Essays by Frank J. Regan

RochesterEnvironment.com

Connecting the dots on Rochester area environmental Issues   

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Essay Contents:  Media | Climate Change | Transportation | Energy |Environmental Health | Great Lakes | Green Business |  Wildlife | Invasive Species | Air Quality | Recycling |Fracking |Brownfields | Water Quality | Food & Environment |Living Green |

 


The Genesee River flowing through Genesee Park. Photo by Frank J. Regan.

On the most crucial issue of our time—Is mankind achieving a sustainable environment?—I argue that the public, and even scientists, are missing the obvious truth about our environmental problems, believing mistakenly that there is room for compromise with Nature.  I also veiw our environmental lisses through the lens of Climate Change because our environment is warming rapidally and will compound all our present environmenatl issues.

These essays are an attempt to connect the dots of our news and understand our Rochester-area environment in the world environmental context.

Earth Day: The Real Meaning A year doesn’t go by where there isn’t at least one article about the real meaning behind each approaching holiday. Meaning, every Christmas there’s a story about the true meaning of December 25th, something besides massive shopping. Or, the Fourth of July, which is about our country’s founding values, and not smuggling fireworks into a state that forbids them. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, not really about terrorizing the turkey population. [April 2010] more...

Earth Day 2012 – A continual State of Denial Many think that because they can say ‘Climate Change’ in polite company that we have come a long way on addressing Climate Change. Is it true, and should we celebrate? Not so much. A more realistic view is that although more folks, and even some governmental officials, can finally admit that Climate Change is happening, this Earth Day is foremost a reminder that for all the talk little has been done to stop and reverse manmade greenhouse gases (GHG) going into our atmosphere. As a matter of fact, GHG’s have risen steadily through this Great Recession we are still struggling to overcome, which purportedly kept a lot of folks out of jobs and money for gas-fueled vacations. [April 2012] more...

Earth Day 2013, stepping up to the plate in Rochester, NY Earth Day events have expanded beyond just a single day.  April 22nd has morphed since the original Earth Day in 1970 into a quasi Earth Month. Eventually, I predict, this special day will transform completely into an Earth ForeverAfter Epoch. The time of a willful denial of our life-support system will be but a dismal parenthesis in our otherwise stellar existence.  We’ll practice Earth Day every day.  Or, we’ll perish. In and around the Rochester, NY region (I’ve included our friends in Buffalo and Syracuse) we are noticing more and more environmental events coalescing around early spring.  This means many individuals, groups, schools, businesses, and governmental institutions are stepping up to the plate on taking responsibility for our planet by educating their communities and spearheading environmental actions. [April 2013] more...

 

 

Environment and the Media

Rochester area media needs to inform the public consistently about our environment, especially with thorough investigative reporting.

  • Earth Day 2014: Climate Change in Rochester NY is exceptional, Part 8  Climate Change is occurring around the world and expressing itself right now in myriad forms.  All major mainstream media, including a local report, are making much of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 2 report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.  Here’s a sampling of the news this week on the report’s release : Health Professionals Worldwide Demand Urgent Climate Action Following IPCC Report , Climate Impacts Are Going to Hit the Developing World Hardest, IPCC Says, U.N. Climate Panel Issues Dire Warning of Threat to Global Food Supply, Calls for Action & Adaption, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability , Groundbreaking UN Report Warns Climate Change a Threat to Global Security and Mankind , New UN Report Is Cautious  On Making Climate Predictions , IPCC Says Climate Change is Here, World Needs to Adapt , Climate impacts 'overwhelming' - UN , IPCC Report: A changing climate creates pervasive risks but opportunities exist for effective responses , IPCC report: climate change felt 'on all continents and across the oceans'.   The level of concern, the observations of present indicators, and possible consequences of Climate Change should seem exceptional. (In a strict sense Climate Change exceptionalism is the idea that this issue is of an entirely different order than other issues, which given its potential to send all life towards dangerous tipping points, it probably is.) However, putting that big question aside for the moment, on a local level all our concerns are exceptional in the sense that Climate Change will affect specific areas differently. If you take the time to read some climate studies that pertain to our region, especially the ClimAID report, you find that with its fresh water, temperate climate, excellent soil,  we will be one of those regions that may not get hit as hard with Climate Change as many others—at least for a while.    [April 2014]  more...
  • Earth Day 2014: Communicating Climate Change to the public, Part 7 It’s not uncommon for Americans to look to their wealthiest for the answers to their problems. After all it was J. P. Morgan who single-handedly helped ease the financial panic of 1907. Some of our wealthiest businessmen-turned-philanthropists have continually poured their time and resources into solving many of the world’s aliments. Today, some of those starting to get alarmed about Climate Change find a desire to pick the brains of those whose brains have served them well in the present economic system.  [March 2014] more...
  • Earth Day 2014: Climate Change probable scenario, Part 6 It’s good to hear about movements forward on addressing Climate Change locally. For example, in a recently released study, the Genesee Transportation Committee explores our transportation options in New York State—including “City of Rochester, Streets and Sidewalks” (Page 223)—as the consequences of Climate Change looms. [March 2014]  more...
  • Earth Day 2014: rethinking environmental focus, Part 5  Many people over the eons have railed against what seemingly looked like obstructionist environmentalists thwarting their notion of progress.  Environmentalists in the shape of landowners, ordinary citizens, educators, and folks from all walks of life have fought for forests, pitting themselves against the lumber industry. Others fought against damming rivers to save riverine ecologies from turning rivers and streams into conduits for waste.  Thousands over the years have fought many forms of environmental disturbances to the dismay of those anxious to get ahead.  However, not to be confused with Luddites, most environmentalists encouraged progress as long as it was viewed through the lens of sustainability.  Over the years there began a growing concern among many diverse peoples that progress often meant a reckless disregard for environment. This galvanized environmentalists to fight in the courts, in the streets, and now on the Internet to salvage our birthright—a place where all life, not just our own, could go on. How’s all that worked out? Well, our streams are suffering from decades of abuse, where there are few fish and the water is not drinkable. Our forests, riddled with roads and highways, have been ravaged of their diversity.  More alarming, our species’ way of life is causing the Sixth Great Extinction, or Holocene extinction, an extinction event on par with five other major environmental collapses. This crisis is wonderfully articulated by Elizabeth Kolbert in her new book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History more...
  • Earth Day 2014: addressing Climate Change, Part 4, the big and small When it comes to addressing Climate Change our politicians tend to only think in terms of what is politically feasible. Our economic leaders focus on the feasibility of solving Climate Change through the lens of an economic system almost blinded by loony budgets, crazy cost analysis, and theories that ignore our environment  (unless there are lawsuits to be had involving pollution). Getting at the core of Climate Change is getting our greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations to a sustainable level—anything else, is well …, something else. The window for doing only small things to address Climate Change has closed. Small things, like changing your light bulbs, driving a fuel efficient car, and weekly recycling, are important only if they result in enough change to quickly bring down GHG’s. Thinking that addressing Climate Change should only be accomplished after all the political and economic hurdles are leapt is an upside down view of reality. It is only by doing things that actually cool things down that we have a chance for our way of life to flourish. Those in Pompeii around the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD would have done well to heed the rumbling warnings of Nature rather than squabbling amongst themselves about politics and economics. [March 2014) more...
  • Earth Day 2014: addressing Climate Change in time, Part 3, the window  Recently a radio program began a segment on Climate Change: “When most people think of Climate Change, they think of science ….” But to say that Climate Change is only a matter of science is like saying a murder trial where a gun is the murder weapon is merely a matter of ballistics. Climate Change, although proven by science and given to the laws of physics, is a problem of human behavior. That is, Climate Change is a problem of how people’s behavior affects the warming of the planet—hence, accelerated anthropomorphic Climate Change. Burn fossil fuels to get around, and the place heats up. [March 2014]   more...
  • Earth Day 2014: Getting your head around Climate Change, Part 2, the problem However your favorite group may frame Climate Change, it is the mother of all problems. It is unlike any other problem humans and all life on this planet have endured thus far. It is a problem where one species (our own) is putting all life on Earth through a wormhole, a possible collapse where none but a few hardy bacteria might emerge on the other side. For some reason or another [20 Excuses US public uses to dismiss the urgency of Climate Change], most of us in our Rochester region don’t appreciate the urgency of Climate; we feel no alarm. [February 2014]   more...
  • Earth Day 2014: Engaging the public on Climate Change, Part 1, the media  This first essay concerns the failure of our media to adequately inform the public of this worldwide crisis, which feeds the illusion that Climate Change is only one among many special interest issues. Though a majority of Americans support climate and energy policies, this is not reflected in media coverage.  See Study: 83 Percent Want Action on Global Warming, Even With 'Economic Costs'  from US World and News Report (February 12, 2014):  “A large majority of Americans say 'the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming,' even if it impinges the economy”. A good example of poor media coverage on Climate Change is the failure by local media to put this present cold snap in the proper context of a world that is warming.  Just last year, USA Today (a Gannett company, like the D&C) remarked that “Lake Ontario saw the most dramatic decrease with an 88% drop in ice coverage” … “since the 1970’s”. (Shrinking ice worries Great Lakes scientists) But this article only talks about the present massive ice cover, which is an anomaly as Climate Change continues to influence the Great Lakes: Freeze pushes Great Lakes ice cover toward '79 record  (February 14, 2014) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle). It is as if the previous five decades of shrinking ice cover never existed. Or, if the local media were to distinguish meteorology from climatology, they should see that the trajectory for Great Lakes ice cover is for less ice: [February 2014] more...
  • Shared service agreements or true mergers, Rochester’s media is racing to the bottom In many ways it is moot whether Rochester’s media is blurring the lines between legal or illegal consolidation because the overall trajectory for local news is dismal. Whether one voice or five covers most of the daily items—the ubiquitous car accidents, pet abuse, sports scores, acts of violence, sex scandals, and the occasional business ventures that manage to bubble up to the local headlines with equal hyperbole and fervor, we are getting very little of the news we need. The problem is not so much local media consolidation (which should have been addressed long ago) in whatever form it takes; the problem is finding news sources where actual reporters conduct thorough investigations on important news at all.   The City Newspaper’s article this week “Dialing it down: local media changes” is an interesting insight into the Byzantine world of local media machinations to boost ratings, increase branding, and secure more ad revenue. And while the article does at least mention the local media changes as an important concern in the disseminating of better, deeper, and more balanced local news coverage, it is media consolidation that captures most folk’s attention. But I am not so sure that this is our most salient concern at the local level. [December 2013] more... 
  • Tear yourself away from Rochester media for info on Climate Change On Wednesday, December 4th, I attended a U.S. EPA, State and Local Climate and Energy Program webcast “Gaining Support and Attracting Participation through Communication.” For over an hour I watched/listened to several environmental communications experts from all levels instruct community leaders on how to inform the public on Climate Change. Much of the material concerned itself with some psychological insights as to why many folks aren’t interested in Climate Change and practical ways to engage various groups, listening to their concerns, and explaining why this issue has to be addressed. One tactic a local expert suggested was making sure the group you spoke to got lots of coffee. Folks get sleepy listening to lectures on climate, I guess. Despite the fact that most folks already know about Climate Change, that it is human caused and threatens many dire consequences, it’s the dickens to get folks to get interested in the most important crisis of our time, maybe of all time. [December 2013]  more...
  • How to talk to a climate change skeptic if you must After arrested we allow defendants to plead their case for only so long. They’re allowed expert help and ample time to convince a jury of their innocence. The jury deliberates and then decides.  On Climate Change, the jury has decided. The verdict is in: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models. Warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850…,” (IPCC PRESS RELEASE, 27 September 2013) I make this loose analogy of the US legal system for the case against Climate Change deniers to make a point about decision time on Climate Change.  Of course the US legal system is fraught with inequities and injustice but, just for a moment, let’s pretend it works as intended. At a specific juncture in our legal continuum the defendant is judged guilty or non-guilty.  A judge communicates the jury’s verdict, and at that moment either the defendant walks free or goes to the crowbar hotel.  [October 2013]  more...
  • News on release of Climate Change IPCC (AR5) reaches all but Rochester, NY After looking high and low for news about the United Nation’s release of the new Climate Change report today (9/27/2013) of the IPCC WGI AR5, I could find nothing. Zip (except this, by Rochester City Newspaper). This is puzzling because over the last decade of attending to local online news every day, I’ve noticed no dearth of local media’s interest in far-off political shenanigans, celebrity breakups, sport scores, CEO pension amounts, and how to develop your abs for that desired washboard look. You’d think something as important as a 95% agreement among the world’s climate scientist that our planet’s atmosphere is warming up, we’re the cause, and we need to get off our duff and start planning would capture our media’s attention.  You’d think all that would get at least an itty-bitty mention here. None, nada (except this, by Rochester City Newspaper). Though there are many, many Likely Changes coming to the Rochester area because of warming, there are no interviews of mayoral candidates on how they’ll lead, or even a little polling of what the average Rochester person on the street thinks of this: Human influence on climate clear, IPCC report says  [September 2013]   more...
