Saturday, April 21, 2012

Are Humans the "Most Important" Species

Humans may be at the top of the food chain, but are we the most important species; the species that will endure through whatever happens on this planet?  Today is Earth Day and as a  transmogrified conversationalist into quasi-eco-terrorist environmental activist (I write acerbic rhetoric); it is incumbent of me to write something.  But why?  After 60 years of ecologists preaching that one cannot shit in the same kitchen where they cook and eat without dying of sepsis, no one is listening, not even many of the "activists"  who hang with (and get digits from) other activists and pule about how "someone" should "do something".   However, that "someone" is never them.

So?  What's the point?

Normally, I would start preaching statistics to prove my point, but then I end up preaching to the choir of those who already know the lyrics of statistics -- and everyone else's eyes glaze over and they go to Yahoo News to see how Lindsay Lohan is doing in rehab.

Just because we can consume more other species, doesn't make us the most important, only the most invasive.  For those of you who may have heard of The Gaia Hypothesis, which contends that "the earth is a single self-regulating system" realizes that this may mean that the planet may react to human invasiveness the same way as our bodies react to an invasive infection.

End of the human race?

 Though a bit hard to ignore the drastic climate changes in just the last few years, many people will and even deny that things have changed much.    Now I am not predicting decimation of the whole human race, as Mayan Doomsayers would.  (Though I do think there is a certain irony to the fact that it might end this year.)  However, give the increase in deadly disasters over the last few years and the loss of land mass due to rising oceans, I do believe that starting soon large numbers of the population will no longer exist and the planet's over all population will quickly dwindle to being much smaller.   I believe James Lovelock when he predicted that "in less than 100 years, what exists of the human race will have to live north of the Arctic Circle"   That clock started ticking over 60 years ago and Lovelock did specify that it might not take the full 100 years to reach the point of human consolidation above the 66th Parallel.   
Life in the Arctic in the near future.

The Arctic seems to be preparing a way for humans.   You can no longer "stand" at the North Pole.   You can float about it in a boat, but where ice existed less than 15 years ago is now a new ocean; the Northwest Passage; that very passage that explorers sought over 300 years ago.  

Earth Day: What's in Your Trash?

The irony of Earth Day observance is that many people will go off and "clean up" a beach or a meadow or a forest, taking with them boxes of plastic trash bags which are one of the worse contributors to the carbon footprint.   This process is a chain of emissions, from getting the materials to the factory, the actual manufacturing and then further emissions while transporting said bags to the "ecologically minded" folks who are really simply assuaging their guilt for the lifestyle they live which contributes to global warming and the overall over use of the planet's resources beyond its capability to replenish those resources.  What was required would have been drastic changes in lifestyle and a choice to care for the planet at the cost of some conveniences 

Wait?  Did I say was, past tense?   Yep.   Fundamentally, it's too late.  Tons of ice are melting off of the Polar Tundra, exposing moss and releasing carbon emissions at an unstoppable rate without the help of human emissions.  So, it's already a done deal, only a matter of time.  Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has quit publishing reports on human contribution to global warming and is now publishing reports on "disaster mitigation."

Mitigate What?

The loss of human life, that's what.  Since prevention of global warming is out of human hands the IPCC is studying the ramifications of the Earth's continued core warming.   Without going into details, the ramification is deadly disasters from atmospheric (tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons,...) to geological (Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions).   They are studying ways to mitigate the impact on human beings, which is to say, decreasing the deadliness, destructiveness, potential for creating an unbalance which will allow terrorism and war to proliferate as resources become harder to obtain.

You can read the IPCC's report: "Managing the Risks of Extreme Events And Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation"  (rolls right off the tongue)   Note the word adaptation which is a way of saying the shit is going to hit the fan, prepare for it.  Gaia is about to shrug and humans may not fare as well as their arrogance would assume.

Now what?

