So far, the number of questions about global warming, energy, and the environment is a small fraction of the number of inquiries about foreign policy and the economy. So head on over to CitizenTube, because global warming is a crisis that needs answers. You can submit your own questions and vote on others you like.
You should also check out our ongoing politics thread at the Climate Crossroads forum.
President Obama today announced that the federal government will reduce its own global warming emissions 28 percent by 2020. The reductions are based on the action plans of some 35 federal agencies pursuant to Executive Order 13514, signed last October. The emissions reductions to be achieved are equivalent to taking 17 million cars off the road for one year and will save the federal government between $8 and $11 billion in energy costs.
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
[N]ukes, offshore oil and gas drilling, biofuels, “clean coal,” and ... well, that’s it. That’s right, in listing what “clean energy” means the president did not mention renewable energy. That’s just stunning. It’s 2010 and renewable energy isn’t even an afterthought? Seriously?
What did you think of the speech? Join the SOTU group here on Climate Crossroads and share your thoughts.
Elsewhere in the blogosphere:
-- Where is the U.S. Postal Service on the road toward electric vehicles? Autobloggreen has the answers.
-- If you live in the L.A. area, but missed the Go Green Expo that took place there last weekend, click here.
The most likely cause? Global climate change, say the researchers -- who note similarly rising wave heights in the North Atlantic, plus a rising in the total power generated by hurricanes yearly.
It’s a paradox. Awareness has increased. There’s been a lot more information available. This is much more in our face. And this is where the psychological defense mechanisms are relevant, especially when coupled with the fact that other people, as we’ve lately seen with the e-mail attacks, are systematically trying to create the sense that there’s doubt.(video via Treehugger.)
If I don’t want to believe that climate change is true, that my lifestyle and high carbon emissions are causing devastation, then it’s convenient to say that it doesn’t.
Check out what conservative Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had to say about climate change. Via Climate Progress:
[T]he idea of not pricing carbon, in my view, means you’re not serious about energy independence. The odd thing is you’ll never have energy independence until you clean up the air, and you’ll never clean up the air until you price carbon.
As you may already know, our Trails community hosts a monthly photo contest. January's theme was "light" and Claudia Kuhn's photo, "Sunset and Storm," (above) won the Grand Prize. Bill Chapman earned the People's Choice award for "Buttermilk Sunrise," (below).
High praise also goes out to this month's other eight finalists: "Lone Bristlecone" by Chris Whitney; "Early Morning Light" by Dennis Shekinah; "Buffalo Creek, Selman Ranch, Oklahoma" by Justin Morris; a coastal image by Douglas Dietiker; "Sunrise Haleakala by Yvonne Baur; "Burning Rock" by Greg Tucker; "Sunrise on the Farm" by GonzoJohn; and "Shadow River" by Steve Kiene.
Claudia Kuhn is a hardworking special educator in Woodstock, New York, who loves to spend time outdoors whenever she can. She took the winning photo during a break from a photography workshop in Yellowstone last summer, when she and a friend drove to Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming.
A thunderstorm was building just as the sun was setting, and Claudia caught the golden light coming from behind Mt. Moran. Many other park visitors stopped to take one or two shots, but Claudia and her friend stayed until the light faded, taking photos of the amazing scene the whole time.
The judges called the winner "unique" because of "the rare convergence of clouds," and liked the "great texture," the "depth of field," and the "simple but highly textured composition."
Claudia wins a Nikon Coolpix P90. Check out her website for more beautiful photos.
Buttermilk Sunrise, by Bill Chapman
Earning the most votes from members of the Trails community and the People's Choice title is Bill Chapman of Hatch, Utah, with this photo called "Buttermilk Sunrise."
To get the shot looking straight down the Colorado River, Bill drove 70 miles along a rough gravel road to Toroweap Overlook on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, hiked a quarter mile to the rim, then rappelled 15 feet down the canyon wall.
There's a campground out there, he said, but it's remote and seldom visited; one sees very few people at Toroweap. In the summer you can stand at the canyon edge and look 3,000 feet straight down to watch boaters float past.
Community members who voted for the photo described it as "gorgeous," "dramatic," and "incredible," and wrote that it captures "the spirit of the canyon."
In honor of Valentine's Day, the theme of the February photo contest is "A Place I Love." If you're interested in making a submission, head over and join the photo contest group. You can submit your best photo (just one photo per person, please!) starting Tuesday, February 2. The Grand Prize winner will receive two $250 gift certificates -- one for you and one to share -- for the awesome online outdoor equipment and clothing store, Altrec .