  • To the bully pulpit, President Obama’s Climate speech President Obama’s Climate Change talk on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 was historic because of the US President’s unique role as a de facto world leader. Once the maddeningly slow process of American Democracy finally came together on ending slavery, getting to the moon, and addressing civil rights, we become a beacon of hope. Now, after decades of delay on addressing Climate Change, a US president states: “I'm announcing a new national climate action plan, and I'm here to enlist your generation's help in keeping the United States of America a leader -- a global leader -- in the fight against climate change.” [June 2013]   more...
  • Holding the Media accountable on Climate Change Of course ‘the media’ is not a single entity, but a bewildering mishmash of local print, digital editions, blogs, social media, and even email lists at the state, national and international levels.  But despite the vast increase in the way news is being shaped today, many still believe that eventually the Truth will percolate up through this democratization of news.  But for the public to navigate rapidity in a changing world the news must quickly tend towards an accurate model of reality or, like one of your senses, you’re in trouble.  It’s why people get eye glasses. How the media has handled the three-decade-old issue of human-caused Climate Change is like (using the eye-glasses analogy) wearing an old set of glasses even though your eyes are aging. You’re going to bump into things. (January 2013)     more...
  • The great 2012 non-accomplishment for Rochester, NY area media - Fracking Every year Rochester City Newspaper puts out its Best of Rochester Series attempting to highlight some incredible local accomplishments.  It’s a good idea to pause once a year and see what amazing things a community so gifted with universities, technology, and artists can do.  However, somewhat buried in this report is the acknowledgement of the most important, but ignored, story of 2012: Local News Story Ignored in 2012 - Fracking.  This incredible non-accomplishment is worth contemplating for a moment.  (October 2012) more...
  • Become the Media! and do a Hail Mary pass around corporate media Last Tuesday, over 4, 000 petition signatures to ban all Fracking and related activities were delivered to Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and members of the Monroe County Legislature.  But presumably that wasn’t enough because the press didn’t even show up.  Alas, our mainstream media (which continually barrages us with countless ads and news that isn’t news) did not show up for this local event against Fracking either: Cobbs Hill rally against fracking (October 3, 2012) Indymedia Rochester, NY. Hummm… I thought the press was supposed to give the public a full airing of major issues in our communities. [October 2012]  more...
  • Local mainstream media links Climate Change and electric grid vulnerability on front page! Throughout the spring and summer of our country’s, heatwaves, droughts, March warming, and wildfires there were precious little mentioning of connecting these events with Climate Change in our local media.  They reported on all these extreme events in great detail, except failing to connect them with the prevailing science and numerous climate studies that have long predicted this. Granted this isn’t unusual:  Media Turn A Blind Eye To Record Greenland Ice Melt  Overall, there’s been a great reluctance, despite the science on the present extreme (read The New Climate Dice: Public Perception of Climate Change By James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Reto Ruedy — July 2012.) and the fact that the presidential candidates have not been grilled on this critical issue this election year.  The GOP denies Climate Change and President Obama is afraid to talk about it even though he launched a major press report in April of this years to address it:  (August 2012)  more...
  • Climate Change, a failure of leadership and courage If you are accustomed to gathering environmental news from around this region, you must have come across this news that Syracuse has completed a draft Sustainability Plan. Comments sought on Syracuse sustainability plan The city of Syracuse has published a draft “sustainability plan” and is seeking public comments. The plan sets goals for the city in five areas: energy and green building; waste and recycling; natural environment; food systems and education. (May 23, 2012) syracuse.com There has been scant attention to it here in Rochester, except for this sour note: Lofty goals for Syracuse's first sustainability plan | Innovation Trail The city of Syracuse wants to get half its power from renewable energy sources by 2020. That's just one of the targets laid out in a draft version of Syracuse's first sustainability plan [PDF]. (May 31, 2012)Innovation Trail In truth this ‘sustainability plan’ is a ‘climate action plan’, and it’s a darn shame the authors and those who handled the authors failed in courage to call it what it is. These two sentences, buried in the first paragraph of the introduction, reveal this document’s true nature: (June 2012)  more...
  • Will subscription fees keep public informed on critical environmental news? It finally happened.  I couldn’t read an article on a major Rochester, NY online media source because I didn’t pay the new subscription fee.  Of course, I could pay the subscription fee but then why should I?  (I know, to a free market fundamentalist just thinking this is heresy.) Yet, why should I pay for a subscription to a local media when I can get all the available environmental information that this media, or any local media, puts out by surfing to the same places they do-- more...
  • Debt crisis could jeopardize Free TV in Rochester; do we care?  If you are still one of those luddites like me who can only get local Television by antenna (via the digital converter box, of course), there is the threat that that this free service that we have known ‘forever’ is going to be gone. The great wailing and gnashing of teeth has begun on local TV and from the sounds it, it’s pretty serious. Check this out:  more...
  • What is ‘local’ news on a warming planet? A long and in-depth story appeared this week in our local media on how Climate Change will affect the Rochester, NY region. It’s part of a series that will be forthcoming. I make note of it because it’s really the first of its kind, an article in the local media about the consequences of Climate Change on a local level without the usual pandering to the deniers.  more...
  • The state of our media as Earth Day approaches My most salient reflection on Earth Day (just a few days away) is that Climate Change is the moral imperative for our generation.  If we don’t move to stovepipe Climate Change news and information to the front pages of mainstream media, we jeopardize the next generation’s ability to have a clean, healthy environment more...
  • Why your pet is bad for our Rochester, NY environment I am aware that questioning our love affair with our pets borders on heresy, but someone has to mention this particular unsustainable character trait in our species.  Even here in Rochester, NY, our preoccupation with pets in the face of truly important matters like Climate Change and other environmental issues must be addressed.    more...
  • Why football is bad for our Rochester, NY environment Last Sunday evening, in Rochester, NY and around the country, lots of folks were glued to their media attending to a popular pastime, football.  I mean a lot of folks. What if all those people with all that money put football and other expensive sports on the back-burner and focused their incredible intelligence and energy on solving our desperate environmental issues?  Rochester, NY has a litany of environmental issues that need to be address as Climate Change changes our area, but the public is out for half-time, absorbed in super-bowls and endless replays of things that don’t matter. I’m not against sports; I even played a lot of high school football—badly, I might add.  more...
  • Environmental news around Rochester and around the world I had a great time when I attended the recent UN Journalist Conference on Environmental sustainability on Monday, October 4th, 2010. Mayor Duffy spoke about our beautiful New York State and the recent sale of Hemlock and Candice lakes.   more...
  • Impacts of a major media in Rochester, NY moving behind a pay wall It’s seems so obvious to the public that businesses need to make a profit that we rarely question it—if ever. So, as our major newspaper in Rochester, NY ducks behind a pay wall and limits readers of local news to paid subscribers, we think little of it. But this move by the Democrat and Chronicle could be a major game changer for the dissemination of important news for the Rochester region.  (February 2012) more...
  • The future of investigating reporting on our environment: We came across this story about how in the present media crisis the prospect for investigative reporting might shake out: 'Newsonomics' Predicts The Future Of The Media : NPR  more...
  • Presidential elections 2012 – The Big Secret I’ve been reading many, many Climate Change reports for the last year, but the new “The National Global Change Research Plan: 2012-2021” by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is the most impressive of all. Not because of its clever language or witty style but because 13 major departments of the US government helped shape our country’s ten-year response to Climate Change and compacted everything into to a very readable 152 pages. These departments understand Climate Change:  (May 2012) more...
  • The 2012 Great Disconnect: During the presidential elections no talk of Climate Change. Though we are social creatures and are heavily swayed by conformity and conventionality, we are also a reasonable species. At the core of our being is the thread finely weaved of four-billion years of survivors who learned about their environment so they could struggle successfully against our enemies and the harsh elements to arrive at this critical point.  (March 2012) more...
  • Critical environmental information darts behind a pay wall To those who believe the marketplace should rule the planet (and not something as amorphous and unforgivable as Nature) must be heartened by the movement of one of our most important news sources behind a pay wall. The New York Times recently took a leap into the online media payment regime: (April 4, 2011)  more...
  • What is ‘local’ news on a warming planet? A long and in-depth story appeared this week in our local media on how Climate Change will affect the Rochester, NY region. It’s part of a series that will be forthcoming. I make note of it because it’s really the first of its kind, an article in the local media about the consequences of Climate Change on a local level without the usual pandering to the deniers.  (April 2012) more...
  • We’re Going Blind Trying to negotiate the world as your sight gets worse does not make life easier. Rather, it becomes more difficult because you often miss critical warning signs. That’s worth keeping in mind as this week’s news illuminates a further decline in the public’s ability to ‘see’ the world around them. Story #1. Supreme Court Voids Campaign Spending Curbs - BusinessWeek.com- msnbc.com “A divided court strikes down decades-old restrictions on corporate campaign spending, 5-4, reversing two of its precedents and freeing companies to advertise” Although there has always been a disproportionate advantage for large corporations to self-servingly frame issues before public via the media, lately it has become more blatant and dire. Relying on corporations, who own most mainstream media, to report on environmental malfeasance is putting the fox in the henhouse. more...
  • Uproar over the ‘mystery illness’ in Leroy, NY The hue and cry over the ‘mystery illness in Leroy, N.Y. for all I can tell is a true mystery: Why are several people in the same locality exhibiting similar symptoms? I can understand school and town officials’ desire to halt a hysterical reaction in the press that might bring unwanted and unnecessary concern to their community. Once started, it’s hard to keep a community functioning effectively if the press has made a spectacle of your community that invites all kinds of fears and disruptions.  (February 2012)  more...
  • Kill Your TV! When you're in a hole, stop digging: Stop listening to the same media that misinformed you about the Iraq War and the dangers of Global Warming! Why do most Americans say they are concerned about the environment (at least in some polls), but don't vote for candidates with strong environmental records. more..
  • Thoughtful Feedback Seemingly, online media has opened itself to a plethora of mindless ranting by those without even a crazy ideology to spur them on. I speak of feedback on online news sites that are unmonitored and unfiltered so any nutcase with a computer, an Internet connection, and only a modicum of sense is allowed to write responses to local news stories online.  more...
  • Environmental groups pick up where the media falls down The public is more aware of the importance of environmental issues because environmental groups are helping to connect the dots. Left to their own, the media only publishes environmental stories when something happens that their editors think will grab the public’s attention and bring in more money. more...
  • A Question: Mainstream Media and Climate Change News Recently, I’ve come across on the Internet environmental scene speculations that the mainstream media refuses to connect ‘extreme’ weather events like the increase flooding in the West, Hurricane Katrina, droughts around the world, to Global Warming. Global Warming does predict that there will be more extreme weather events, including not so much more hurricanes (for example) as most intense hurricanes when they occur. more...
  • Blinded by the media despite billions from Super PACs The Fairness Doctrine died in 1987 and was finally put to rest last August. Here is a glimpse of our last attempt to have a conversation about critical matters: (February 2012)  more...
  • Trying to communicate Climate Change over the din of Super denials The collective human reaction to Climate Change in the US can be characterized as dysfunctional. I use ‘dysfunctional’ in the sense that our collective reaction to the Climate Change threat is not normal for a functional species—a species intent on survival. Whether most folks in the United States understand Climate Change, or ‘think’ they understand Climate Change, we aren’t really addressing it in any meaningful way. (January 2012)  more...
  • Media Responsibility  As I live and Breathe: Just when you think the media has become so Objective in their reporting that somehow they think they can stand outside of our environment and simply report on the decline of our environment, you read a story like this. Major Kudos for News 8/FOX Rochester. The movement is growing. The pubic and even the media is realizing that we cannot stand aside while that which keeps us alive, our environment, is in serious jeopardy - just check out some of these Rochester Environmental Issues. Hopefully, more and more mainstream media will recognize their innate responsibility as our informers, who have been protected with a special privilege under the US Bill of Rights, to inform us on the state of our environment—so that we may have the information we need to make informed choices about that which matters most. more...
  • Media Priorities Hannah Montana made it to Rochester during an almost blizzard and out again. I don’t know who Hannah Montana is, but I’m glad she made it safely to and from Rochester. I know this because the local news was saturated with this topic all weekend. I could not find, however, a story about the climate talks in Bali, where the US dragged its feet on coming to an agreementTell Your Story at SaveTheInternet.comt with the rest of the world on curbing Global Warming gases. more...
  • Stop Big Media & Stop Global Warming In just five days, the Federal Communications Commission plans to open the floodgates of further media consolidation across America. If FCC Chairman Kevin Martin gets his way, your community will be inundated with even more mass-produced celebrity gossip and infotainment, and less local reporting and quality journalism: more of the the junk news that is making us sick. more...
  • About changing your media I believe in this day, when mainstream, corporate media blurs and spins important environmental information that we need to survive because of their specific ideologies and their shareholder’s economic interests, we have to change our media. We have to change how we get our media and the sources we use to inform us of what’s going on.  more...