Of course it's not like there isn't something that can be done.  It's just that the shift has to be from an ecological paradigm, to a humanist paradigm.   Fundamentally, we have to ask ourselves: "what can I do to help my fellow humans when catastophy befalls them?'

There is a lot and since there is a program designed to explain and train people in how to help their fellow humans in dire need, I will refer to NIMS, a free training program designed to teach lay persons how to help in a disaster.  Or, you can become part of a CERT (Citizen Emergency Response Team).  Or you can figure all this is too inconvenient to consider.  You'd be in...not good, but mass company to think that way.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Yer Part of the Fracking Problem

If you're not part of the solution

Unlike most political or politicized issues such where people feel like they as J. Regular Voter don't have much chance of influencing elected officials to fix what is wrong, fracking is one of those issues where the average person can be influential. For most issues (e.g. job creation, health care coverage, women's rights...) most voters think their only recourse it to vote for the right guy, and bitch on Facebook that "someone ought to [fix, stop someone else from doing it, make it right]" in the name of public awareness. Then they are disappointed when the guy voted for doesn't pull off the job they hoped, or not enough people got behind the awareness. Eventually, all throw their hands in the air and sigh, that we have lost our government to special interest and so we have.

Who reading this thought drilling in the Arctic was a bad idea? Raise your hands? Who bitched on Facebook or via e-blast to make people aware? What happened? Shell Oil got permission to start drilling last August (2011). How many people have Occupied Wall Street or blogged about it or posted on the relevancy of it's message on Facebook? What came of it?

Thing is we, J. Regular Voter, can do something about this and it's not commiserating about it publicly or semi-publicly, using the most vitriolic, emphatic language possible that someone should do something to make it illegal. Nothing will happen. The juggernaut of Big Special Oil Interest, will flick away the vitriolic barbs like flies on an elephant. If all the J. Regular Voters were to band together with the same persistent like-mindedness that has driven the conservative (AKA Republican) special interest agenda we could stop fracking.

"But", you say, "we are like minded. Look at our public message. We all hate fracking and think someone should do something about it." Well that's where the conservative like-mindedness differs from the liberal, tree-hugging, earth loving liberal. The conservative like-mindedness went beyond a shared zeitgeist to becoming an agenda, a very simple agenda that allowed them to get away with so much that we now bemoan. What is that agenda?


Huh? "But", you say, that's exactly what we are saying when we post on Facebook or e-blast our friends. We need regulation to prevent this." However, it's a no win agenda, cause it takes the power of action out of our hands and puts it in the hands of a few who are woefully under resourced compared to the big special interests who profit from fracking. We need a different agenda. We need an agenda to....

Reduce Demand!

Thats it! That simple! Reduce the demand for natural gas and you reduce the need for fracking. Actually, if we reduce the need for natural gas enough, then fracking becomes a cost that doesn't pay for itself. Let the oil special interest have their arguments about the number of jobs fracking creates or the bad science of the EPA. Don't waste time fighting it. Some, and only some, of what they say is true; just enough to make it hard to argue. Reducing the demand for natural gas will make all that moot. Simple? Yes! Easy? Yes and no!

What is required from each of us is easy. Getting enough of us behind this agenda is not so easy. But there are well over 200,000,000 of us using natural gas so if each of us reduces our usage (AKA demand) the impact could lower the need for gas and the need for fracking. Now, I know a lot of you reading this are thinking if I reduce my natural gas usage it won't make a difference and not enough other will do this. Well, toots, that just lazy and a cop out! Make your agenda to Reduce Demand. Get everyone you know on board with this new agenda Change your public message from, someone ought to do something to...