A thunderstorm was building just as the sun was setting, and Claudia caught the golden light coming from behind Mt. Moran. Many other park visitors stopped to take one or two shots, but Claudia and her friend stayed until the light faded, taking photos of the amazing scene the whole time.
Another group to join if you're into photography is Apertures, Shutter Speeds, and Light, right here on Climate Crossroads.
Newsweek and YouTube put together a series of videos for tonight's State of the Union speech about various topics that are on the minds of Americans. Here's one video of climatologist James Hansen discussing energy and climate change.
There will be a bunch of activity over the next week at the State of the Union group here on Climate Crossroads. YouTube set up CitizenTube in which Americans will be able to submit questions after the speech to the president. Obama will be answering some of these questions next week and we'll be following this Q&A here at the SOTU group.
I’ve had plenty of opportunity to gather anecdata on the impact of DC’s new initiative to impose a five cent tax on plastic grocery bags. My key observations are that I hear a ton of whining about how terrible this new tax is, and also a lot of people engaging in tax-avoiding behavior—canvass bags, cramming stuff into backpacks, carrying items by hand. In other words, it looks to be a stunning success! The five cent fee is actually very small but people really hate paying it. Apparently it’s led to something like a fifty percent reduction in bag usage.
Of all the potential paths forward for our economy, the green economy is the only one that presents numerous and significant opportunities for positive externalities. A green economy is the only one that offers not only new jobs, but cost savings, health benefits, and stronger national security.I encourage you to read the whole speech - it's fantastic.
Take for example, energy efficiency. A McKinsey study estimates that $520 billion invested in energy efficiency today would net $1.2 trillion dollars in energy cost savings through 2020. $2 in savings for every dollar invested – a very positive externality. Especially when you consider that electricity bills already cost black families 25% more of their income than other groups.
Think about the health benefits of a green economy. Heart disease, cancer and respiratory illness are three of the top four most fatal health threats in America. They account for more than half of the deaths in the nation – and they plague our inner cities. All three have been linked to environmental causes. A green economy would substantially reduce the pollution linked to these deadly health issues. A green economy would also reduce the economic burdens of hospital visits, medical bills and lost work and school days – especially in environmental justice communities where these problems are at their worst. Positive externalities.
Over at the Crossroads forum, some are reacting to this NYT article "Therapists Report Increase in Green Disputes." Apparently, environmental stewardship can lead to a strain in a relationship. Said one commenter:
I'd say that while my sweetie and I are pretty much on the same page where "being green" is concerned, we do have an ongoing argument about getting a worm bin, because while one of us (okay, that would be me) thinks it's a great idea and promises to take good care of it, the other one thinks it would be a lot of hassleAny eco-disputes in your relationship? Share them at the forum.
When it comes to certain activities during the calendar year, such as the holidays, meat is practically mandatory. It's ceremonial. Turkey for Thanksgiving and pot roast for Christmas. And don't forget the Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day barbecues. These are all a given.
But since quitting meat for the new year, I've noticed the less obvious ones. For example, for this avid sports fan, I've come to notice that meat-eating is a staple for TV viewing. The NFL playoffs are in high gear right now. In previous times, you'd find me with a beer in one hand and a chicken strip/buffalo wing (with ranch!)/pizza slice/mozzarella sticks/bacon burger in the other. This ritual is as American as apple pie.
This year I've had to re-think my approach. And with the help of my wife, I've come to appreciate the lighter and healthier alternatives that are out there.
Here is one of the tostadas my wife made this past weekend for our football-viewing pleasure. It looks amazing and tastes even better. Rice, beans, guac, salsa, shredded lettuce, and a clump of olives on top a cooked tortilla. Awesome. Are you ready for some football?
Having a life partner who has no problems cooking meatless meals is a big plus. But in terms of my own abilities, it has been a challenge. I was always comfortable cooking chicken. I could make a mean steak. I've cooked turkey before, no prob. Sausages for breakfast, yum. I always slapped lunch meat in my sandwiches. Vegetarianism has eliminated all of these basic options. It's like I'm back to the drawing board.
So I took a risk the other day and made my very first lasagna. Some of you reading this will probably mutter, "So what?" Well, if you knew me, you'd know that to be a big deal. Here's a pic of the final product. Broccoli, spinach, a dash of rice cheese, olives, and sauce. It was far from perfect, but I got the hang of it and I now know how to make it better the next time around.
While it's nice to know that my carbon footprint has shrunk since quitting meat, I still have yet to adjust. I need to do more research in terms of what I can cook and what I should buy at the store and the farmers' market.
Like any lifestyle change, you see things in retrospect. And you notice the results. After three weeks of being an herbivore, I feel healthier. And I feel even better when I read horrid stories about the meat industry.