 

Climate Change

The Rochester, NY area is not going dodge the Climate Change crisis,  Check the latest Climate Change Studies. See Rochester will will adapt and change.

  • Climate Change and our future challenged in the courts Some of our greatest environmental victories have occurred in the courts. The enactment of the 1963 Clean Air Act in the United States has allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to sue carbon polluters.  Sadly, that constitutes the EPA’s power in addressing Climate Change. There are many more court cases—including those that stopped lead going into our gasoline, stopped the destruction of endangered species, protected our water, and many other environmental victories.  One gets taken to court and sued (maybe jailed) for dumping toxic chemicals into the public’s drinking water supply. We are a litigious society. Environmental groups, now almost as thickly populated with lawyers as the corporations they battle, have become more than the watchdogs of our precious environment; they have become watchdogs with a considerable bite. [February 2014]  more...
  • Climate Change, the second phase In his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama stated that ‘…the debate is settled.  Climate change is a fact.” Yet many folks in our country are not convinced that the debate is over.  Some of those still spewing uncertainty on an issue long settled by world climate scientists are powerful folks with serious political clout. They don’t intend to give an inch on what is for them an ideological issue and is for us actual reality. Unlike the other issues hijacked by rich and powerful merchants of doubt—the dangers of cigarette (including second-hand) smoking to one’s health, acid rain, ozone layer thinning, and DDT (Read “Merchants of Doubt”)--Climate Change threatens to quickly overwhelm our ability to sustain our environment, which despite having been rendered an externality by economists, is our life support system. While most agree that efforts to address Climate Change must include a political strategy to work around and through obstructionists, many environmental groups think the President has gone too far in appeasing the fossil fuel corporations. Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy, which translates into a “have your cake and eat it too” policy by increasing both renewable energy and fossil fuels, is pure folly: [February 2014] more...
  • Frigid winter masks Climate Change in Rochester Probably the last thing worrying most folks in Rochester is Climate Change. This winter has been dangerously cold and threatens to worsen. But the big picture, which is hard to see in our region unless you’re an expert on climate and our environment, is that our region is warming up, just like the rest of the world. As a matter of fact:   Long-term global warming trend sustained in 2013 NASA scientists say 2013 tied with 2009 and 2006 for the seventh warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record have all occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the warmest years on record. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which analyzes global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated report Tuesday on temperatures around the globe in 2013. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience temperatures warmer than those measured several decades ago. (January 21, 2014) NASA Global Climate Change So, while we’re braving this really cold winter, let’s see what the experts are saying about Climate Change affecting our region NOW. From the over 50 climate studies I’ve sifted through, Climate Change in our region expresses itself in myriad ways. [January 2014] more...
  • Because of Climate Change you’ll need another globe Maps change.  It’s life. Communities build new roads (though, they almost never remove them) and every year you’re supposed to update your GPS software to reflect these changes.  Our species’ marvelous capacity for industry produces a dazzling abundance of transformations across our landscape as new buildings, bridges, and new homes sprout like goose bumps on an early morning swimmer.     But globes don’t usually change.   [January 2014]  more...
  • Can’t be a little pregnant; nor can you believe in only a little Climate Change You’re either pregnant or you ain’t.  You either believe in what 95% of the climate scientists report on Climate Change, or you’re picking the parts you like—like drilling in a warming Arctic or planting for a longer growing season—and avoiding the parts you don’t like—like rising seas.  Picking out stuff you think your media outlet can handle and leaving out the rest of the Climate Change package is irresponsible and, pretty weird when you think about it. This local news item, borrowed from AP, is a story about Climate Change and how us Northeastern folks have become so used to (boiling frog, or shifting baseline syndrome) warmer winters that, when we do get an occasional cold snap, we act like a bunch of weak-kneed wimps. Scientists: Americans becoming weather wimps [January 2014] more...
  • The thawing of Rochester with Climate Change No stranger to Climate Change, 20,000 years ago what is now the Rochester area was buried under a mile-high glacier. When all that began to thaw, carving out what are now the Great Lakes and our Finger Lakes, it did so in a gradual enough span of time for a thriving environment to evolve. The present warming, this one not caused by variations in Earth's orbit, is due to our over-use of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to fuel our way of living, and it is occurring much faster than the last (there were several) glacier retreat. In fact, the present warming is happening at a pace too fast (…10 times faster than any change recorded in past 65 million years) for many of our indigenous plants and wildlife to adapt. This will lead not only to a loss of local biodiversity, but also to more extreme flooding. [December 2013] more...
  • Challenges that Rochester’s poor face with Climate Change There are many aspects of Climate Change that make it the mother of all problems—rising seas, Arctic melting, increases in extreme weather, and a grim future for our children. This is further complicated in that we cannot even talk about Climate Change without first making it clear that we must keep our economic system intact and thriving. We get very uncomfortable when the notion of Climate Justice comes up. The recent Warsaw Climate Change Conference 2013, the nineteenth of these top-down conferences aimed at lowering greenhouse gases (GHGs), almost fell apart (again) because developed nations bridle at the thought of compensating the developing nations for the warming the developed nations caused. [December 2013]  more...
  • US role in Climate talks puzzling given its history of ducking hard choices It’s almost the end of the Warsaw Climate Talks 2013, and things are not going well on that planetary discussion about the world crisis facing all of us.  A large faction of environmental groups just stormed out of the meeting in protest.  “Six groups leave climate negotiations in Warsaw after saying the talks are a waste of time,” (Green groups walk out of UN climate talks 11/21/2013, Aljazeera), though they didn’t say all Climate talks were a waste of time.  They said this particular Climate talk, where the developed nations balked at any financial redress for Climate Justice and even stepped down their previous commitments to curb their greenhouse gases, was an outrage.  3 Countries That Are Bailing on Climate Action Japan isn’t the only country walking away from climate promises. When Japan dramatically slashed its plans last week for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, from 25 percent to just 3.8 percent compared to 2005 figures, the international reaction was swift and damning. Britain called it “deeply disappointing.” China’s climate negotiator, Su Wei, said, “I have no way of describing my dismay.” The Alliance of Small Island Nations, which represents islands most at risk of sea level rise, branded the move “a huge step backwards.” The decision was based on the fact that Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors—which had provided about 30 percent of the country’s electricity—are currently shuttered for safety checks after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, despite the government trying to bring some of them back online. That nuclear energy is largely being replaced by fossil fuels. (November 19, 2013) Climate Desk The United States hasn’t come away from the talks unsullied either.  Our lackluster approach to addressing Climate Change got outed by a Hindu journalist.  [The Western press has ignored this issue and chosen instead to obsess over the anniversary of the JFK assassination—which is not news, just media-fed mass nostalgia.] Leaked Memo Reveals U.S. Plan to Oppose Helping Poor Nations Adapt to Climate Change  [November 2013]  more...
  • Will Rochester, NY slash its climate reduction target at Warsaw Climate talks like Japan? Japan decided to slash its climate reduction target at the Warsaw Climate talks because the Fukushima nuclear disaster is “forcing the country to increase its burning of fossil fuels.” (November 14, 2013) BBC ) One has to wonder if others will follow suit, searching their ‘excuses boxes’ to see if they have a handy excuse not to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG’s) even though we know the 'Window of Opportunity' to Curb Climate Change Quickly Closing. How about Rochester, NY? If our local media is any indication, Rochesterians don’t even know that the Warsaw climate talks are going on. But if the climate talks this year were on our radar, and we too were going to come up with an excuse not to keep our promise on our climate reduction target, this is what we’d throw overboard:  “We strive to reduce energy consumption, waste generation, our dependence on fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gases.” (City of Rochester, NY Environmental Mission Statement) It’s not much, and it’s kind of fuzzy because it doesn’t have any red lines that won’t be crossed, but it’s something, I guess…. [November 2013]  more...
  • USA takes baby steps on Climate Change  Because of Congress’s continual dysfunctionality on addressing Climate Change, President Obama has had to resort to executive orders. On November 1, 2013, the president issued Executive Order -- Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change: "PREPARING THE UNITED STATES FOR THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE |By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to prepare the Nation for the impacts of climate change by undertaking actions to enhance climate preparedness and resilience, it is hereby ordered as follows": more… The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who the president can direct without kowtowing to the deniers in Congress, released the Climate Change Adaptation Plan on February 9, 2013, which received input by all federal agencies. [November 2013]  more...
  • 20 Excuses US public uses to dismiss the urgency of Climate Change Despite the urgency exclaimed by scientists around the world Climate Change has languished in a sea of indifference by most of the affluent public since the 1980’s. When Dr. James Hansen, of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, tried to alert the public to the dangers of Climate Change in his 1988 testimony to Congress, he thought that would be that.  He, as a climate scientist, would inform the public and they’d get going. That hasn’t happened. Except for a slight lull in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG’s) in the US because of the 2008 Recession, there has been a steady increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) over the world. Until we recognize the kind of transformative issue Climate Change is we have no chance of actually addressing it. Too many at this point in time think Climate Change is an issue that can be put off, that other problems are more important: or, that it can be solved by environmental groups, a sudden shift to a green economy, or placed on governmental authorities--most of which the public would not support election after election if climate adaption caused their taxes to go up. Climate Change is the perfect storm of human frailties: our dislike of change, our tendency to heed mainstream thinking instead of science, our need for normalcy, and our insatiable desire to be comfortable, free from Nature’s wrath red in tooth and claw.  [November 2013] more...
  • Rochester, NY entering the Anthropocene with no leadership Trying to predict what our environment will look like in fifty or one hundred years as Climate Change progresses has turned into a sort of cottage industry. [Note: Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, by Mark Lynas and The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet, by Heidi Cullen] Nevertheless, they are useful thought experiments as they anticipate what changes warming might bring and what we might do to adapt. They also offer up a futuristic strawman, based on many climate studies, from which to think through some of the many long-term consequences of any one of the problems or solutions. It will get complicated. For example, if you are looking ahead and following only one of the myriad threads of the consequences of a warmer Northeast, you might be expecting a longer and better growing season. (In the last century and half, our growing season has increased by about ten days.) The problem with that particular scenario is that crop pests grow faster in a warmer climate and some studies predict a limit to the carbon bump because high CO2 levels hamper nitrate incorporation by plants. Not to mention, our first reaction to more crop pests will be a dramatic ‘shock and awe’ of pesticide use, and climate studies predict this also.  [October 2013]  more...
  • Why Climate Change means big, really big government At the core of those fighting our collective efforts to address and mitigate Climate Change is the fear of Big Government. Big Government means, by those who fear its name, more environmental regulations and more taxes on the so-called “producers”. Big Government means fewer jobs because burdensome regulations kill jobs that are only created by those ambitious individuals who magnanimously trickle some of their profits down to you. Big Government will take away your guns, take away your doctor and all those great health benefits you’re getting—or could get if you got a really good fossil-fuel job.  Through regulations such as Fracking moratoriums, Big Government is stealing your absolute right to use your land as you want. Big Government is evil and does no good for society, only harm. And so it goes for those who haven’t really thought this issue through—or have thought it through and are too craven to admit it.  What’s odd about the rage against Big Government is that the very folks who continually rail against more government regulations and taxing are exactly the folks who will insure the hurried necessity for even Bigger Governments. [October 2013  more...
  • Climate Change missing from Rochester, NY mayoral debate Just back from Rochester’s ‘Earth Vigil’ gathering. This rally was our city’s version of 350.org’s USA Day of Action on Draw the Line on Keystone XL: “Thousands of people in hundreds of cities drawing one line to protect our future.” Sadly, this event was about as much focus as one will get in Rochester on addressing Climate Change in the public arena. About 60 souls endured the torrential (extreme) rainfall at the corner of Exchange & W. Broad Streets—still the home of our leading newspaper that still doesn’t connect the dots of regional climate warming due to Climate Change. At the EPA they are about to fight climate-destroying carbon pollution from power plants and at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) they will release the first part of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)—though the deniers are already trying to minimize the effects of this document, despite it being based on an overwhelming consensus of the world’s climate scientists. But here in Rochester it seems it is sufficient to not deny Climate Change to be considered as acting on Climate Change. That’s nice, but that’s not nearly enough. We need big and fast changes to actually bring down the temperature of our atmosphere. Something on the level of a mayoral race, where our city’s leaders promise to lead, would be a great platform for discussing how our region will respond to this planetary crisis. And that’s not going to happen unless the public demands it.    If the public did demand leadership on Climate Change in Rochester, it would look something like this:   more...
  • Great NYS DEC’s ‘Climate Smart Communities’ program doomed to failure  At a recent talk by a representative of the Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program I learned that our region of the state is one of the worst in joining in this comprehensive statewide program.  Among local communities, only the City of Rochester, Victor, and Irondequoit have signed on. Check out this sparsely populated map of communities in New York State that have signed on to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) voluntary climate adaption program.  It’s a pretty dismal showing. [September 2013]  more... 
  • Reading IPCC’s 5th Climate Change study in Rochester and elsewhere If we were suddenly brought to the brink of extinction, as my favorite sci-fi fable (The Day the Earth Stood Still, the 2008 version) suggests, we’d quickly change our destructive behavior towards our planet’s environment. But alas, we don’t have to answer to Klaatu, or any intergalactic representative of a haughty group of aliens who think Earth needs saving from mankind. Too bad. A group of aliens bent on Earth’s salvation, who cannot be threatened by bullets, offers an interesting thought experiment about what it would take to get us to live sustainably with the rest of the beings on this planet.  The fable falls down at the end where Klaatu, convinced of humanity’s contrite reconciliation, climbs back in his spaceship and goes away.  Let’s get real. As soon as the threat of annihilation passes, we humans will go right back to trashing the place.   The closest thing we have to Klaatu, perhaps, is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. In the same year, the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC. [September 2013]  more...
  • Readying our Finger Lakes for Climate Change When you search scientific studies on how Climate Change will affect the Great Lakes you get quite a bit of scientific material.  These studies explain how warmer weather will increase evaporation, which will lower water levels.  Temperature sensitive fish will move to colder regions of the lakes, if there are colder regions.  Warmer waters may affect the cooling ability of nuclear power plants. Extreme weather events (lake-effect snowstorms, for example) will likely change even more radically as the change to a warmer climate further influences local weather near the waters of the Great Lakes.  Some studies, like this report Impacts of Climate Change on the Occurrence of Harmful Algal Blooms from the EPA, attribute more toxic Blue-Green Algae outbreaks to warmer waters, especially in the shallower Lake Erie. The Finger Lakes do not seem to have as much information available on how they will be affected by Climate Change, though we can probably extrapolate some from what we know about the Great Lake’s materials. For example, fish distribution might be more affected in the Finger Lakes because temperature sensitive fish have fewer choices in the shallower lakes. The NYSERDA funded Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) mentions how agriculture (especially the wine industry), tourism, invasive species, and water withdrawal around the Finger Lakes will be affected by a warmer climate, but not much about how the various lakes’ ecologies themselves will be influenced. All lakes in the Great Lakes and Finger Lakes regions will have phosphorus pollution to deal with. [August 2013]  more...
  • Climate Change enters Rochester, NY mayoral race, one way or another There are three candidates running in Rochester's mayoral race--Lovely WarrenAlex White, and the incumbent Tom Richards. Two represent the Democrat Party and one is the Green Party candidate. There is no GOP candidate and it’s probably just as well because their unscientific position on Climate Change has rendered their usefulness to the public null and void. At this writing, the issues surrounding the race are economic troubles (like many cities, Rochester is in deep financial trouble), schools/education, gender discrimination, tax assessment, economic development, public safety, neighborhoods, and jobs. However, because the local media does not mention Climate Change, does not connect the dots of local incidences with Climate Change predictions for our region, the public is mostly blind to the most critical concern of this race. The issues mentioned above are important, but unless they are viewed through the lens of Climate Change, attempts at solution will fail as soon as the consequences of Climate Change steal away our finances, our public health, and our future. Already, the money printed to address Hurricane Sandy will probably never be paid back. [August 2013] more...
