistakes and more people can join and fill out brackets. Sure, you can look and say, “well, it’d be easier on the environment just not to do a bracket” – but you can find a middle ground, which is really what doing things electronically allows.

As we move toward all-electronic medical records and all-electronic bill paying, we’re reminded of how easy it is to do things electronically. Sure, the computer takes up power – and yes, we probably have more bills and medical records than we used to – but that’s part of population growth. And so, we take advantage of the technology advancements to use less paper. It’s simply madness to ignore it.

Hope everyone’s adjusted to the hour we lost this weekend.  And be sure to beware the Ides of March.

China and India have signed on to the Copenhagen agreement (NY Times).

The L.A. Times has this interview with a former Interior secretary from the Bush administration.  It also has this article which talks about rising climate change skepticism in the GOP.

Florida’s deal to buy Everglades land from U.S. Sugar is on shaky ground (MSNBC).

Continued oil drilling around L.A. has residents crying foul (MSNBC).

Recycling in Massachusetts has plateaued in the last decade (Boston Globe).

A group tries to turn algae into fuel (Providence Journal).

Chilean sea bass is on the road to extinction due to overfishing – don’t order it.

For most of the past year, environmentalists have had the same lament. Politicians are hyper-focused on health care to the point that any progress on climate-change legislation has been slowed to a halt.

I have been one to agree. Sure, the House passed a cap-and-trade bill last year and there were some rumblings in the Senate of a bipartisan deal at the time of Copenhagen, but the buzz quickly faded. On the heels of a watered-down deal from Copenhagen, the climate change effort was all but flat-lined as scientific research was attacked as false.

But with spring comes new hope and it has arrived again with climate change legislation. As health care nears toward an endgame, President Obama added some life into the climate change effort by inviting 14 senators to the White House for a meeting on a  possible bipartisan deal. This runs contrary to the approach in health-care, when the president let Congress take the reins for awhile before he eventually stepped in to try to control the debate.

The bipartisan effort also came with Obama putting forth Republican ideas such as nuclear power and off-shore drilling (which aren’t great for the environment). It seems likely that those ideas will be included in the bill. It took far longer in the health-care debate for the president to give in on some GOP demands.

Other ideas that were bandied about include capping emissions and auctioning off “emission” credits, of which the proceeds may be returned to taxpayers. It will not be easy and any regulations might not go into effect for 5 years (which could be too late for the environment). Also, senators with states that rely on coal or oil will try to obstruct this bill, but there is talk and hopefully there will be movement.