Do you have any favorite earth-friendly, veggies recipes? Share them here or post them on Climate Crossroads here!
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
For years, there's been this estimate floating around that glaciers in the region could vanish as early as 2035 if current warming trends continue. Suffice to say, that would be a catastrophe, since the glaciers currently provide water for hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians. Anyway, that 2035 figure snuck into the IPCC's 2007 report. And it's been repeated by a number of journalists -- including me.Uh oh.
But it turns out there's no solid basis for saying Himalyas's glaciers will vanish by 2035. They may be melting quickly, but many of those glaciers are hundreds of feet thick and could take centuries to vanish. So where did 2035 come from? As New Scientist's Fred Pearce reports, this number has an iffy origin -- namely, Fred Pearce.
Back in 1999, he was reporting a story and asked an Indian glaciologist, Syed Hasnain, about the glaciers. Hasnain suggested by e-mail they could disappear by 2035. Later, the World Wildlife Foundation wrote a report about India's glaciers that cited Pearce's article. And then the IPCC ended up citing the WWF report. But the 2035 figure was never published in a peer-reviewed journal. It was just a guess. Even Hasnain agrees the figure should've never been cited.However, "this doesn't mean everything's fine with the glaciers." Dot Earth also blogged about this soap opera:
The situation is particularly embarrassing for the climate panel because its chairman, Rajendra K. Pachauri, had strongly criticized the Indian government for issuing a report last November challenging the idea that the glaciers feeding its rivers and farmers are in meltdown mode.
Here's more reaction at the Island of Doubt blog, which figures this episode is worse than the whole "climate-gate" fiasco.
The Bad Astronomy blog makes a good point: "Expect to hear the antiglobal warming crowd crowing over this, and the media misreporting this to sow more doubt about global warming. But the important point to remember is this: the Himalayan ice really is shrinking, and the same thing is happening in Antarctica. Global warming is real. It’s also getting worse. You can shout, you can scream until you’re red in the face, and you can deny the facts all you want. But facts are pesky: they exist whether you believe in them or not."
Elsewhere in the blogosphere:
-- For MLK Day, Obama served meals at a soup kitchen.
-- Don't have a farmers' market in your area? Start your own!
-- Vegan Lunch Box is a blog with awesome pictures and even better ideas of how to lower the carbon footprint of your diet.
-- And speaking of food, why aren't libertarians more critical of the Big Ag industry that enjoys so much wealth from government subsidies? Grist has a good column here.
An oversight buried within the most recent Inter
Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has forced scientists to admit
Secretary Chu is right to say that this, like the
The positive side of this spat is that the Indian government
is doing just that. The Ministry of Environment and Forests is moving to form a
coalition of climate scientists to play the role of an “Indian
IPCC”. This body will help to better understand the impacts of climate
Ultimately, the transparency provided by increased
information and communication is the only way to move forward in the global
fight against climate change. By enabling and empowering national bodies
focused on local information needs,
Last week I read an article in my local newspaper about the environmental impacts of a decrease in public transportation ridership, and the subject of commuting has been on my mind ever since. The article described issues facing transit authorities these days:
Without a doubt, air quality inventories show that the best way to cut greenhouse gases in the region is by removing cars from the road.Budgets are very tight in California, and public transportation is on the chopping block. Transit authorities have cut the number of trains and buses running and increased fares (and they're only going to get more expensive). My commute costs more than I believe it reasonably should, although I haven’t done the math to figure how expensive it would be to drive (and park in downtown San Francisco – not an easy or inexpensive feat). I much prefer riding my bike to the station and hopping on the train.
However, with the cost to drive plummeting and fare increases and service cuts making transit less practical, transit agencies are having problems retaining their old passengers, let alone attracting new ones. If that continues, the effects could be dramatic — more cars on the road could endanger human health, produce hazier air and contribute to rising sea levels.
12. The Coal Baron, Don Blankenship -- Global warming, he insists, is nothing but "a hoax and a Ponzi scheme." His fortune depends on such lies: Massey Energy, the nation's fourth-largest coal-mining operation, unearths more than 40 million tons of the fossil fuel each year - often by blowing the tops off of Appalachian mountains.
So there you have it. Check it out!
What do Texans know about electric cars? Quite a bit it turns out.
I spent Friday and Saturday in Austin at their Climate Protection Conference and Expo. Fellow Plug In America board member, Marc Geller, and I set up our booth and spent two days talking non-stop to Texans about plug-in cars and renewable energy. We also spoke on two panels, Marc spoke about the cars themselves and I spoke on a panel about charging infrastructure.