  • The one point about Climate Change that all would agree There is but one point on the very contentious but still over-ignored issue of Climate Change that most would agree on and that is this: Relatively few of the world’s population have actually read a Climate Change study.  For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, all the distain, denial, and dismissal on this issue, few have actually sat down in a chair, put their feet up, opened a Climate Change study, and carefully read its contents. Overwhelmingly, most have heard or read about Climate Change from second or third-hand sources.  Perhaps most think Climate Change studies the esoteric minutia that would only interest the arcane fascination of climate scientists, or environmental professionals. But think. Shouldn’t we give our life support system the courtesy (free of political and other propaganda) a few moments of our time to read at least one of the objective research papers on what the majority of climate scientists believe is occurring to our planet? After all, it took four billion of years for life on this planet to produce a brainy species like ours to evolve and thousands of years more to develop a reliable process for us speak for the planet, a process called the scientific method.  What we haven’t been able to accomplish and what we must do in a very short about of time is to listen. That process, painstakingly robust, is talking to us in the form of peer-reviewed, scientific (yet, very readable) climate studies and they are saying “Please, pay attention to this.” You can find many Climate Change studies here and they are free. [July 2013]  more...
  • Resurgence of Climate Change denial in US  This unusually cold winter, which is to say what used to be a normal winter, has sparked a resurgence in climate change denial in the US:  The ski industry is right to be concerned about less snowfall and snowpack for future winters, though it might be too late to save that particular industry. The predictions for New York winters say more rainfall, back and forth freezing, and not more snow.  The warmth already built up from our dumping fossil fuels into our atmosphere with long-lasting carbon dioxide molecules and warmth being absorbed by our oceans (causing acidification) still has to work its way through the eco-system. A recent study Earth Warmed More at End of 20th Century Than in Past 1,400 Years (one of many) shows how not only is our climate increasing in temperature very quickly, but it will take time for that warming to play out. Some effects, like flooding, droughts, wildfires, and more extreme hurricanes, will happen sooner and seem more threatening than the oceans rising and a massive loss of biodiversity. But not really; it’s just that climate doesn’t register as alarming to us as freaky weather does. [June 2013] more...
  • Finding out what climate adaptation looks like at the local level  I am intrigued by this statement by Kirsten Howard, who just received her master’s degree in environmental policies from the University of Michigan: “We wanted to see adaption to climate change through the everyday decisions of people and communities,” Howard said. “And we wanted to get that perspective to inform our future policy work.” (Aspiring policymakers hit the road to learn about climate change adaptation, 5/23/2013) Great Lakes Echo) Kirsten Howard and Allie Goldstein’s summer project Great American Adaptation Road Trip is “Uncovering stories of people and places using their wits and resources to adapt to the impacts of climate change.” An idea marvelously simple and profound, these two intrepid thinkers are actually going out and asking folks around the country what they’re doing about Climate Change.  It’s so obvious one wonders why climate scientists and policy makers haven’t done the same thing: Instead of just gathering environmental data, modeling it, and suggesting policies for adapting to Climate change that assume the public will hop on board, go and find out what the public is already doing and is likely to do. (May 2012)  more...
  • Hopeless trying to adapt to Climate Change without saying it While many of us were pleased with the nod to our environment in the 2013 State of the City Address by Rochester’s Mayor Richards, there was no mention of Climate Change.  Devoting a paragraph to park, trail, and water system improvements is not enough in a time of warming.  Mayor Richards’ heroic efforts (unheralded in his address) in improving Rochester’s active transportation system, which really will lower greenhouse gases, still need to be directed towards connecting the dots regarding the greatest peril to our city--and all cities in the world. Syracuse has no such reservations about the critical need to plan appropriately: City of Syracuse Sustainability Plan. They get it: [May 2013] more...
  • No magical agreement on Climate Change possible | temperatures rise Those of us who have hoped for a magical, Big Bang, or global agreement on Climate Change, may feel disappointed at Christiana Figueres’s (Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) conclusion that we cannot have one.  Certainly, the past attempts at Climate Change negotiations among the world powers have been dismal.  So much so that we’re happy countries are still talking to each other about Climate Change at all—regardless of what they say.  Progress on Climate Change, according to Figueres, will be ‘incremental.’ (From Global Meltdown: Christiana Figueres, Climate One.) Incremental progress, a rate comfortable to nations around the world, sounds comforting, until you realize the intractability of this issue. That once-in-a-thousand-year heat wave that hit France in 2003 and killed 15,000 people is predicted by climate models to occur every other year by the 2040’s.  (Read “The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet” by Heidi Cullen.) Our planet is also reaching a historic baseline soon, an ominous number that must come down. As of this writing (4/26/2013), CO2 concentration is a whopping 398.36 ppm. In 1850’s (and thousands of years before that) it was 280ppm. “So the hard reality is that we could be looking at 530 ppm by 2050 and a lot more ...” (Six degrees of separation for the planet). You can watch this figure rise on The Keeling Curve, a daily record of atmospheric carbon dioxide from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.   It doesn’t sound like our environment is going to wait until we find some magical way of turning down our carbon-induced thermostat.  Climate modeling, which is getting pretty accurate, is instead revealing a world predicted to get very warm. Those bottom-up strategies, where we do things only locally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a business-as usual-kind-of-way aren’t really going to work. Yet, we keep thinking they will. [April 1013]  more...
  • You go into Climate Change with the environment you have In 2004 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld infamously said, “You go to war with the army you have---not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” He said this in response to a soldier’s question about the lack of sufficient armor for our troops in Iraq. The statement was infamous not so much because it was factually untrue, but because Rumsfeld failed to mention that the Iraq War was a war of choice—something Bush II cooked up in a moment of hubris. Rumsfeld should have said something like, “In a war of our own choosing, we should have waited until we were better prepared.”  But that’s not what you say when you think you’re top dog and you want what you want when you want it.  In much the same way we are going to battle against Climate Change with the environment we have today, an environment not as robust and resilient as we would wish it to be.  [March 2013] more...
  • Rochester, NY solutions to Climate Change A long time ago and far away, I remember a nun at my church admonishing me, “You don’t love candy.  You love God.”  Though it seemed to me that I very much did love candy (especially chocolates), I now understand what she was saying after a half-century—even though to her probable horror I’ve ended up as an atheist.  There are things more important than the mere existential pleasures our culture has to offer.  Like Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Sustainability (Life).  I mention this personal anecdote to bring up our present fixation on things that don’t matter much, forgetting the things we should love.  However much we might ‘love’ our dogs, our favorite team, and our car, if we don’t make it through the wormhole of Climate Change those other things won’t matter much because just trying to survive will take up the whole of our existence. [March 2013] more...
  • As a standard for Climate Change risk, ‘Unlikely’ is unacceptable  By some accounts, US folks accept that Climate Change is happening “with 61% saying the effects of climate change are already affecting them personally or will in their lifetime.”  (Recent Polling on Climate Change, 2/ 12/ 2013 — League of Conservation Voters)  I like to think this translates into a sense of urgency permeating our culture, but I suspect it does not in any meaningful way.  There are still too many excuses why we, the predominate life form on this planet, are avoiding our responsibility.  For it is not enough to know that our springs will arrive earlier (Spring May Arrive Five Weeks Earlier by 2100, Study Finds) giving us a longer growing season, then conveniently forgetting that everything—plants, insect pests, birds, butterflies, everything really—will be out of sync.  [March 2013]  more...
  • Changes in attitudes towards Climate Change are not fast enough Though many are still jazzed from the amazing turnout at the “Forward on Climate Rally” on February 17th, there’s a long way to go.  Somehow we have to get the GHG-related .8C temperature increase since 1850 back down to the levels where we thrived—the Holocene epoch If Fracking proceeds in NYS, it could release as much GHG’s as coal while continually exposing us to ‘fraccidents’.  Even if Fracking is blocked, there won’t be much time to celebrate. Indications are that the US is waking from its Climate Silence slumber and starting to stir. President Obama and governors around the country are beating the drum.  Indeed, it was gratifying at the rally to see thousands of bright young folks who ‘get it’ on Climate Change.  [March 2013]  more...
  • What would Massasoit decide on Climate Change? While on a (full) bus out of Rochester, NY to attend the "Forward on Climate" rally in Washington, DC last Sunday, I got to wondering about this incredible time of ours.  We sit on the shores of history on the precipice of world-transforming change.  It’s time to reflect about what guides our thinking.  I’m thinking it’s not mainstream media. The rally in Washington included a stop at the National World War II Memorial where several hundred of us from New York State rallied against Fracking (drilling for fossil fuels) in New York that got almost no media coverage.  Thursday’s anti-Fracking in downtown Rochester, as Governor Cuomo visited , got almost no media coverage either except for a short mention in an article in the Democrat and Chronicle (last three paragraphs) and a more robust article in the non-mainstream Rochester IndyMedia: Protesters Greet Governor With Message About Fracking  The "Forward on Climate" rally brought 50,000 concerned folks to the streets of our capitol on Climate Change.  I could not find a vantage point from which to see all 50,000 the crowd was so large.  Relatively few mainstream media covered this event, though many new media outlets like EcoWatch and Democracy Now! did. [March 2013] more...
  • Environmentalists will Occupy Our Capitol on Climate Change this Sunday The #ForwardOnClimate Rally this Sunday has been billed as “The largest climate rally in U.S. history.”  Environmentalists (those aware that we actually occupy our environment) are coming from around the country to demonstrate their commitment to adapting to and mitigating Climate Change.  We have to adapt to Climate Change because even if we stop all greenhouse gas emission right now and get our carbon diet from our present 395 parts per million (ppm) to a sensible 350ppm, there is probably 50 to 100 years of warming coming anyway because we didn’t fix this sooner.  Mitigation is stopping accelerated anthropogenic Climate Change in its tracks.  And, as long as I’m defining things, an anti-environmentalist is a creature that does not occupy this or any other planet.   On Valentine’s Day 48 leaders got themselves arrested as a prelude to the rally to emphasize that the fossil fuel burning era must end. [February 2013] more...
  • Getting the squirrel to see Climate Change in Rochester, NY The #ForwardOnClimate Rally this Sunday has been billed as “The largest climate rally in U.S. history.”  Environmentalists (those aware that we actually occupy our environment) are coming from around the country to demonstrate their commitment to adapting to and mitigating Climate Change We have to adapt to Climate Change because even if we stop all greenhouse gas emission right now and get our carbon diet from our present 395 parts per million (ppm) to a sensible 350ppm, there is probably 50 to 100 years of warming coming anyway because we didn’t fix this sooner.  Mitigation is stopping accelerated anthropogenic Climate Change in its tracks.  And, as long as I’m defining things, an anti-environmentalist is a creature that does not occupy this or any other planet.   On Valentine’s Day 48 leaders got themselves arrested as a prelude to the rally to emphasize that the fossil fuel burning era must end. [February 2013] more...
  • Planning for Climate Change requires learning from ‘fortunate occurrences’ The release this week of two more Climate Change Studies (NOAA, USGS: Climate change impacts to U.S. coasts threaten public health, safety and economy andWildlife in a Warming World) got me wondering: how many have actually read a Climate Change report instead of reading about them? Though filled with data and dry statistics, they are not boring because they are scientific observations about warming and specific plans to deal with all that. What can be more compelling reading than the probable fate of everything you hold dear, and plans to sustain that, from experts who know what they are talking about? Sure, some of the information is educated guess work; but all are based on the best available scientific information. The sum total of this information is that we (meaning everybody) need to get moving on this. Proper planning is essential. [February 2013] more...
  • Environmentalists happy with Obama’s Climate Change mention in Inaugural Address If we as a people don’t accomplish anything else this century, we should at least get over the nonsensical notion that our environmental health falls under the purview of just one political party. Our environment, our life-support system, affects all of us, regardless of one’s faith, economics, or political leanings. The problem of adapting to and mitigating Climate Change is exacerbated by the delusion that only environmentalists care about this issue. I belabor the obvious because of this story and many like it have appeared recently after President Obama mentioned Climate Change in his Second Inaugural Address: [January 2013] more...
  • Planning for Climate Change in Rochester, NY Thinking about how we are going to plan for a warmer planet on the local level, as I often do, I recently attended a meeting on sustainably for our region.  I especially liked the portion of the meeting that was spent on revisiting our region’s unique environmental history suggesting that sustainable efforts should include measures that preserve and protect our local character—while building for the future. This is great because we here in Rochester have an interesting environmental history.  20,000 years ago a mile of ice covered the entire region.  Back then it was 6° Celsius cooler than it was when our soldiers went off to fight the Civil War.  Now, .8°C later, we are headed toward another 6° C, except this time in the other direction and not in 20,000 years but in about two hundred and fifty. [January 2013] more...
  • Climate Change is not just another business risk A couple of news stories this week focused on a new study that predicts hard times for winter tourism: Report: Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States. Last year’s warm Northeast winter must have given the winter tourism industry the jitters, which is odd because many Climate Change studies have been predicting warmer winters and less snowfall in the Northeast for quite some time: (December 2012)  more...
  • Negative Climate Change positive feedback loops You have to appreciate the fantastic dissonance this week caused by the juxtapositioning of the ho-hum Doha Climate talks and the rapid melting of the Arctic.  On the one hand you have a major Climate talk failing to deliver action (yet again) on Climate Change.  And, on the other, you have a major feature of our planet disappearing before the very eyes of our satellites because of our inaction. This dysfunctional absurdity of ours got me thinking about positive feedback loops.  A positive feedback loop occurs when stuff happens in sync with the stuff that’s already happening, increasing the likelihood that the stuff will happen even more.  Scientist use these ‘loops’ to explain the phenomenon of accelerated anthropogenic warming that is melting Arctic ice, which in turn will warm our planet’s atmosphere even more because the reflective surface of ice —the albedo effect--will soon be replaced by dark ocean, which absorbs heat. (December 2012)  more...
  • Climate Change talks in Doha, Qatar: ya gotta laugh One of the more startling moments in Plastic Ocean comes when Captain Moore (the book’s author) reveals the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to world leaders and they tell him to prove that it’s doing any harm.  Ya gotta laugh. That’s like discovering a bomb in the nation’s capitol and having the police dismiss you because they don’t think bombs do any damage.  Another amazing point in the book is learning that chemical companies in the US have to pull their products off the market only if their studies prove their product’s toxicity, which means these companies have zero incentive to do their own studies.  How their products radiate out into our environment is anyone’s guess.   This all comes to mind as I review this week’s amazing environmental news.  [December 2012]  more...
  • US Elections too close for comfort on adapting to Climate Change Increasingly more strident and more saturated with money-induced hysteria, the thriller that is the US election process is over for 2012. One side won, the other side lost. There were other sides, like the Green Party, but they really didn’t get a chance to engage in our political process. Also, there were critical issues, like Climate Change and corporate personhood, but they were silenced out.  Millions heave a sigh of relief that the Climate Change denier party was not installed into the executive office. That prospect threatened to reverse what little forward motion there has been on our country’s addressing Climate Change, potentially redacting all US official participation in this world-wide warming.  Was Hurricane Sandy, with its horrific destruction, the wildcard that won the election for the candidate who at least acknowledged Climate Change?  Unclear. (November 2012)   more...
  • Frankenstorm slams into US election No doubt you and your loved ones have been inconvenienced (or worse) by this week’s Hurricane Sandy—the Frankenstorm. Its unprecedented ferocity wreaked bloody havoc on our lives. Probably a lot more when we get a chance to evaluate everything. Yet remarkably this “once in a century” storm (closely following the 2005Hurricane Katrina, another “once in a century” storm) has been stomping steadily towards us for a long time, just as predicted by Climate Change theory. Our present trajectory-- business as usual—ensures more of them. Mainstream media anticipated this storm’s potential for damage and helped keep many from harm’s way, but there was little connecting the dots on this extreme weather event and Climate Change.   But you can’t keep a big storm down. Hurricane Sandy has left many of our politicians stunned—not just by the damage to their constituency’s lives, property and infrastructure, but to their own political prospects. And that makes news!    more...
  • The trouble with Climate Silence The 2012 presidential debates are over and Climate Silence ruled. Didn’t hear about Climate Silence?  That’s because the two candidates for the most powerful job in the world kept their mouths shut about the most important issue in the world—accelerated anthropomorphic Climate Change.  On one level it’s understandable how the two candidates, starving for more billons to feed the mainstream media machine, would be reluctant to talk about an issue so riddled with fake doubt by those whose ideology doesn’t match reality.  “Climate of Doubt”, a major investigative report by PBS’s Frontline, gets to the heart of the matter, though sadly it aired just after the last debate. (September 2012) more...