I know how to eliminate fracking and you can help too

So how do you reduce your natural gas use?
  • Obviously, you turn down the thermostat, especially when you are not home. When no one is home, 45 degrees will keep the pipes from freezing.
  • How about planning your stove usage so that you are baking more than one thing, firing up the oven less.
  • How about shorter showers to reduce heating water. Actually if you purchase those electric water heaters that goes with each tub and sink, you reduce the amount of time the water heater is reheating water to be ready for when you need it.
  • Pilotless gas appliances.
  • Shut off the lights when you leave the room (Yep, most utilities burn natural gas to provide you with electricity). Shut off decoration lights
  • In fact, shut off anything electrical that isn't being used.
  • Buy as little processed food as possible. Processing food requires heat and most of that heat is generated by natural gas
  • Reduce purchasing food that is packaged as much as possible. Manufacturing packaging requires a lot of heat, again supplied by natural gas.
That's a lot of inconvenience, but think of the people in Dimrock, Pennsylvania whose water has been so adulterated that it can be lit on fire. Demanding regulation isn't going any place, so if you aren't willing to make these sacrifices, or convince your friends to reduce their natural gas demand, you are part of the fracking problem.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Maybe It's Too Late?

Or maybe that's just an excuse.

It's hard not to think that Mother Nature/Gaia/The Earth has had enough of us when one looks at the devastation that occured over the weekend in Joplin, MO (a tornado bifurcated the town in a half mile wide path of devastation) while considering the recent Earthquake in Japan. Add to this the over 1,100 tornados just this year attributing to over 420 deaths in April and May alone. The largest outbreak of violent tornados ever occurred in three days between April 25th and 28th; now labled the 2011 Super Outbreak. CNN reported that 2011 could shape up to be the deadiest tornado season ever, and include a graph of increased tornado activity since 1950 that exactly matches the "hockey stick" graph of global warming. Video of the Joplin, MO tornado can show just how deadly they can be

As for Earth quakes, records show that there has beeen a 30% increase of magnitude six earth quakes between 2000 and 2010. Already in 2011 (not even half over) the number earthquakes is almost 2/3rds the number of earthquakes in 2010. At that rate there will be 30% more earthquakes this year than next year. Maybe it's too late to stop what has been set in motion.

Maybe Lovelock is right?

...when he said, "climate change will reduce the human population to a few breeding pairs surviving near the Arctic." The Norwegian seem to think so with the Svarlbad Seed Vault project, collecting seeds and storing them in the arctic should natural disasters ( or war) destroy agricultural resources. Lovelock is the climatologist who put forthe The Gaia Hypothesis that we and the earth are a "single, self-regulating orgnamism." Perhaps, the planet is self-regulating itself.

So does that mitigate our sense of convenience?

Allowing us to continue with our current carbon footprint contributions to the accelorating carbon cycle by, driving everywhere, as often as we want, purchasing and disposing of disposable products rather than reusing, How many disposable cups did you you this week? Bags? Paper towels? I know that washing dishes and carrying your cups and canvas to the coffee shop and grocery store is inconvenient and washing rags is way inconvenient compared to buying disposable paper products. But they are require carbon emissions to manufacture, transport to the store and again to the land fill or recycle center and b e recycled.

Somebody should fix this.

But it should be somebody else? Right? Somebody ought to create cars with no carbon footprint, (not that we can buy enough to replace what is on the road) and disposable packages so that we don't have to be inconvenienced.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Yin & Yang of Green Awareness

This past weekend I went to La Vida Verde, sponsored by Greenheart a child of The Center for Cultural Exchange who really planned the the event. It kicked off with a plethora of volunteers (kudos to Greenheart for reaching so many people) "cleaning up Wicker Park (the actual park not the neighborhood). My initial reaction was, isn't raking up leaves and mulch sort of an antithesis to being green. After all, aren't leaves and twigs part of the environment and also, isn't the decomposition of leaves and twigs a part of the ecological system? Isn't this "cleaning up" part of the way humans try to order nature. Further, as I joined in, I wondered, aren't we taking work away from potential city workers in an economy where jobs are desperately needed? After seeing, the poundage of disposable bags and eatery packaging as well as bowls, I also wondered how green can this be, all this trash?