Having grown up in San Antonio, I remember how conservative Texans were in general, so I fully expected to encounter some push back on our positions regarding EVs. On the contrary, with one notable exception*, everyone we met was as hungry for EVs as we were. The only difference was that they had not yet learned about the coming plug-ins. It was our job to inform them. Once told of the auto industry's rapid move toward electrification, you could feel their excitement grow.
I was struck with the pervasive desire to quash our addiction to oil and replace it with a healthy reliance on renewable energy. The demand for plug-ins is not just on the two coasts, Americans everywhere want them.
My previous statements, that the market for plug-ins is much larger than the automakers think, were borne out in our conversations with these Texans. To a person, they were desperate to move away from oil. Granted, we were in Austin, the most liberal city in the state, but not everyone at the conference was from Austin. We met people from San Antonio, Dallas and Houston and they were all the same. They couldn't wait for the opportunity to drive on electricity.
"We can now see a clear path to having thousands -- even hundreds of thousands -- of zero-emission vehicles on Texas roads in the next several years," said Jason Few, president of Houston-based Reliant Energy. The local utility, Austin Energy, has been a leader in wind energy with the nation's highest percentage of wind in a municipal utility grid mix. Their understanding of the benefits from plug-in cars goes back many years to the inception of their Plug In Partners program. Using that strong west Texas wind and the plentiful sunshine to replace the 60% foreign oil in every gallon of gas makes sense to everybody.
The only downside here is that most Texans are going to have to wait a bit longer to get the cars because the GM Volt roll out will be limited to California, at least for the first few months; and Nissan's announced plans for the Leaf are mostly for a West Coast roll out with some cars going to Arizona and Tennessee. I recently heard that Nissan has agreed to supply Houston with a few Leafs from the initial manufacturing run. This is a good idea since Texans are hot for EVs. Marc and I told them repeatedly to contact their local GM and Nissan Dealers in Austin and request they get them as soon as possible. From a marketing viewpoint, getting these cars in the hands of outspoken early adopters will go a long way toward preparing the ground for others. Word of mouth will be strong.
I think the nervousness from the OEMs about the market for plug-ins is misplaced. What we're seeing in Texas and elsewhere seems to be prevalent. I honestly think their problem will be keeping up with demand.
I want to personally thank Chad Schwitters of Seattle, Brett Conrad of Santa Monica and Peter van Deventer of the Netherlands for their generous contributions to help defray the costs of my trip. Our membership continues to grow, allowing Plug In America to further educate info-hungry drivers on the benefits of going electric and preparing them for the change.
* The notable exception mentioned above is my very own brother, Harrel, who lives a short drive from Austin. He drove up to see me on his motorcycle, instead of his giant SUV. I took that as a good sign:~)
I'll consider my work done when he's driving on electricity.
(Like what you read? Visit my blog EVs & Energy.)
Rolling Stone recently listed the 17 worst polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to solve climate change. These "climate killers" are:
Meanwhile, Inhofe had a big problem with the list:
[Rolling Stone should note that, strictly speaking, our package wasn't a ranking — although Warren Buffett does appear on the first page, while Inhofe rears his ugly mug a few pages later.]
Nonetheless, Inhofe also took his pity party to the Tulsa World: “My first response was I should have been No. 1, not No. 7. I am serious about that,” he said. “I have spent now literally years on this thing, and it has been a long, involved thing.”
Inhofe bravely admitted he’d never before heard this magazine. “I shouldn’t say this, but I really didn’t know anything about Rolling Stone,” he said. “I’d never even heard of the magazine.”
Do you agree with the list? Did Rolling Stone miss anyone? Share here.
(Learn more at Sierra Club Green Home.)
Regarding our visit to the grand opening of City Center Las Vegas a few weeks ago, we talked about how spectacular the entire development is - from its architectural design to its green standpoints. Here are some more observations and architect interviews about this trendsetting space, perhaps the world's best example of cutting edge green design:
Julia Monk, founding principal of BBGM and designer of Vdara Hotel and major portions of ARIA:
We give clients a discount if they are going to be building a LEED certified structure. A major focus at City Center was lighting. We used fluorescent lamps which give off a similar glow to conventional bulbs, the latest advancement in LEDS which use only one third the energy but last 10 times longer. Low flow toilets in rooms, electronic window shades to reduce heat gain, low VOC paints, coatings, sealants and non-formaldehyde wall paneling. Recyclable fiberglass ceiling tiles, wall coverings, CRI (Carpet and Rug Institute) certified carpet padding, strawboard sub-flooring, FSC wood floors, low-E glazed windows, Caesarstone countertops, the list goes on.