  • Climate Change: Don’t give up, never surrender When I was a kid, I used to bike to Grant’s cottage once in awhile.  The cottage, where General Grant finished his memoirs, was a long climb up Mount McGregor in Wilton, NY on my single-geared bike.  A kindly curator would guide me through the cottage—the chairs placed together so Grant could sleep while being devoured by throat cancer, the clock on the mantle stopped at his death, and the funeral wreaths all about.  At ten, I didn’t really know who Grant was, except that he was an exceptional general and a so-so president. (September 2012)   more...
  • Addressing Climate Change in Rochester, NY by biking to Greentopia Of course bicycling is a great way to get around town, a method that’s fun and healthy.  Think of bicycling as a way of curbing our national obesity crisis, or releasing those endorphins (that natural feel-good sensation after you’ve worked out). Not to mention (but which I will) all the benefits of not buying, financing,  maintaining, insuring, fueling, and parking that gas-guzzling goliath that consumes a big part of your paycheck. But that’s not all.  There’s a loftier way of looking at active transportation (walking and bicycling), a way that makes an existential statement about our present collective consciousness.  Ok, that’s a little too lofty.  Let me ratchet that down a bit.  Let me see…  How about I use an anecdote? (September 2012)   more...
  • Bidder 70,” not DeChristopher, coming to Rochester, NY to talk about Climate Change Bidder 70” is coming to Rochester, NY for the Greentopia Festival to talk about Climate Change on Friday, September 14, 2012, but not Tim DeChristopher because the fossil fuel  industry had him thrown in prison for outsmarting them.  The fossil fuel industry did that because they have an infinite supply of fantastically expensive lawyers who convinced the federal government that a private citizen shouldn’t try to protect our public lands from being exploited by them and warming the planet.  The truth is that the fossil fuel industries were really annoyed.  Tim had so befuddled them by walking into a public meeting, filled with the incredibly rich fossil fuel industry bidders, and out-bid them with only his knowledge of what manmade Climate Change is doing to his generation.  So, they threw the full weight of the US government on a man armed with only his brains.  They thought they had so much money that they could out-bid anyone but were outflanked by a citizen who just started bidding on what was essentially his and our land.  Stupidly, the fossil fuel industry forgot to set up a byzantine procedure for bidding with all sorts of industry cooked-up credentials, as they usually do, so that Tim was able to just start bidding—and beat their pants off. (September 2012)  more...
  • Strike while the Climate Change iron is hot The small, but financially powerful, klatch of Climate Change deniers must be feeling beleaguered as so much information contrary to their belief system surfaces wildly throughout our media.  Besides major articles that connect the present warming in the US (The New Climate Dice: Public Perception of Climate Change by James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Reto Ruedy — July 2012 and Global Warming's Terrifying New Math | Politics News | Rolling Stone by Bill McKibben), there are innumerable articles that make it plain that our present warming is like nothing else in the past several hundred years: (August 2012) more...
  • Mr. President and Mr. Romney, it’s getting very hot down here in reality land! Many of us trying to connect the dots between current weather calamities (heatwave, wildfires) and Climate Change are probably beating a dead horse.  There are so many reasons why the public cannot or won’t get the message that we are in a planetary heat-up that it’s not even funny.  (Though Climate Change champion, author, and activist Bill McKibben actually tried humor this week: Bill McKibben on the Global Warming Hoax) Hey, we’re desperate.  Nothing seems to work.  Even though this week’s news is full of stories on the heatwave, only a few media are connecting the dots. (July 2012)  more...
  • Public becoming cooler on Climate Change as weather gets hotter At a recent visit to Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, I gazed at a relief map of New York State blanketed by the Wisconsin Glacial Episode.  Though it’s almost impossible to imagine our region covered in a mile-high glacier some 20, 000 years ago, it was so.  Sometime in the Pleistocene all that ice began to melt and as it did the receding ice sheet gouged out our Finger Lakes as well as those wonderful gorges in Ithaca, NY.  Then we entered the Holocene, a relatively stable climate where our ancestors thrived amongst the mastodons and mammoths. Now we are living in what many scientists are calling the Anthropocene—a geological epoch framed by our own grand experiment with Nature. It took 10,000 years of warming to melt that burden of ice burden on our land, which is significant since “during the Ice Age temperature[s] were only 5 to 10 degrees colder than today. “ (GLOBAL WARMING AND RISING SEA LEVELS - World Topics | Facts and Details) (July 2012) more...
  • Climate Change: the ultimate Ultimatum Game? One has to wonder why despite its solid foundation in reason and physics—more heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, things warm up—there appears to be little movement on the Climate Change issue.   Few, except the most die-hard deniers, really believe our atmosphere is not warming up. Without long-term, comprehensive data, understanding and predicting specific climate scenarios for specific regions is very difficult and prone to naysayer’s doubts.   The devils are in the details, but even these devils are resolving themselves as we learn more about this phenomenon. more...
  • Citizen scientists, critical in addressing Climate ChangeSome of the solutions that will help us adapt to and mitigate Climate Change are data collection for filling in knowledge gaps on specific issues threatening our environment and educating the public. So rather than focus on proving what 13 departments of our government (see below) already know about the science behind Climate Change. more...
  • Moving towards a cooler planet in Rochester, NY   When you consider that New York State’s goal for curbing Climate Change is “reducing GHG emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (or 80 by 50),” you begin to appreciate the quiet drama in the NYS Climate Action Council’s report: ... I say ‘quiet drama’ because regardless of how ambitious our state government decides we the people should march our greenhouse gas (GHS) emissions back to normal ranges, it’s not going to happen without massive compliance by we the people. We the governed, we the proud and free, are not particularly fond of our government telling us what to do.  Just note how effective stopping cell phone use while driving is working.  Nada.  more...
  • Great weather now but a lousy climate coming for the Rochester, NY region When I wrote this essay it was the first day of spring and eighty-four degrees outside. This year’s warm winter has finally convinced a lot of people that Climate Change is happening, but they seem OK with it. I heard some folks saying that they love this warm March and many are out running around playing Frisbee—those who would otherwise be huddled inside at this time of the year. Showing some exuberance, but not too much, our local news tells us to plan our gardens, but don’t plant anything just yet. It’s hot, but is it Climate Change? Some say it is:  more...
  • Extreme weather and Climate Change predictions: the true connection No matter where you stand on whether recent extreme weather events are caused by Climate Change, these stories are not going away. They are not going away because even if it is very difficult to pin point a direct cause and effect relationship between this extreme event and another one, overall we know Climate Change studies predict extreme weather events. Overall, our climate is warming up because of the fossil fuels we have put into the atmosphere since the early 1800’s. And, in all probability insurance rates are going to go up on property and anything else insurance is connected to because, deniers’ enthusiasm or not, the reality is that insurance rates will go up as the likelihood of more expensive disasters goes up.  (March 2012) more...
  • Is appeasement the best strategy for dealing with deniers and industry on Climate Change? Is appeasement, just giving into to the other side’s demands no matter the future consequences, really a good leadership strategy to protect our environment? The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline where Canadian tar sands oil gets piped through the US and refined then burned for energy which will warm up our atmosphere even more has a new twist. Instead of deciding to drop the pipeline in the US altogether and move forward on renewable energy, President Obama has decided on an appeasement policy to sit back and watch part of the project—the southern part—go ahead. (February 2012)  more...
  • It makes a difference what you say about Climate Change.The longer it takes us to say ‘Climate Change’ the longer it will take us to adapt to it. Whether or not we, or our government agencies, call a this warming in our climate ‘Climate Change’ matters because in the scenario where we don’t call it “Climate Change” we just keep denying the implications of warming and deal ad hoc with the changes—until they overwhelm us. In the scenario where we call Climate Change what it is our government and the agencies that will be responsible adapting and addressing it can begin their work with the critical public understanding behind them.  (February 2012)  more...
  • Who is going to pay for natural disasters in the age of warming? When you think about the Likely Changes coming to our NYS region because of Climate Change the money spent out by our government for natural disasters could get pretty steep. We are grateful that our representatives are willing to step up to the plate to provide financial assistance when extreme weather strikes, but what are we going to do as extreme natural events become more common.  more...
  • Needed: Rochester, NY climate action plan site If you search awhile you can find the City of Rochester’s Climate Action Plan buried on this page: City of Rochester | City Adopts “Green” Resolution. But it’s not the full-fledged web site devoted exclusively to our city’s plan for adapting to Climate Change like they have for Chicago: more...
  • Hydrofracking in NYS through the lens of Climate Change Although our governments, politicians, business community, and even our environmentalists do not (or will not) connect the dots of hydrofracking with Climate Change they cannot be isolated from each other. Natural gas, however extracted, is a greenhouse gas (GHG) when burned and it must be addressed as such. Because of the scale of our energy issues, the scale of the gas to be extracted (some have referred to the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale boon as comparable to two Saudi Arabia’s worth of fossil fuels) and the scale of our Climate Change crisis, now is the time for the media and our government officials to connect natural gas with greenhouse gas emissions. The gravity of our accelerated Climate Change crisis, where there will be many likely changes to our region’s environment, compels us to view all environmental issues through the lens of Climate Change. This isn’t my expression; this is the language of the US Fish and Wildlife Service: more...
  • What are we going to say about Climate Change in a couple of decades? We are at an incredible time in our history where it is impolitic to talk about the most important issue of our century. Even when our representatives bring out bills to upgrade our water infrastructure and increase the effectiveness of our emergency response systems, they do not mention Climate Change. This is absurd because both these issues are a part any NYS climate action plan, which attempt to ready our state for extreme weather events coming up.  (February 2012)  more...
  • Gaming knowledge gaps in Climate Change studies There is a lot of doubt surrounding the issue of Climate Change, just as there would be about anything remotely as complex as the rapid warming of our planet due to human activity. It means trying to anticipate the impact of unprecedentedly rapid change -- what used to take millions of years of adaption in Earth’s biology is being condensed into a few decades—with every other environmental issue we face mixed in. For some, this doubt galvanizes them to fill those knowledge gaps by investigating and monitoring the changes in our environment due to warming. Find out what’s going on, what’s causing it, and then find solutions. (February 2012)  more...
  • Oppressive heat this week will be the summer norm in Rochester, NY It’s worth your while to read the recommendations by the New York State Department of Health on measures to take during this heat wave. There are a lot to things to consider on a hot day.  Just being able to tough them out while on the job like a bunch of heat heroes (which seems to be the focus of our local media) isn’t one of them.   There are heat strokes, heat exhaustion, sunburn, and heat cramps to consider –not to mention searing the inside of you lungs because of ground-level ozone.  Athletes have to ask themselves if it’s worth the risk to their lungs if they exercise hard in this kind of weather.  This will be a more common alert in the future and probably more strident: more...
  • American Exceptionalism, Durban Climate Change Conference, and Rochester, NYAmerican Exceptionalism is the crazy notion that we American’s are better than anyone else on the planet. Not everyone in the US shares this obnoxious view; of course, mostly it’s the brainchild of the neo-nuts (the extremists who have hijacked the GOP) who believe that because we are the richest and most powerful nation in the world we can act like bullies. “What’s the point of being the greatest nation on Earth if you can’t act like it?” I heard someone say. So it goes.  (December 2011) more...
  • Rochester’s environment, hydrofracking, and the elephant  A critical mass of local interest foreshadows some great debates in the Rochester, NY region on hydrofracking. Check the Rochester Environment.com Calendar for up and coming hydrofracking events. Rochester is not strictly speaking in the Marcellus Gas Shale. But Hemlock Lake is--where we get a lot of our drinking water. And, the Genesee River runs through it.  more...
  • Rochester, NY: Why Rochesterians don’t believe in Climate Change Environmentalists, in their efforts to develop strategies that will work, entertain many notions about why most American don’t believe in Climate Change. Some say that it’s about denial: The dire consequences of Climate Change are so overwhelming that many Americans deal with it by not dealing with it. Go on a vacation, switch channels, or go see a new flick.   more...
  • How do we preserve and protect an environment in flux?   In a way, it was relatively easy to be an environmentalist in the past. It was easy in the sense that you knew what to do: don’t pollute, don’t overdevelop; don’t feed the bears; don’t spread invasive species; certainly don’t eat endangered species; don’t drive a gas guzzler, and for goodness sakes don’t grab the most poisonous product on the shelf to kill a few insects.  more...
  • Climate Change skeptics are a drag on us all While Climate Change skeptics still get to grab the US public’s attention and spew doubt about Climate Change your government through its various agencies—wildlife, transportation, health, and many more—are preparing and adapting to imminent change. Our collective ability to provide funding and public participation for the may projects that will help us adapt to Climate Change is oftentimes foiled by senseless arguments by those with another agenda:  more...
  • Where do the US presidential candidates stand on the Durban Climate Change Conference? I’ll admit I haven’t been paying close attention to the GOP presidential race much at all. What’s the point really? Mainstream media has framed the alleged democratic process of electing our presidents around the candidate’s ability to win, and almost nothing on substance. Certainly, not on Climate Change.  more...
  • State of the Union Address and Rochester, NY‘s environment Several prominent environmental writers noted President Obama’s neglect to mention the world-wide crisis of Climate Change in his State of the Union Address  more...
  • Climate Change: Mom’s on the roof! The great issue for the media should be getting the message out to the public that our environment is in serious trouble.  That is problematic because Climate Change and pollution don’t’ sell well, and they are out of the public’s comfort zone.   However, as John Dewey said, “The media’s job is to interest the public in the public interest.”  No matter that the more you learn about Climate Change the more troublesome it gets.  more...
  • Strange Days Ahead Doesn’t it seem odd to you here in the Rochester, NY region to read about a critical indication of Climate Change in our area only being reported across the ocean at the BBC? “Climate change 'makes birds shrink' in North America” (3/12/2010). Along with a loony media in rapture over their invention called climategate, the public’s disinclination to focus on the most potentially disastrous environmental change of our age, and our irrational denial of the obvious fact that our planet is warming up, we have to search the globe to discover what changes will occur here. In the face of a real threat to our existence, strange days are indeed ahead: more warming, more denial. more...
  • Connecting the Green Dots The Copenhagen Climate Conference is over and almost everyone, including President Obama himself, admits failure: “I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen.” (Obama on Health Reform Politics, Copenhagen Climate Outcome, 12/23/09 PBS: Newshour)  more...
  • Earth-fixing Gadgets In the back of many modern minds there probably nestles the comforting conviction that science will get us out of our twenty-first century environmental mess. It must be so because despite all signs that world-wide pollution rages on, our climate changes, and our oceans are dying, we go happily along as if there were no tomorrow. Instead of making the hard ethical choices need to get six billion souls focused on our environment, we trust in technology. more...
  • Climate Change: Are We Off the Hook? It must be heartwarming for climate change skeptics that the recent climate email flare-up in the news (In e-mails, science of warming is hot debate - washingtonpost.com) seems to question the validity of the current Climate Crisis. Nothing dilutes action like doubt. For action, especially wholesale planetary action on curbing global warming gases might have a devastating effect on the status quo of those thriving in our present economy. And that possible scenario must create great apprehension in the hearts of those whose ideology and values seem threatened by an abrupt, massive movement towards a sustainable way of life. more...
  • Copenhagen Comes to Rochester! Except for our local institutions of higher learning, most Rochesterians seem to think that what’s going to happen (or not happen) in Copenhagen [UN Climate Change Conference, DEC 7-18] is about as important as last year’s bird nest. But, Copenhagen is coming to Rochester. It’s coming to Buffalo, Albany, NYC, Mexico City, Ireland, and Timbuktu. more...
  • Rochester’s 350.org Coverage Judging from the media response around the world, the 350.org event has been a hit: October 24 Press Release | 350.org “350.org To Stage Largest Day of Environmental Action in History | 5,242 Simultaneous Events on Climate in 181 Countries.” “Citizens, scientists and world leaders in 181 countries will take to nearby streets, mountains, parks, and reefs today to demand strong action on climate change, in what will be the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history. 5,242 rallies and creative demonstrations will take place, all of them centered on the number 350, to draw attention to 350 parts per million (ppm), which an overwhelming number of scientists now insist is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” more...
  • 350 Why It Matters 350 Why It Matters “350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide—measured in ‘Parts Per Million’ in our atmosphere. 350 PPM—it's the number humanity needs to get back to as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change.” –from Understanding 350 | 350.org Several events are going on in Rochester this coming Saturday for the 350.org and we hope you will attend one. If enough people demonstrate in a positive way that they acknowledge the problem of Climate Change and are willing to make their voice heard, it might make a difference. It’s all on 350.org.   more...