...(and it's a big "however") The workshops were tremendous and because of CCI/Greenheart's approach, very well attended. The room was full to standing room for every workshop and all those in attendance went away being all the more greener for having attended.

The first was ostensibly how to make veggie chili in a very green way by Chef David Reyes, representing the Green Chicago Restaurant Coop, but the conversations and question turned toward issues of food purchase that is environmentally more sustainable and less intrusive as well as being healthier. Those in attendance went away discovering how much more invasive meat production is to the environment not only in the excessive amount of carbon emissions (generally around 3,000 grams per burger), but also the tremendous amount of water required to put meat on the table (1 pound requires 1800 gallons of water). From there the discussion went to the reduced carbon output of purchasing local vegetables (or growing one's own as many restaurants do) and saving the extra emissions required to transport food from places like California, the major supplier of food to the country. Included in the discussion was the health benefit of not eating genetically modified fruits and vegetables as can only be purchased in most grocery
outlets. From there the discussion turned toward cleaning products, since being clean is regulated by health code, that are green. Most people didn't realize that vinegar can suffice for a surface cleaning product and reduce the invasive chemical impact on the environment.

The next workshop conducted by GreenBox Chicago who showed everyone h
ow to grow shallow rooted vegetables (spinach, chard, lettuce, etc...) and even a deep rooted tomato in containers on roofs and and porches. The side benefit was the knowledge folks picked up on reducing carbon emissions by reducing transportation of vegetables, the help given to the carbon cycle (turning carbon into oxygen) by having more green around and the health benefit of reducing one's intake of genetically modified vegetables. Plus, the health benefit to one's pocketbook. People were shown how they can take wine boxes or in the case of tomatoes, old buckets like the kind that kitty litter is sold in and turn them into micro-gardens from seeds or starter plants. Simple: Get a container, ventilate the bottom with a few holes, line with newspaper, add organic soil and plant. From that point on it's the usual ritual of sun, water and love. Attendees learned that composting was not only valuable toward the growth of plants but an aid in reducing disposed garbage to a landfill. Fundamentally, it's putting food that will rot in a place where it can do that and become something of value rather than just tossed away.

Next on the workshop roster came, Ken Dunne of the Resource Center, who in the gentlest manner explained how to stop disposing of our planet, but reusing and recycling the things that most people assume can be disposed of. Beyond the obvious of reusing packaging containers, how many people thing that perishable food can be reused? At the commercial level, The Resource Center aids restaurants in getting food that would be disposed of to those at risk who need it. On the personal level, perishable can be used for composting.

After that it was to the Greenhouse shop for a bit of soiree including music. Here is where the yin and yang of being green become most evident. The store was fundamentally started based on fare trade products. This often means transporting products from other countries, which translates to a higher carbon output, but I was glad to see that many of the products in the store were made locally by women in need of doing something to create income. Being green and helping people who are economically oppressed are equally noble causes and in this complicated world there will inevitably be noble conflict.

So in the effort to help people become aware enough to practice sustainable and long term green practices, a certain amount of waste and carbon footprint had to be generated. I would like to think of this as collateral damage and would hope that what over 100 people came away with in return for this damage, was practices that overall will treat the planet with respect and nurture, less consumption and disregard.

Yin & Yang of Green

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's "On" At Your House?

Gorillas in the air:

Many of you are probably someplace other than your home as you read this. (No one ever messes around online during their own time). So, you'll have to think. What electrical "thingamadobobs" might still be sucking juice threw the ol' 'lectric meter?

Keep in mind that a single 100-watt bulb left on all night will require 500 lbs of coal be burned to keep it lit. That means a single 100-watt bulb left on all night will release 800 pounds of CO2 released into the air; roughtly the equivalent of having 2 gorillas floating above your head. If one third of the people in the U.S. left a light on nightthat would be 800,000,000 lbs of CO2 , or 1 million gorillas floating over your head.

Did you leave your computer on?