I asked Monk if they considered cutting back during construction as the economy tanked. She said, "We never wavered on the sustainability issues. We look at City Center as a long term commitment which will weather the storm until the economy recovers."
I suppose it might be sad to say that we were and were not surprised to hear this week that two dirty energy lobbyists helped craft the effort to neuter the Clean Air Act, which could next appear as an amendment to the Senate’s debt ceiling vote next week.If you missed it, the Washington Post confirmed on Tuesday that lobbyists from Bracewell Giuliani and Sidley Austin helped write an amendment from Senator Lisa Murkowski that will strip Clean Air Act and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to regulate global warming pollution. Check out the Washington Post follow-up on it here, here and here.
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog worldThe White House blog details what's to come for clean energy in this country:
The overarching goal is to make clean energy the profitable kind of energy and to invest in a diverse national energy portfolio that includes: clean coal, nuclear power, domestic oil and gas, renewable energy and advanced biofuels; a bigger, better, smarter transmission grid; and more efficient cars, trucks, homes and buildings. These initiatives will continue to be the focus of our efforts in 2010.Climate Progress detailed 10 major areas in which Obama is making progress. Number one on the list is cars:
The Bush administration blocked efforts by California and 16 other states to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from motor vehicles. On May 19 of last year President Obama announced an agreement with California, the auto companies, and the United Auto Workers to establish the first-ever greenhouse gas limits for motor vehicles. The plan would increase fuel economy standards by one-third by 2016, which would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil. It would also cut greenhouse gas pollution by nearly 1 billion metric tons, which is equivalent to removing 177 million cars from the road. The plan should be final in March 2010.
Here's what was evident: the future of the automobile and the American auto industry lies with electric vehicles. Electric cars were everywhere on display on the vast floors of Cobo Hall. And those electric cars will be powered by advanced batteries. And these advanced batteries and electric vehicles are going to be made in Michigan.
-- Gov. Joe Manchin wants West Virginians to stand up for coal while Big Coal blows up their mountains.
-- And last but not least, believe it or not there's a bicyclist hate group on Facebook. The League of American Bicyclists is not amused. Read the League's blog.
Yesterday, as part of its federal mandate to protect human health and the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed creating stricter standards for how much “ground-level” ozone is allowed to be in the air we breathe. This announcement is very exciting because stricter standards will have an enormous impact on American health, protecting us from dangerous air emissions.
According to the EPA, “breathing ozone, a primary component of smog, can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Ground-level ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs. Repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.” In fact, ground-level ozone is so bad for you, that the EPA even warns healthy children and adults to be careful how much time they spend outdoors!
The Detroit Auto Show opened Monday amid a flurry of stories about electric vehicles. The LA Times reported this morning on Ford's confirmation of the electric Focus hitting the market early in 2011.
As Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) sort through the post Copenhagen morass at their planned meeting in Delhi later this month, a handful of countries have begun to implement their voluntary pledges, including South Korea, and Brazil. Considering, however, the confusion surrounding the process moving forward, along with the fact that only four countries have thus far formally associated themselves with the accord, concrete actions that build a foundation for the ongoing fight against climate change are in critically short supply.
In the midst of the confusion going forward, the Indian government may be forced to scale back its highly touted national solar mission goal to produce 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022. The government is looking at rolling back this goal to only 4,000 MW as it struggles with securing financing for feed-in tariffs - something civil society warned about back in November. While feed in tariffs are a powerful policy tool for achieving deployment of renewable energy, financing can be a hurdle as Spain’s experience showed. The larger issue however, is not the use of these tariffs but the problem, both real and perceived, of financing the emerging clean energy economy in the developing world.
Given the lack of a price on carbon, the continual externalization of the many costs associated with fossil fuels, and the refusal of multi lateral development banks to lend with the public’s welfare in mind, countries must look for innovative ways to address the financing hurdle. A solution waiting to be seized upon by rapidly developing countries like
One highly successful model for rural solar electrification that would benefit from a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, combined with a shift in their use towards decentralized renewable energy that can rapidly scale up, is that of the Barefoot College in Rajasthan. The founder, Bunker Roy, has received numerous prestigious awards for his work training rural, illiterate women to install and maintain solar panels in their own village – and then to train their fellow villagers to do the same. This “train the trainer” model has the potential to resolve two of the largest problems associated with the climate crisis: reduction of the need for new coal plants in rapidly industrializing economies, and developmental outcomes that increase education and address gender empowerment issues for those communities most vulnerable to climate change – the rural poor.