Frank at the Rally

[That's me protesting Fracking in New York State at the "Forward on Climate" rally in Washington, DC on February 17, 2013.  Hundreds of us from New York got together to protest Fracking at the rally, but no press coverage that I know of. 

Transportation

How we get around the Rochester area now and in the future will have a profound affect on our environment

  • Best transportation option in Rochester moves along Earlier this week my wife and I attended an adult bicycle training course. Seeking to become more comfortable riding in traffic, we wanted to take our biking prowess to the next level. Sadly, we were the only students there. But the trainers, who outnumbered us, cheerfully instructed us on NYS bicycling laws, proper road riding techniques, and basic bicycle maintenance.  We learned how to make left-hand turns correctly, that carrying a bike on a vehicle to bike on a nearby trail is kind of fuelish, what equipment is necessary to bike in the streets, what the 3’ rule is and how to maintain that as you bicycle in traffic, and a whole lot more that we hadn’t even though of. The bike course Roc City AdultChallege (RCAD) helped us even though we thought we didn’t need a lot of help. [July 2013]   more...
  • Will salmon-cyclists destroy Rochester’s chances for greatness? Every time I march out this quote by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on transportation, people’s eyes glaze over and their attention starts to wander: “Transportation sources emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. In 2008, transportation sources contributed approximately 27 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.”Basic Information | Transportation and Climate | US EPA (June 2012) more...
  • Connecting the Climate Change dots on Rochester’s transportation I’m not bragging when I say that I was pretty good at those connect-the-dots games as a kid. I’d come up with anything they wanted me to connect: a horse, an elephant, or you-name-it. The trick (and I learned this at about three or four years old) was to connect the dots according to the numbers—meaning in order. Those drawings from kids who just randomly connected dots without heeding this operating principle didn’t look anything like the intended project. More like a Rorschach test.   more...
  • Active Transportation attitudes in Rochester, NY There is a transformation occurring on active transportation (mostly walking and bicycling) attitudes in the Rochester, NY region, but we’re still waiting for the tipping point.  The tipping point will occur when both vehicle drivers and active transportation folks actually share the road, and obtain ‘complete streets’: Many in our region want active transportation to happen: I believe, as chair of the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club’s Transportation Committee, that we here in Rochester can pass the tipping point and have active transportation become a major component of our transportation options.  You can get a whiff of that movement from this report: We have an incredible amount of trails that help close the distance between streets and destinations, making it easier and safer to walk and bike to important destinations.  We have bicycle groups, enthusiasts, universities, public health departments, and transportation authorities who all want to make our citizens healthier and reduce the negative effects of our present transportation system.   A major government report emphasizes the importance of this matter: more...
  • High Speed Rail in New York State falls away, but Climate Change will soarIt is another tragedy, like the quiet demise of the Great Lakes Off-Shore Wind Project (GLOW), that funds for the building of an anticipated high speed rail fell away under a congressional deal. The Erie Canal that started on July 4th, 1817 was a boom for Rochester, turning it from a hamlet into a major city in a decade. Products from the West could be boated across the canal, one of the best in the world, to Albany and then down the Hudson River to New York City. But the canal cannot help us now, it’s too slow. (Though, the canal might be a way to move collected massive amounts of recyclables from one district to another.) (November 2011)  more...
  • Bicycle Friendly Rochester - There are those who believe that Transportation in Rochester could be a bicycle friendly community as Copenhagen.  That would be something to behold. Check out: Streetfilms | Copenhagen’s Climate-Friendly, Bike-Friendly Streets "Tens of thousands of people from nearly every nation on earth have descended on Copenhagen this month for the UN climate summit. As the delegates try to piece together a framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they're also absorbing lessons from one of the world's leading cities in sustainable transportation. In Copenhagen, fully 37 percent of commute trips are made by bike, and mode share among city residents alone is even higher. "
  • Walk? Walking for bipeds was “the cat’s pajamas” for four millions years. That is, putting humanity’s one hairy foot before another got us around just fine. Then, within a relatively short period of time, our species took to climbing on other animals’ backs, floating stuff on water, then the wheel, which brought on carts, trains, and then we took to the skies. But mostly, since the horseless carriage, autos get us around. In fact, the car culture so dictates transportation in the United States that few of us, even when the distance is short, walk. more...
  • Complete Streets An integral part of any communities Transportation efforts must be the concept of Complete Streets so that the best and most efficient use of our streets can be made for pedestrians, bicyclers, and anyone who wants to get around. Complete Streets The streets of our cities and towns are an important part of the livability of our communities. They ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. But too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams. more...
  • How Walkable is Rochester, NY? Walking is a great way to get around and it's Transportation. Take your own survey and find out how Walkable Rochester is: Walkability Checklist --from Partnership for a Walkable America The Partnership for a Walkable America (PWA) is a national coalition working to improve the conditions for walking in America and to increase the number of Americans who walk regularly. The members are national governmental agencies and non-profit organizations concerned about three main areas: Health, Safety and the Environment. more...
  • Getting Up to Snuff on High Speed Rail: National Public Radio has offered a great series on High Speed Raid across the country.  Because this mode of transportation may be coming to our area, because of the Obama’s desire to help communities with jobs and help our environment, this series of programs is especially useful.  It’s not all happy talk.  Getting High Speed Raid is complicated and involves many aspects, but other communities have done it.  Learn from them.  Check it out: On The Fast Track? The Obama administration is pushing the development of high-speed-rail lines, claiming that ultrafast trains would ease traffic, help the environment and boost the economy. Critics question those claims — and say the United States has a long way to go to catch up with other countries' rail travel. NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR  more...
  • Help biking in Rochester, help our area's environment Increasing bicycling for the Rochester, NY area will reduce air pollution, positively affect your health, decrease traffic on our streets and give you a chance to smell our roses and see our sites.  Check out this site and help out getting more bike to more people.     R Community Bikes: Rochester, New York "R Community Bikes is a grassroots, 501(c)3 organization that collects and repairs used bicycles for distribution, free of charge, to Rochester, NY's most needy children and adults. Our mission is meeting the basic transportation needs of those in the community who depend on bikes for recreation as well as for transport to work, school, rehabilitation programs, and training sessions. more...
  • Get There By Bike - Get the Map. Bike to work, to that festival, that trail, or just about anywhere you want to go in Rochester by using the map: Genesee Transportation Council - TIP Greater Rochester Area Bicycling Map Now Available | The Greater Rochester Area Bicycling Map, prepared by the Genesee Transportation Council utilizing road ratings provided by volunteer members of the Rochester Bicycling Club, is now available.   The ratings represent the opinions of experienced bicyclists on the rideability of major roads based on existing road conditions and features such as pavement width and quality, traffic volumes, presence and type of shoulders, and posted speed limits. more...
  • New Transportation idea in Rochester This could change Rochester's concept of Transportation, check it out: Rochester Greenway The Rochester Greenway "A revolutionary all-weather alternative energy transitway for bikes, e-vehicles, joggers, and skaters connecting RIT, U of R, and MCC, downtown Rochester. Three Opportunities, One Big Idea." more...
  • Limited Transportation Choices Few things strike more dread in the American heart than being told that our choices are going to be limited. We are an “in the Pursuit of Happiness” kind of people. The day after President Obama was elected many gun owners feared that their right to bear arms was going to be compromised and acted accordingly. "Everybody was scared he was going to take the ammo away or he was going to tax it out of sight on the prices," Dury says. "So people started stocking up, buying half a lifetime to a lifetime supply of ammo all at one time." Apr-07-2009, “All Things Considered”  more...
  • Getting Around Tomorrow A recent poll in Rochester on high-speed rail (3/20/09 Rochester Business Journal ) showed Rochesterians favoring this flashy mode of travel. Proponents say it will create jobs, reduced air pollution, and get us around more quickly. There are other ideas floating around town as federal dollars float in, including funds to develop hydrogen fuel. Realistically, most if not all that fed money will be used for fixing and updating our highway infrastructure. Road construction and bridge repair are shovel-ready; already in regional budgets, and they are going to create immediate jobs. For the time being, traveling around Rochester will not leap suddenly into the breath-taking fictional world of the Jetsons.  more...

 

Energy

How we get and use energy has a profound effect on our environment

  • Adapting to and mitigating Climate Change with green energy in Rochester  Much of Rochester NY’s Climate and Environment Protection Resolution involves “increased use of alternative energy sources;” so if alternative energy sources aren’t really helping reduce greenhouse gases (GHG’s), then our focus on green energy could be wrong-headed. Of course, the use of alternative energy (renewable or green energy: solar, wind, geothermal, etc.) is not Rochester’s only strategy for ‘adapting to and mitigating Climate Change’* in our region. Nor is it the single silver bullet for other communities. There are also measures to “…reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency…, green space preservation and Brownfield redevelopment, air and water quality improvements, reduced traffic congestion, economic development, [and] energy conservation.” (City of Rochester, NY) [August 1203] more...
  • Off-Shore wind farms, Climate change, and the Great Lakes The revival of off-shore wind farms for five states, including New York State, with President Obama’s ‘All of the Above’ approach on energy is likely to stir up fear and trepidation for those who had fought against the New York State Power Authority’s Great Lakes Off-Shore Wind Project (GLOW)—but it shouldn’t. However one might dislike the issues that come with wind power, they pale to the serious threats from Climate Change that are now looming over the Great Lakes more...
  • Energy options and the big lie Do we really have no “workable alternatives” to coal, oil, and nuclear power for our energy needs”?  While the tragedy of nuclear power rages on in Japan, the media and our politicians are avoiding the recent catastrophes from each of the major power sources.  Three of the world’s chief sources of large-scale energy production — coal, oil and nuclear power — have all experienced eye-popping accidents in just the past year. The Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion in West Virginia, the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan have dramatized the dangers of conventional power generation at a time when the world has no workable alternatives able to operate at sufficient scale. (March 13, 2011) “U.S. Nuclear Industry Faces New Uncertainty” New York Times This dependency on coal, oil, and nuclear power, though widely held as gospel, it is merely an assumption—not a fact.  There are other major workable alternatives to coal and oil: renewable energy from wind, solar, and wave power with battery backup and conservation thrown into the mix.  more...
  • Caving in: Is the minority ruling against renewable energy for Rochester, NY? Why, when 68% of Monroe County voters approve of off-shore wind power in Lake Ontario, does the Monroe County legislature oppose it?  Majority of Monroe County legislators oppose state's wind farm plan "The New York Power Authority continues to consider proposals to build offshore wind turbines, but a majority of Monroe County legislators have now gone on record opposing the idea. The Power Authority, an independent arm of state government, solicited proposals in 2009 from the private sector to build one or more wind farms in the near-shore waters of Lake Ontario or Lake Erie. Five proposals were submitted last June, and authority officials have been studying them since then. Officials have refused to reveal any information about the proposals.” (January 19, 2011) Democrat and Chronicle Is it politics?  Is it the media’s inability to frame this renewable option to the public coherently?  Has the fossil fuel industry effectively prodded the government to not act in its own (and their constituents’) best interest?  Are our Monroe County Legislature and the media caving into a small number of shoreline communities who happened to have an unfair (location, location, location) advantage on this matter?  more...
  • Energy Warning This news item each year always amazes me: a four-minute siren test in case of a nuclear plant accident.  It amazes me because one doesn’t hear a peep from the public on what this siren means.  (It means that a very dangerous energy source that requires iodine pills for radiation leaks so your thyroid gland doesn’t get cooked, and the haunting spectacle of an accident and fallout that could last years, decades, or maybe more could occur.) more...
  • Forced Energy Choices Are natural gas and nuclear power going to be our energy future? They probably will be, but not because they are our best energy solutions. Despite all the controversy about how we should power our existence as our population grows and our planet warms up, at the end of the day we’ll be scared into bad energy solutions. Our best energy solutions are conservation and renewable energy sources like wind and solar. They could compete for our baseload energy needs if our government subsidized, stimulated, and greased the political wheels for battery storage research like our government does for nuclear, oil, and gas production. If we approached our future energy needs according to the most prudent solutions for our precarious future—climate change, pollution, and health concerns—we could have a bright future for everyone. more...
  • If Your Grid Is Dirty If you are getting your power from a dirty electric grid, you are using dirty power. In other words, if your electric lamp is plugged into a system that is powered somewhere along your power line with a power generator that pollutes or emits greenhouse gases into our atmosphere (or otherwise harms our environment), your lamp is using dirty power. (Presently, we New Yorkers get 18% of our power from coal; 17% from hydroelectric, 1% wind, 1% biomass, 1% solar, 1% solid waste, 12% oil, 29% nuclear, and 22% natural gas.) more...
  • Gassing the News A good example of how dysfunctional our present media is on our environment, specifically on natural gas drilling, can be made by a point-by-point comparison of National Public Radio’s (NPR) three-part series on natural gas and recent coverage by ProPublica on the same subject: more...
  • Energy A Moral Iissue: As we turn on our lights, run our air conditioners, and charge our gadgets we do so mostly by burning coal. Coal pollutes and adds dramatically to manmade global warming. So, when we decide not to conserve electricity or not to allow a renewable energy source near our home, we condemn many to the hazards of mountain top removal. That wind turbine won’t be in our backyard, but that blasted mountain top which tailing will pollute that wants and disfigure the lands will be in somebody else’s backyard. Morally, though, we all live in the coal fields because we use the power of coal and won’t allow a better power source to run our lives. more...

 

Environmental Health

These essays attempt to show how our health is related to our environmental health.

  • New York State faces critical lack of environmental data As Governor Cuomo gets pummeled by gun control and Fracking issues, the media downplays a recent major accomplishment. It is "open.ny.gov,” a state-sponsored web site that provides all kinds of raw data pertaining to New York State for free, in various formats, including apps. It may not sound like much to you, but that’s due to our media’s bizarre ability to place emphasis on news in the reverse order of its importance. Considering the present media crisis, you’d think they’d make a bid deal of it. Think of it, the media has just been given a goose-laying pile of golden information that means they can spend even less time and money on investigative reporting. I know, if it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead. So we’ll go straight to the primary source, the governor’s press release: Governor Cuomo Launches Open.NY.Gov Providing Public Unprecedented User-Friendly Access to Federal, State and Local Data  [March 2013]  more...
  • Mosquitoes and dragging our feet on Climate Change Here in New York State, Climate Change is not expected to affect the net amount of rainfall we get in the next half-century.  Mosquitoes that drive vector-borne diseases like Lyme disease, malaria, and West Nile Virus will probably increase.  We will have more rainfall in the early spring and late fall according to many Climate Studies that address our region, but even in our drier summers and early fall; man-made pooling of waters will allow the mosquito populations grow.  (July 20120 more...
  • Is Our Local Environment Collapsing? One of the great environmental concepts of our time is the realization that environmental collapse can occur so slowly that you would hardly notice it. Unless, of course, you are looking for it. We should appreciate that in this fast-paced world, where mankind has mostly developed it to his liking, because we are more likely to forget (or not even notice) important milestones along the way to environmental degradation. . more...
  • Green Warning Signs Recently, we’ve noticed several signs that our environment is undergoing dramatic changes. Some of the most salient signs are the mercury-ridden fish in all of our streams, the collapse of the Copenhagen Climate talks, the release of methane gases from the Arctic Ocean, and a great resistance to greener transportation and energy. In that vein, the auto show I attended recently revealed little interest or efforts in adapting our vehicles to the reality that the automobile and its infrastructure greatly affect the health of our environment. I thought after all that talk about electric cars and fuel efficiency I’d see a new day at the shows. But there were the same old sexy cars and trucks—except now they cost more, still had lousy gas efficiency ratings, and have far more driver-distracting gadgets than ever before. more...
  • Reverting to a State of Green During these Extraordinary Times, where climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and our oceans are making human sustainability questionable, we must ask, how do we determine what constitutes Sustainability? But first, what is Sustainability and why is it so important? “For humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of wellbeing, which in turn depends on the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources…” (Wikipedia). In other words, we have to get Sustainability right, or the system that keeps us alive breaks down. You have to be alive to have ‘wellbeing.’ We tend to assume that all those actively involved in monitoring our environment—official entities whose purpose is to monitor and maintain our environment, scientists, environmentalists, and the media—have at the very least a good idea of what a healthy environment looks like. Yet, I’m not so convinced that they do.  more...
  • The State of Rochester’s Environment 2009 Summing up the year in a variety of ways (best films, biggest stories, funniest incidents, most tragic, etc.) has become such a tradition in the media at the end of the year that we expect it. It’s fashionable. (Not that this sort of thing is necessary, for has anyone actually forgotten the rotten economy and all the awful wars?) So as long as we are counting our chickens this New Year anyways, why not have a wrap-up about something useful, like the state of our environment? This kind of rundown does matter. We won’t have any more ‘best films’ or ‘most awkward moments’ for the year if our environment crashes.  more...
  • Healthy Debate Missing amidst the uproar on health care reform at the town meetings and the bug-eyed hysteria encouraged by our media is the link between our health care system and public health. Death panels, pulling the plug on our loved ones, socialism, deficits (mostly ignored during the war of choice), and even some cogent arguments that don’t embarrass us in the eyes of the world have been rung through the wringer that is called our media. It’s all as clear as mud, but politically the issues over health care reform are clear: defeating the present party on this ‘hot’ button issue offers new life to a party in search of a victory—any victory. more...
  • Global Health Don't forget you personally have a stake in the Climate Change Bill coming up: Climate Fight: EPA Sends Global Warming Finding to White House | Congress might be a long way from passing legislation to fight climate change, but the Obama administration appears one step closer to creating its own regime for controlling greenhouse gases. more...
  • Where's that pollution? A report (37 pages) that should be on your reading list this week is the new report by the International Joint Commission because it's about "programs to abate, control and prevent pollution from municipal sources entering the Great Lakes System.” The report’s object: The objective was to survey existing programs aimed at controlling surface-water pollution and to provide an overview of the current situation." more...

 

Great Lakes

The Rochester Region is located at the Southern rim of Lake Ontario making the entire environment of our area dependant on the health of the Great Lakes.  