If you have a regular CRT monitor, at 240-watts, that would mean 1,200 pounds of coal, releasing 1,920 pounds of CO2, or the equivalent of four adult gorillas and one adolescent floating over you. The computer itself would require 2,460 pounds of CO2, about the equivalent of 7 gorillas.

If half the population of the U.S. were to leave their computers on all day with a regular monitor, that would mean 288 trillion pounds of CO2 in the air, or the equivalent of 720 million gorillas.

So, what's on?

A 25 watt nightlight that's always on in the bathroom would be the equivalent of five flying chimpanzees of CO2.

The stereo? Another five flying chimps. The DVD player? Another five flying chimps.

How about those nice 15 watt accent lights around the building or garden or along the walk. Nine of them would be the equivelant of ten adult gorillas and a teen gorilla.

So what's "on" at your house? Some sort of Flying Primate Circus?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Earth Rising: Lashing Back.....

....with volcanoes, earthquakes and tornadoes.

Earthquakes? Really?

Yup. As far back as 2007 scientists have considered the possibility of Earthquakes being tied to global warming More recently several papers including The Montreal Gazette spawned by the Japanese earthquake, tied the recent plethora of earthquakes to global warming.

How can this be?

Well, global warming not only impacts the atmosphere, but it impacts the Earth's
crust, according to a report in Reuters (2009). In the simplest of explanations, it's due to a lot (billions of tons) of weight being lifted off of the tectonic plates, to huge sections of the Earth's crust that shift during what we call an earthquake. As the weight lifts, the plates will start shifting. This lifting of tremendous weight is caused by the melting of glaciers and the polar ice caps. Andrew Hynes, tectonics expert (plates expert) at McGill, indicates that Vancouver Island (part of Greenland) is "bowed", sticking up and if enough weight is released could cause a major quake.

He also talks about the more complicated aspect of this weight shifting is the pressure changes within the crust. As the weight changes so does the change of fluid (molten rock and water) within the crust. This is like having huge wedges inserted and released into the rocks, causing cracking and collapse. He cites the possibility of volcanoes.

Volcanoes? Oh, no.

Yeah. Afraid so, but since volcanoes haven't recently caused mass death, lets stick to the issue and take that up on another day. It's all related. Course. Gaia - Earth, a single self-regulating organism. However, note that as volcanoes erupt, more carbon emissions will be release
d into the air and the more the Greenhouse Effect could contribute to global warming; and so on and so on.

Can it get worse?

Probably. In 2003 NASA Reported that the melting of Polar Caps would have "gr
eat impact on ocean processes." And I couldn't say it better than they have: "Less ice means more open water. More open water means greater absorption of solar energy. More absorption of solar energy means increased rates of warming in the ocean, which naturally tends to yield faster rates of ice loss."

Worse, yet?

In 2006, Time Magazine portrayed polar cap melting as "the tipping point". Not only will the Earth warm as the oceans increase in volume by absorbing more heat, as the ice melts, exposing the permafrost, the newly exposed soil will decompose releasing methane, a carbon emission, and adding to global warming.

And so it goes and so it goes, eh?

"Nature, it seems has had a bellyful of us" (Kluger, Time, 2006). Whether or not you believe that global warming is caused by us (humans) may be a moot issue. Whether one finds it inconvenient or not The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which includes over 500 independent scientists as well as NASA have reported for over twenty years the impact that humans have had on global warming. Seems the only dissent comes from politicians who pander to the economics of those who might contribute to global warming. The Norwegians are taking this very seriously. They have been packing away every kind of seed known in the advent of global catastrophe and everyone is forced to live in the Arctic. You know, just in case civilization has to start over. So?

You wanna take a chance?

That this is either a bunch of hooey, or that it's too late? Hmmm? Or do you want to do something -- just to be safe. You don't have to become an activist, just simply do what you can to reduce your personal carbon footprint. After all, there are 300 million of us here in the U.S. Here are simple things you can do yourself