I’m nearly a fortnight into my new lifestyle as a vegetarian. Some days are easier than others. Yesterday, for example, was rough. I was surrounded by people eating pepperoni pizza. I kept trying to tell myself that my tomato and basil slice was just as satisfying. But who am I kidding? Of course pepperoni tastes like heaven. (Perhaps I should make myself a soy pepperoni pizza this weekend with a pinch of nostalgia?)
I really appreciated the amount of feedback my Part 1 post received last week -- more than 80 comments between Facebook and the Crossroads blog. I was especially encouraged by those who said that adopting a meatless diet gets easier over time. That’s what ex-smokers tend to say, too. Or ex-anything. That’s reassuring for someone like me who occasionally finds himself surrounded by the sweet aroma of pepperoni.
There were several comments that provided some tips and resources. Several vegans chimed in. One wrote that I should follow George Ohsawa's macrobiotic diet. Uhh, one step at a time. Only a few weeks ago I was chowing down a steak on a cruise ship!
One commenter wrote: "I'd suggest trying a variety of veg recipes from the countless sites out there....Here's one of my favorite recipes for Spicy Lentil Dahl that's quick, cheap, easy & delicious! Praise seitan. ;)"
One commenter linked to this NYT op-ed piece and wrote, "simply going vegetarian or even organic doesn't avoid environmental consequences, and that some animal products are raised in a way better for the environment than industrial soy, grains, fruits and vegetables."
One commenter had this to say: “hey, you wanna eat an animal? fine, eat it. but I think you should also have to kill it, skin it, gut it. do not remove yourself from the process. if I am ever lost in the woods, starving, damn skippy I'll eat me a rabbit! but I'll have to kill it, skin it, gut it.”
And then there were these comments: “I will never quit meat!” and “Beef yum yum don't hate me 'cause who I am.” I agree to a certain extent. I mean, that was my mentality for years and years. Meat’s delicious. For a long time I thought vegetarians were missing a party.
But after a few years of working on climate-change topics, it's safe to say the cow farm isn’t your traditional family-owned prairie anymore. The meat industry is right up there with Big Coal and Big Oil. The only difference is that it tastes better. I have nothing against meat-eaters, but I think cutting down meat intake by one day a week, which is what I did last year, is very commendable and doable.
Have veggie recipes? Share them here. Next week: I'll try some veggie cooking and post some pictures.
Trails has just posted an interview with photographer Ian Shive. Says Shive: "I’ve spent a lot of time alone in the parks. There’s something that happens after your seventh day in nature, where you start to hear things, understand things better -- about the weather that’s coming, what animals are doing…"
Mr. Green dipped into his mailbag again and addressed this question: "Can you drive a stake into the persistent myth that hybrid cars are bad from a cradle-to-grave carbon footprint perspective? I am tired of someone (who is mechanically inclined and has much more time on his hands than me) going on about the MPG of his 1993 Mustang."
Go to the Mr. Green blog to read his answer.
This is a great video for all you bike enthusiasts out there. "I think I'm the only Hispanic around this area, because I haven't seen other Hispanics working on bikes." Do you know the people behind the counter of your local bike shop? Join the bike group, post a pic of your bike, and discuss!
Over the weekend, I saw Leap Year. Don’t ask my why. It was easily one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, an actually painful experience. Terribly written, poorly acted, and without one single likable character. Predictable to the point of ridiculousness – and I love a good, silly chick flick. Hell, I even like The Sweetest Thing and thought Aquamarine was cute. I am clearly no movie snob, but this was simply bad, bad, bad. I think the NY Times said it best: Leap Year is “so singularly dispiriting … bad without distinction — so witless, charmless and unimaginative that it can be described as a movie only in a strictly technical sense.”
In my pretty green opinion, Leap Year wasn’t worth the energy used to project the movie on the big screen, to print your movie ticket, or to manufacture Amy Adams’ ridiculous and annoyingly impractical “even-Carrie-Bradshaw-wouldn’t-wear-those” shoes. I’d say you’d be better off throwing away or burning your money, but that wouldn’t be so green, now would it? Instead, I present you with 10 eco-friendly alternatives to wasting your money on this truly terrible film. With $10, you could:
2. Get a set of stainless steel straws. I love straws, hate plastic. These will keep your whites pearly, no plastic required!
3. Buy an actually watchable chick flick or two on half.com. Used DVDs at amazing prices (as low as 75 cents for the less popular flicks), shipped cheaply via Media Mail. I have a rule that I’m only allowed to purchase ones coming from CA, and the closer the better. There are usually multiple sellers and states available per movie, so you should hopefully be able to find one close by. My picks: Clueless, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Troop Beverly Hills, See Jane Date, In Her Shoes, Waitress, John Tucker Must Die, and, yes, The Sweetest Thing*
5. Buy a local artisan food product you’ve been hesitant to shell out for. I have my eye on several at my local farmers market!