  • Sending the Great Lakes over the Climate Change cliff It’s hard to imagine an environmental region under more pressure from Climate Change than the Great Lakes.  This series of five great lakes was gouged from the receding Laurentide Ice Sheet around 13,000 years ago.  In that span, this 94,250 square mile watershed that has produced a healthy, abundant, and resilient ecology is in a lot of trouble.  Trouble for us: those who live near it, bathe, drink, dump, fish, boat, and get a lot of our weather (lake-effect storms) from this massive hydrological system.  Indeed, it’s hard to believe that in only five hundred years we have managed to screw up a system that contains 21% of the fresh water on the planet, but there you are. (December 2012)  more...
  • Where's that pollution? A report (37 pages) that should be on your reading list this week is the new report by the International Joint Commission because it's about "programs to abate, control and prevent pollution from municipal sources entering the Great Lakes System.” The report’s object: The objective was to survey existing programs aimed at controlling surface-water pollution and to provide an overview of the current situation." And, he current situation is not pretty.  Not only is one of the largest fresh water systems in the world, which is in and is our backyard, being compromised, the municipal sewage overflow, which is integral to our environmental health (a point that doesn’t usually get high prominence in mainstream media because they don’t know how to quantify it) is also affecting the fishing and tourist industries—which do get a high profile in our mainstream media. Anyway, if you don’t have time to read this report, you should see that your congress person does.     International Joint Commission - News room IJC Releases 14th Biennial Report WINDSOR, Ontario - The International Joint Commission today released its Fourteenth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (Article VII), the International Joint Commission reports to the federal, state and provincial governments biennially concerning its findings on their progress toward achieving the Agreement’s general and specific objectives. The Commission’s report, which is released to the public, is also to assess the effectiveness of programs and other measures undertaken pursuant to the Agreement
  • Green Isolationism Isolationists, most notably George Washington in his farewell address “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible,” believe that one’s territory can be contained, one’s sovereignty sustained by removing oneself from the rest. And while it was probably wise council for a young nation to stay out of ‘political connections’ as we built our new nation, isolationism of any kind really is not possible in today’s world. Isolation is only an illusion, especially in our environment. Connections are the rule. A sand storm in Africa gives Central American’s asthma. more...
  • Bad Beaches Beach conditions are not simply a natural phenomenon that is something we are born to suffer and beyond our control.  In most cases, it’s probably manmade pollution—from bad agricultural practices, storm water runoffs, industrial pollution, etc.  Our beaches get worse and like the boiling frog metaphor we accustom ourselves to worsening beaches over the years until public bathing with be a thing of the past. That isn’t simply sad, that’s us shooting ourselves in the foot by allowing ourselves to do this to our environment. - Get the Beach Report: NRDC: Testing the Waters 2009 "A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches | more...
  • How are Great Lakes Fish Doing? Important Canadian report about eating fish in the Great Lakes--things are not improving: Up to the Gills: 2009 Update on Pollution in Great Lakes Fish "This report examines fish consumption advisories in the Great Lakes between 2005 and 2009. Up to the Gills finds that levels of toxic chemicals in Great Lakes fish are alarmingly high, and are not improving. The major chemical contaminants that cause consumption advisories for Great Lakes fish include mercury, PCBs, pesticides, dioxins and furans. Health effects of these chemicals include damage more...
  • Watching Fish A recent reading of local environmental news finds several interesting studies about the present state of our fish life. Things appear to be going well or not so well. For example, our Great Lakes fish populations are either doing swimmingly as noted in the New York Statewide Angler Survey 2007 - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (although, given the frequent fish eating advisories, maybe that’s not entirely true) or not so swimmingly: “No sign of threat: Don't expect gov't to issue warning of dangerous fishing,” June 26, 09 NY Daily News). Another report about our regional fish population indicates that fish are not doing so well: Up to the Gills: 2009 Update on Pollution in Great Lakes Fish which states “that levels of toxic chemicals in Great Lakes fish are alarmingly high, and are not improving.” And, as if eating fish were not enough of a worry, even playing on beach sand (Study: Digging in sand can increase health problems -- Newsday.com ) may be problematical. Not to mention, “The State of the Lakes: Still a Bummer” - Healthy Lakes - Healthy Lives “A new report by the US and Canadian Environmental Agencies finds that the Great Lakes ecosystem continues on a rapid decline due to toxic pollution and invasive species and poor sewage management.” Learn more at State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference | Great Lakes | US EPA  more...
  • Global Warming and Great Lakes Among other environmental markers in our area, the Great Lakes will be affected by Climate Change in our area. Learning about the effects, instead of trying to ignore them (for this is science, not a radical belief system) will help us understand how we might curb the effects and learn to live with the potential changes: more...
  • Great lakes Pollution Health Link Study CDC As a follow up on the alleged “blocked the publication of an exhaustive federal study of environmental hazards in the eight Great Lakes states” –from Great Lakes Danger Zones? The Center For Public Integrity Investigative Journalism in the Public Interest there’s a updated report out of Detroit: Great Lakes pollution, health link denied “No definitive link can be made between industrial pollution in the Great Lakes region and human health concerns, according to a revised version of a controversial federal study released Wednesday.”  more...
  • Great Lakes pollution, health link denied "Revised federal study contradicts draft report that found high rates of problems. Jim Lynch / The Detroit News No definitive link can be made between industrial pollution in the Great Lakes region and human health concerns, according to a revised version of a controversial federal study released Wednesday.  more...

Green Business

Our Rochester area business are getting greener and why it matters

  • Green Business As Usual Depending on your point of view, the Recession is either chugging along nicely (though cruelly) or it’s showing signs of a cascading collapse. Meaning, the banks we bailed out last year are thriving and many businesses are holding on, but job loss is dreadful. “The pace of layoffs has slowed sharply in recent months, but businesses still cut 85,000 net jobs in December, the Labor Department said.” (U.S. job loss report is blow to still-fragile recovery 1/09/10- washingtonpost.com) All these job losses make you wonder how we are going to recover our economy. Who is going to buy all that stuff from businesses if most of us are broke, can’t get loans, and are losing our houses? We could ask the rich (who horde a wildly disproportional share of the wealth in our country) to go out and spend more money. But, how many sneakers can even a rich person wear? more...
  • Find that Green Job in Rochester, NY. First, Full Disclosure: I have a personal stake in finding a green job. I'm looking for a worthwhile part-time green job and I am willing to share anything I can find out about this until I get and green job and well after I find one. I want everyone who is out of a job to find a green job. Help yourself, help a friend, help our environment. So, find a Green Job in Rochester, NY area: Green Business Jobs Rochester, NY environmental jobs Rochester RochesterEnvironment.com - Green Jobs - This is merely a laundry list of possible job search sites that might lead you to a green job. I have not vetted these sites, except to check them for a green job (and I haven’t found one) so I cannot say if one is better than another.  more...
  • Green Jobs for the common folks? Lots of the federal stimulus money coming to our state. How much is going to green jobs to make our environment more sustainable? The figures are coming in and it’s clear, our government is inordinately fond of highways. more...
  • The Recovery | Green Jobs This just in from NYS. Good service to subscribe to if your interested in the road ahead for the formulation of green jobs. more...
  • Green Jobs – We’re Hearing Things... You can discuss all day long about what a ‘green job’ is and some have (Green Jobs - A GLOBE-Net Perspective), but mostly it’s an occupation that employs while making our way of life sustainable. Let’s not get too ivory tower about this notion as people are desperately looking for job now and, as a concept in progress, it matters little if today’s blue collar job, with a little retro-fitting, becomes tomorrow’s green job. Bigger changes to the job market are coming. more...
  • Green Jobs: Position Yourself! Much of the news and information about green jobs (still) seems like hype: Lots of cheerleading, but few actual green ‘shovel-ready’ work opportunities. As one who has been following this thread myself for some time, it does seem like a highly inflated exuberance over an employment market that has yet to be. But, I believe ‘seems’ is the operative word here. more...
  • Get Green Training for that Green Job Increasingly, there are more online resources for job training, teacher training for their students, and a variety of services for all sectors of the new job market. It gets complicated because there is no simple answer to the question: “Where are the green jobs in our area and how to I get them.”  more...
  • Green Grants Ok, there’s probably no grants specifically labeled ‘green.’ And admittedly, there’s not anything particularly new or fresh about the field of grant writing worth noting: It still involves long hours of research, tedious and meticulous fact checking, and (at least from the grant writer’s side) it’s a crap shoot. more...
  • Could we be the new Green Leaders? Could our region be leading the way to clean up Brownfields and creating sites for renewable Energy? Green Shoots from Brown Fields: Scientific American Uncle Sam looks to eliminate the biggest hurdle to expanding renewable energy--the need for suitable sites to place commercial-scale wind and solar farms--by reusing hundreds of old mines, landfills and industrial sites When the Bethlehem Steel mill in Lackawanna, N.Y., finally shut its doors for good eight years ago, it took away thousands of jobs and left behind a polluted and unsightly mess. Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American  more...

 

Wildlife

Essays on why we must pay attention to our wildlife and how it still relates to our local environment

  • Trout fishing in a Climate Changed New York The National Wildlife Federation just released a major report this week on the challenges our fresh water fish are having with Climate Change.  Here’s their opening argument: Changing climate poses new risks for our treasured freshwater fish resources. Warming waters mean lost habitat for cold-water species, the likely encroachment of species typically found in warmer areas, and exacerbation of existing stressors such as habitat loss, pollution, invasive species, and disease. More extreme weather events—especially longer and more intense droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and floods—mean increased likelihood of fish mortality. Shorter winters with less snow and ice cover mean shifts in stream flow and water availability through the spring and summer months, as well as lost opportunities for ice fishing. (Page 1, Swimming Upstream |Fresh Water Fish in a Warming World |National Wildlife Federation Trout fishing is a major recreational activity in New York that constitutes a large part of our economy.  Last year in New York, freshwater anglers spent $1,212,000 and freshwater fishing expenditures amounted to $895,763,000. (Page 2, Ibid.) Without long-term planning, we are not going to be able to save cold water fish—unless we are willing to refrigerate large sections of our lakes and streams. [September 2013]  more...
  • Bats and Bees: What’s the story? Considering the critical roles both bats and honeybees play in our environment, our economics, and our agriculture, it’s worth taking a moment to catch up on these wonderful creatures. Bats eat bugs that eat our crops and spread diseases—like West Nile Virus. Honeybees pollinate our flowers and crops—like apples. Bat populations are being decimated by White-Nose Syndrome and honeybees are also collapsing because of Colony Collapse Disorder. We know that both these species are in trouble by their diseases, but what seems to have clouded the information and hence the saving of both bats and bees is the role pesticides are playing in their demise—if any. However, both of these issues have gone on for some time now with little progress and we have to wonder if it is due to the possible role of pesticides:
  • Bat News: One of the many reasons why I believe our present mainstream media are mostly dysfunctional concerns this story about a major decline in bats in our area.  Seems to the press that bats aren’t too popular and won’t bring in the big bucks the media wants.  So, connecting the dots about the major role bats play in our local environment (controlling insects, providing food for the predators we do like, etc.) and getting in the public’s face about this issue is not there.  We should care about this issue because it is a rapid change in our environment that may have grave consequences.  It has nothing to do about what the press might think the public cares about bats. more..
  • Sharing A Vision What we gain vicariously from the keen vision of an eagle or the ultrasonic sight of a bat is but a glimpse of our world through the superior senses of other animals. Our surroundings become something more when we take the time and have the imagination to see our environment through their eyes. From mimicking the ultraviolet landscape that a honeybee sees, we know that a field of flowers presents a much larger and more dynamic color spectrum than the one we see. Creatures like our pet dogs can smell a world that reveals the past in dropped spores and a present more aromatically vibrant and enlightening than the one we can detect. Even the air around us becomes more extraordinary when we look at it from the miniatures’ viewpoint. For a fly, our atmosphere it is more viscous than the one we know. It is like an ocean of water where the mosquitoes and bees above us swim more than fly. Speaking of the ocean, a whale more massive than any dinosaur that ever lived is an agile acrobat and sender of distant messages we cannot hear. more...
  • The Coyote in Situ: Coyotes are surviving well within and outside our suburbs here in New York State. They are like those other creatures that have 'learned' to exist amongst us intolerant humans and sustain themselves: the raccoon, crow, pigeon, sparrows and (of course) insects. But, none of those creatures are as misaligned as the coyote (except, perhaps, the crows in Auburn, New York) so as so to spark a return to the killing contests of old. more...
  • Are Coyotes Too Close - Or Are We? This article “Coyotes Too Close” 3/09/07 by WHEC-TV—Rochester, NY is representative of a badly constructed article by the major media in our area about environmental issues in the Rochester area. Foremost, it assumes that coyotes are bad, which only continues the irrational discussion (and thus policy) on the role of the coyote in our area. No other North American animal has more misinformation perpetuated about it than the Eastern Coyote. Just the sight of a coyote gives most people an adrenalin rush that makes them think they have to 'do something' about the presence of this animal. more...

 

Invasive Species Discussions

Join in discussions about what can and should be done about invasive species in our area.

  • Combating invasive species in Rochester, NY during Climate Change While we continue to battle the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) that is devastating our ash trees, we should ponder the issue of invasive species as our Rochester, NY region warms.  This is alarming because ash trees are almost 8% of all trees in NY State.  Back in 2008 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) put out a public comment on trying to stop this bug that was making its way north, but by 2011 we had our first sighting. We have since enacted laws prohibiting the transporting of firewood and many learned how to save some favorite ash trees (a chemical inoculation), but this is a battle we are going to lose.  By the time you notice infestations like the EAB, it’s probably too late to do anything but control the rate of tree loss.  On top of that, Climate Change will allow the EAB to spread faster. [May 2013] more...
  • The Asian Carp is coming! That’s the big environmental story around the Great Lakes region this week. Even the local press has caught the news appeal of a bizarre foreign species that might radically change the Great Lakes’ ecology. Because of its size and reproductive capacity, it may scarf up all those little plants and animals that live at the bottom of the five Great Lakes, which, the present ecology depends on. More intriguing to the media are those riveting photos of speeding boaters smacking into these large creatures, which freak every time they hear motorboat noise and leap into the air. I say ‘might’ because no one can prove that if the Asian Carp makes it way up the Mississippi and into the Great Lakes, they will proliferate and eat everything in site. Though, given their past rap sheet, it’s a good bet they will.  more...
  • Green Isolationism Isolationists, most notably George Washington in his farewell address “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible,” believe that one’s territory can be contained, one’s sovereignty sustained by removing oneself from the rest. And while it was probably wise council for a young nation to stay out of ‘political connections’ as we built our new nation, isolationism of any kind really is not possible in today’s world. Isolation is only an illusion, especially in our environment. Connections are the rule. A sand storm in Africa gives Central American’s asthma. more...
  • Solving Invasive Problems This story about VHS describes perfectly how difficult it is going to be to curb the problem of invasive species and disease in the Great Lakes because ultimately without public support all the regulations and laws in the world won’t stop this kind of disease spread. more...
  • Hope for a Messy World One would think that the days of a monolithic weltanschauung are over, where singular views of religion, culture, ideas, even prejudices, once ruled. Now, it’s not only unfashionable, but positively Neanderthal to be continually captivated by a single view of life. Makes you look stodgy. Yet, I tenaciously hold (despite many discussions to the contrary) that Nature rules. Moreover, it will do so even in Rochester. This seems to be an unpopular single-mindedness because in this Recession the “World is Flat” view means keep changing or you’ll get run over by new ideas, new economic models, and especially the Internet. The prevailing thinking seems to be: in this modern world, you had better streamline your operation. Better just paint yourself green and not go the whole hog. And, quite frankly, harping on environmental issues bores and annoys a lot of people—though given the wholesale consequences of environmental collapse (Think Easter Island in that chapter in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared M. Diamond) not obsessing on our environment at this moment in history seems foolhardy. more...