6. Upgrade a beauty product . Yes, eco-friendly beauty products can be a bit pricey, but you and your skin are worth it. Take that $10 and upgrade your usual to something organic or local or sulfate- and paraben-free.
7. See Up in the Air instead. That George Clooney sure is dreamy.
8. Surprise a friend with cupcakes for no reason. Splurge on organic ingredients and bake ‘em yourself, or find a great local bakery. Everyone likes cupcakes. If you don’t, I don’t think we can be friends.
9. Buy some 100% post-consumer recycled toilet paper. Yes, buying toilet paper is infinitely more fun, and probably less embarrassing, than seeing this movie. I like the Seventh Generation brand. But don’t buy the Trader Joe’s kind. It’s terrible.
10. Have a drink. You can probably afford two if you don’t live in San Francisco. In a real glass, no straw (or bring your own stainless – see Point 2). Hold the cocktail napkin. Preferably made with local-to-you spirits, hops or grapes. You won’t need one as badly as I did after seeing this movie, but please, have one for me.
* I apologize in advance. I don’t know why I like this movie, but I do.
What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen? What would you spend $10 on instead – something on this list, or something else?
(Like what you read? Visit my blog prettygreengirl.com!)
Last week was a stunning example. The Obama administration received what was, I think, some of its first front-page, above-the-fold environmental coverage in the New York Times -- for the EPA's announcement of a new, health-based standard for ozone. This standard, which reverses Bush's March 2008 decision to ignore the advice of the EPA's Scientific Advisory Panel, would reduce the .075 ppm Bush standard to a number in the .060 to .070 ppm range. This would assure cleaner air in an additional 200 to 350 counties that the Bush rule failed to protect.
Foreseeing a showdown over climate change, the energy industry had been busy packing Capitol Hill with lobbyists. By last year, according to the Center for Public Integrity, the number of lobbyists devoted to climate change had soared by more than fivefold since 2003, to a total of 2,810 - or five lobbyists for every lawmaker in Washington. "I had no idea this many lobbyists even existed in Washington," says former senator Tim Wirth, now head of the United Nations Foundation. Only 138 of the lobbyists were pushing for alternative energy - the rest were heavily weighted toward the old fossil-fuel mafia, most of whom oppose tough carbon caps. The most aggressive foes were coal polluters like Peabody Energy and the Southern Company, an Atlanta-based utility known for its prowess on Capitol Hill. "They're kneecap breakers," says one congressional staffer.Phew, that's depressing.
What do (the study's) findings mean? They indicate that the Pliocene might be the best analog for the world in the not-too-distant future. They also imply that our climate models, which account for short-term feedbacks like water vapor and sea-ice formation, but don't include feedback cycles that take place on a longer time scales - receding ice sheets and vegetation changes, for example significantly underestimate CO2's impact on Earth's climate.So how 'bout you - read any good articles in the past week?
A group of scientists called on the federal government Thursday to stop mountaintop removal mining, arguing dozens of existing studies on the practice prove its ecological impacts are "pervasive and irreversible."
In a Policy Forum opinion piece for Friday's issue of the journal Science, 12 researchers from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia argue the effects are clear, and federal regulators must stop ignoring what they call "rigorous science."
The Hoosiers won out over the Ducks of Oregon and the Michiganders for the right to manufacture Think City EVs.
I love the Think! It's the car that hooked Plug In America board members Marc Geller and Sherry Boshert into the EV world when Ford was trying to meet the CARB zero emission vehicle mandate of the past decade.
Norway based Think has changed hands a few times among various groups that tried to get it going. This latest iteration is up and running in Finland, finally rolling EVs off the line for the Euro market. Now they've decided on Elkhart, IN as the location for their U.S. manufacturing.
Building EVs will bring much needed jobs to Indiana where, not coincidentally, EnerDel, Think's battery maker of choice is located. No sense shipping those heavy batteries too far.
The Think is a "city car", a classification that's quite popular in Europe. With a top speed of 60 mph and a range of 100 miles, it's ideal for the commuter. Small and light, it'll go many miles on just a few kWh.
Best of all, the Think will be a great entry level EV. I don't have pricing info yet, but the small size should enable them to get away with a small pack, I'm guessing somewhere around 20 kWh.
It should be quite popular as a first car for your high schooler, can't go too far or too fast.
The Indiana choice is interesting as it's just 137 miles from Anderson, IN, home of Bright Automotive, the maker of the most innovative plug-in hybrid work van I've seen. Here's hoping this will be the start of a center of EV innovation in the heartland.
Indiana, Thinking of Bright Ideas!
(Read more at my blog EVs & Energy.)
In the east, it's very cold. When cold snaps hit, climate-change skeptics come out of the woodwork and claim that the weather is disproving the warming theory. Well, we've said it more than once, but we'll say it again. Actually, I'll just quote this blog:
Andrew Revkin has a good post at the NYT for those interested in what’s actually going on—an unusually severe Arctic Oscillation is bringing abnormally cold weather to part of the planet. He observes that “federal forecasters have said that the warming influence of a persistent El Niño warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean is likely to be a bigger driver of conditions through the full course of this winter.”
Indeed, as Joe Romm pointed out a couple of days ago there’s nothing special about the part of the planet you happen to be sitting on. The fact of the matter is that right now it’s unusually warm in most places. We just don’t happen to have any major news organizations headquartered in the middle of the Pacific.
(Learn more at Sierra Club Green Home.)
On a whim, I spent part of the holiday season in Sydney, Australia, one of few major world cities I have never visited. Sydney is a great place to tour, but you better bring lots of money, as prices are very high, more like London or Paris than most U.S. cities. So long as you can afford it, the sightseeing is terrific.
It could be argued that the Sydney Aquarium is among the best in the world, boasting incredible specimens of sting rays, dugongs, giant sea turtles, crocodiles, and many more. The design of the building itself is first rate, great viewing even with big crowds, especially where you walk “through” the huge tanks with giant fish passing over your head – it appears the six inch thick glass is strong enough. The famous Opera House is even more breathtaking in person, and the indoor views are as stunning as the exterior. You can climb to the top of the giant Sydney Harbor Bridge on foot, try that in the States with our lawsuit-happy society. The Art Gallery of New South Wales offers a world class collection spanning the centuries. The champagnes, petit syrah, and shiraz continue to get better and better. The food is generally good, and a growing variety of organic and natural choices are offered. As for the customer service, well, I’ll circle back on that in a moment.
To my surprise, I found the folks Down Under are ahead of us in a number of ways when it comes to going green.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
We're five days into the new year. But that doesn't mean it's too late to resolve to do something. Today is just as good as any day to improve your life and the planet. The Green Life blog is posting some excellent tips this week on how to green your year.
Breaking news from The Onion: Department Of Interior Employee Caught Embezzling 50,000 Wolves.
Everyone loves a good end-of-the-year list. That's why the Energy Solutions group on Climate Crossroads put together a list of the top five things you can do in 2010 to save money and reduce your home's energy intake. Visit the group blog to read it. Here's one of the five: Upgrade the efficiency of your home appliances.
Have you made any of these changes to save energy at home? Take a picture of what you've done and post it on the Energy Solutions' photo gallery.
In terms of solar -- for some, less is more. As the renewable-energy source has grown in recent years, so too has criticism over how much land it takes up and its potential impact on habitats. These concerns are why some think small-scale solar promises a brighter future. From today's San Francisco Chronicle:
"The solar plants in the desert are albatrosses," [energy consultant Bill] Powers said. "We've come to a point where (photovoltaic solar) is either going to be in the remote installations or it's going to be in the urban core. It'll be much more beneficial for those solar panels to be sitting in the urban core where they're going to be used."
It's an idea that could upend the traditional way of supplying electricity and weaken the control of utility companies. Supporters of the idea consider that a plus.
Photovoltaic solar "in the urban core is a fundamental threat to the utility business model," Powers said.
Most energy experts argue the small-scale approach won't work. The hunger for energy, they say, is too huge, and it will keep growing. Solar panels are still a relatively expensive way to generate electricity. They cost more than large solar thermal plants, which use a different technology ill-suited to rooftops.
"It's not feasible, it's not economical, it's not realistic," said Mehdi Hosseini, an analyst who covers solar companies for FBR Capital Markets.
"Because of the economic and operational issues, I think we're going to see large-scale, grid-connected power for a long, long time," said Jonathan Marshall, a spokesman for Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
Many environmentalists reluctantly agree.
Carl Zichella, regional director for the Sierra Club in California, has been deeply involved in a state process to plan for new power lines linked to wind farms and solar plants. He wants as much small-scale generation - often called distributed generation - as possible. But that alone won't meet the state's demand for renewable power, he said.
"We need to do it all," Zichella said. "It's quite possible we can get more distributed generation than we thought, and if we get enough, we can build fewer big plants. But I haven't seen any studies I think are credible that say we won't need any."
Distrust and dislike of California's big utility companies, he says, fuel many supporters of the small-is-beautiful idea.
"A lot of the distributed power advocates really hate utilities," Zichella said. "They don't want utilities to own these facilities."