 

Air Quality

The Rochester, NY region oftentimes scores lowly in the various air quality assessments.  Much can be done to improve the quality of our air.

  • Air quality in Rochester, NY as we head into Climate Change According to the American Lung Association’s report “State of the Air 2012”, Monroe County received a grade of ‘C’ for ground-level ozone. That means Monroe County had four orange-alert days.  That’s up from the 2011 report when we had got an ‘F’. Back in 2004, Rochester was ranked 43rd worst metropolitan area for air quality. (Dirty Air, Dirty Power.) And, the last time the EPA measured Monroe County for ground-level ozone in 1997, we received a ‘marginal’ grade, up from the previous ‘nonattainment’ grade. This progress seems to be good news until you consider the complexity of air quality. [April 2013]  more...
  • Rochester’s failing air quality   Ho Hum.  The Rochester, NY area and Monroe County get another failing grade for ozone pollution, an ‘F’, from the American Lung Association’s “The State of the Air 2010 “.  Here’s the skinny: “The State of the Air 2010 shows that the air quality in many places has improved, but that over 175 million people—roughly 58 percent—still suffer pollution levels that are too often dangerous to breathe.   Unhealthy air remains a threat to the lives and health of millions of people in the United States, despite great progress. Even as the nation explores the complex challenges of global warming and energy, air pollution lingers as a widespread and dangerous reality.”    It’s a yawner for most folks as it goes on year after year and no one is getting worked up about it.  No marching in the streets.  It barely gets local news coverage.  Environmental news of this sort is like riding in a jet and feeling a sudden drop in altitude.  You look around and no one else seems to be paying any attention, so it must be OK.  Relax, take a deep breath.  more...
  • How are Those New Environmental Laws Doing? If you have been following the Climate Change debates in Congress, you know well enough how hard it is to get any kind of environmental law passed. Besides dealing with economic hardships and compliance hurdles that have to be figured out when considering any new law, there are still large swaths of public officials who don’t even believe we have environmental problems, or looming catastrophes like Climate Change.  “Global Warming is just a hoax” is continually piped by the uninformed ideologues, despite all evidence to the contrary.      So, it’s no wonder that those who care about our environment and read the depressing litany of environmental disasters (oil spills, melting glaciers, water shortages) get excited when a few environmental laws do get passed.  Hey, they may be a drop in the bucket for a planet headed towards environmental collapse, but at least there is forward movement. more...
  • Did Spitzer Let us Down on Acid Rain Too? Years ago RochesterEnvironment.com had a page especially devoted to Acid Rain, as it does now with other Rochester-area Environmental Issues. Slowly, however, the Acid Rain issue faded away from our local news and disappeared altogether. I took down the page irrationally thinking that if our media thought this environmental problem was over, it must be over. What was I thinking? Just when it looked liked we could solve a great big environmental problem, this story reared its ugly head from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week:  more...
  • Green Isolationism Isolationists, most notably George Washington in his farewell address “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible,” believe that one’s territory can be contained, one’s sovereignty sustained by removing oneself from the rest. And while it was probably wise council for a young nation to stay out of ‘political connections’ as we built our new nation, isolationism of any kind really is not possible in today’s world. Isolation is only an illusion, especially in our environment. Connections are the rule. A sand storm in Africa gives Central American’s asthma. more...

 

Recycling

These essays attempt to get at the concept of "Zero Waste" and why we shouldn't be creating any waste to have a healthy environment.

  • Zero Wasting events in Rochester, NY Rochester, NY has a lot of outdoor events, especially in the summer.  It’s one thing to make these events recycling events, where your guests feel good about their environmental footprint.  It’s a step beyond to make your event Zero Waste That means hundreds, maybe thousands, of folks come to your event and leave with little impact on our environment. Food, plates, silverware, packaging, wrappers, drinking cups, and all those tasty ingestibles and their accouterments we bring to bear on special occasions get sorted, recycled, or composted.  Properly speaking, zero waste is where you design products so that the end-of-pipe diversion gets transformed; it is a system designed with environmental health in mind from the very start-- "cradle to cradle." [May 2013] more...
  • The case against litter Aliens from outer space could be excused for believing that our species is inordinately fond of littering.  We litter a lot.  We litter on the land; we litter on the beaches; we litter in the hills, on the seas and oceans; we litter on just about anything and anywhere. To get an idea of the extent of this crazy propensity of ours to litter see “Trashed |No Place for Waste,”coming to a theatre near you. Given all the activities about the universe a sentient being might engage in—eating, building, procreating, thinking, and fighting—creating and tossing waste products improperly, with complete abandonment, without consent, and in inappropriate locations must be the strangest of all.  Litter provides few nutrients, except to those creatures indiscriminate in their eating habits, like rats and some insects we rather not attract.  Litter poisons animals and plants and befouls water and soil. Litter isn’t especially attractive, unless you’re a Dadaist hell bent on making a point about the absurdity of litter. Litter doesn’t provide jobs.  As a matter of fact volunteers from around the world must give their time to pick up those cigarette butts, diapers, plastic wrappers, straws, instant trash (use once, then throw away) drinking cups, and the unimaginable remains from innumerable things we use and then discard. [April 2013] more...
  • Until trash magically disappears in Rochester, NY Let’s face it: A lot of folks won’t recycle unless it’s almost effortless. Sure, there are the dedicated folks who read all the instructions by the county and their communities and make sure all the right stuff gets to the right places. But you only have to look at the size of our landfills and the trash along our streets to see that far too many still march their old TV’s, computers, and you-name-it to the curb whenever the idea occurs to them. We are a long way from Zero Waste—which is the Holly Grail of sustainability. more...
  • Extended plastics recycling in Monroe County, now we want more   Now that Monroe County has extended plastics recycling to include #3 -#7 plastics, we want more.  It’s like that old joke about the kid whose uncle gives him an apple.  The kid’s mother says, “Johnny, what do you say to your uncle?  The kids says, “Peel it please.”  It’s never enough.   more...
  • Now recycling 3-7 plastics in Monroe County  It’s official: As of June 1st Monroe County will recycle 3-7 plastics. It’s been a long time coming, but many who have worked hard to influence Monroe County’s recycling policy to include 3-7 plastics are very pleased with the announcement by Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks: more... (May 7, 2011)
  • Getting beyond waste Waste is a human conceit: If we cannot find an immediate value for something, we toss it somewhere, bury it, or burn it. However, in Nature there is no such thing as waste. Everything has a role or it would not exist. Hopefully, as we move into the future, we’ll get over the notion of waste. We’ll consider Zero Waste, where everything we produced gets thought about ‘from cradle to cradle,’ from the moment we use a resource to create a product to the moment we are done with the product. Then we won’t be trashing our resources or littering the planet. more...
  • Don’t Soil the Nest Even a bird knows not to soil its nest. This message seems lost on us, as our nest (our planet) is filling up with our trash. Instead of properly disposing of it (as any bird would), we are living, drinking, eating, planting, and breathing our unmentionable waste products. According to Learner.org, “Every year, the United States generates approximately 230 million tons of ‘trash’--about 4.6 pounds per person per day.” more...
  • New Bottle Bill Regulation: Like the new regulations or not, there will be less plastic bottles littering our state and less going into our landfills because this sort of legislation works. It works simply because people may throw away what they perceive as trash, but they won’t throw away money. Many people scour our city streets for deposit-able bottle to supplement or have an income at all. more...
  • The Bottle Bill Ban Battle This heralding by the media of environmentalists unhappy with the latest ban on the deposit law just passed strikes me as an odd way to look at the halt in the NYS bottle bill that was supposed to go into effect on June 1st, and an odd way to see environmental issues in general by the media. Because, of course, shouldn’t everyone be miffed that the battle to remove discarded bottles from our streets, urban forests, our roadways (you-name-it, bottles are everywhere) via a popular measure (most New Yorkers are for this bottle bill) has been squelched by a judge, bottling companies, some politicians, grocery and convenience stores?  more...

 

Fracking

These essays highlights the concerns we in New York State have as Fracking, or hydrolicfrackuring for natual gas, looms over our state.

  • NYS Fracking hiatus presents Rochester media with an opportunity Governor Cuomo’s suggestion that a decision on “…hydraulic fracturing for natural gas might not come before November…” has annoyed a lot of folks. Some pro-Fracking people, furious that the six-year delay will be extended yet again, have decided to sue: Rochester’s media, despite the almost-certain link between Climate Change and humanity’s use of fossil fuels for energy, continually frames our energy issue around their obsession with Fracking. It is interesting that the media in Rochester and around the world keeps framing the Fracking issue incorrectly. The issue the media should be reporting on is how we can get energy to fuel our way of life as Climate Change continues to radically change our environment. Long before Fracking should have been considered as an energy option, all other renewable energy options, their infrastructures, energy conservation, and energy efficiency should have been given a chance. [January 2014]  more...
  • NYS hesitation puts an undue burden on the Fracking industry—Oh puh-lease While we here in New York State wait to see if Governor Cuomo Fracks us out of our economic woes, we should be entertaining more sustainable business models for our region. Rather than pining away for a Faustian bargain with the Fracking industry —where we sell our environmental soul for another fossil fuel quick fix—we could be doing something useful like jump-starting new businesses and jobs by preventing food waste from our landfills or making all events zero waste events.  [June 2013]  more...
  • Sky is falling on Fracking New York State Many dismiss alarmist claims by activists against Fracking New York State that instead of talking science the activists cry “THE SKY IS FALLING!”  (See Chicken Little.) Fractivists (or anti-Fracking folks) get on the media and say things like, ‘Fracking will ruin our state’s water!’, or ‘Fracking will make Climate Change worse!’, or ‘Fracking will jeopardize the health of millions!’  Then, the pro-Frackers characterize the Fractivists as a bunch of luddites, fearful of change and unable to back up their unwarranted fears with scientific proof.  Which is ironic when you think about it -- renewable energy such as wind and solar are cutting-edge technology, while Fracking for more fossil fuel to burn is so 125,000 years ago (when early man learned to control fire).    But what if the sky is actually falling? What if the allegations by the anti-Frack New York State folks have a high probability of being accurate?  Wouldn’t you want to rule those claims out before going headlong into something as dangerous and unnecessary as drilling for natural gas?  Only a few decades ago, activists tried to warn the public that cigarettes were bad for your health.  That second-hand smoking was bad for folks who didn’t even smoke.  That the overuse of DDT for insect control was harming wildlife.  That our rivers were so polluted that they were catching on fire.  That the lead additive in gasoline was causing lead poisoning in our children.  That building a community over a chemical dump site at Love Canal was making people sick. That the ozone in the troposphere that blocked dangerous radiation was being destroyed by manmade chlorofluorocarbons. (January 2012) more...
  • Protecting New York State’s environment against Fracking Why any state would assign their environmental protection agency (DEC in New York) with the task of enabling gas drilling companies to wreak havoc on their environment at all is very curious.  The DEC allowing the Fracking companies to frame the Revised Draft SGEIS as solely an engineering process, instead of an overall environmental issue, is like bringing the fox in to formulate henhouse security.   If I were King of the World (don’t worry, a very unlikely prospect indeed), I would conserve, improve and protect New York's natural resources and environment by challenging any industry, especially a fossil fuel industry.  I’d make them prove to me that any process or chemicals they might use that might affect our environment be safe for the public and the environment in a world that is warming.   more...
  • Fracking tail wags NYS energy policy  Angry and impatient as the Fracking industry may be with New York State, we have a moment to examine whether our media has properly characterized the Fracking issue. Fracking cannot proceed without the completion of the SGEIS report and that report cannot proceed until the health impact analysis review is complete; so we have a little time. We should use it wisely. Mainstream media presents the Fracking issue as if two opposing groups in our state are fighting about our energy future, a debate that is only concerned about reaping the harvest of this new drilling process from within the larger context of a US Fracking boom. But that is not correct. I suggest that our energy policy in New York has been hijacked by a single-mindedness about Fracking solving our energy and security issues. New York State already has an energy policy, which is going to go into effect soon—and it doesn’t even include Fracking. [November 2012] more...
  • NYS Fracking, the rush job The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has a drop-dead date of Nov. 29 to complete new regulations for Fracking—or, god forbid, we will have go through the review process all over again.  Billions of dollars and jobs will be lost if this ‘new boom’ is delayed. At least this is the way the situation is framed in the media. But rather than focus on the horse-race to Frack NYS, it would be far more helpful for our media to rule out the dangers this controversial method of drilling natural gas might have on our state’s environment and health.  Objective reporting on the Fracking issue is not a mid-point between the pro-Fracking and anti-Fracking groups.  Objective reporting should present to the public a full description of the present health of our environment, and then assess whether New York State should even consider this idea.  The measure for objectivity should be our environmental and public health, not corporate profits.    Al least two phenomena blind many into thinking that this Fracking issue is being once again clogged up and emotionally overcharged by environmentalist: The shifting baseline syndrome and externalities.  Both of which mainstream media seem loathe to give serious consideration. (November 2012) more...
  • To Frack or not to Frack NYS: That is not the question.  By now, regardless of where you stand on Fracking in New York State, you’re probably getting weary of it.  Four years ago few of us heard of Fracking (slang for hydraulic fracturing), and now it permeates our media.  On either end of this issue (for there is almost no middle ground), all have marshaled their best arguments and continually hone them to convince the few who still haven’t made up their minds.  Added to all that are the daily updates—delays, new scientific findings, public health issues, moratoriums, rallies, and the eerie subliminal signals by our governor that leave the public frantic as to where he is leaning at any given moment. (October 2012)  more...
  • Bottom of the ninth on Fracking New York State, but it’s not over Ok team. I know; it looks bad.  We had the home-town advantage and somehow we blew it. We’re trailing far behind.  I know that. The other team, heady with imminent victory, is already popping their Champagne corks.  Sure, they didn’t completely walk all over us.  Those moratoriums we threw down have slowed them up considerably.  But let’s face it, if they pass Fracking, they’ll kill Home Rule and there will be a complete rout. We knew it would be tough.   (August 2012) more...
  • Let’s be reasonable on Fracking and Climate Change It’s hard to figure out why so many are so complacent about the looming Fracking decision coming to New York state and the lack of discourse on Climate Change in this year’s presidential elections.  Both are going to come to a conclusion soon and will have very long-term impacts, maybe forever.  (August 2012) more...
  • Shrugging off the risk of Fracking to our NYS water As the moment looms nearer when Governor Cuomo makes his final decision on lifting the moratorium on horizontal Hydraulic fracturing (Fracking) in New York State, we should reflect on what risking our environment actually means. “Risk is the potential that a chosen action or activity (including the choice of inaction) will lead to a (an undesirable outcome)” Wikipedia. However, ‘undesirable outcome’ doesn’t quite cover what happens when we risk our environment.  (August 2012) more...
  • Towards a more realistic baseline for sound actions on Fracking As the deadline for lifting the New York State moratorium on Fracking (horizontal Hydraulic fracturing) looms, the news, rallies, and articles are getting more strident.  There’s a hullabaloo over a recent study on Fracking that has critics questioning the motives of the study Local watchdog group blasts Texas university fracking study - The Buffalo News and there’s criticism on the other side that the anti-fracking groups are cherry-picking the science to push their agenda Some experts fault fracking critics’ science.  Bringing everything to a fevered pitch is the Stop the Frack Attack rally this weekend at the capital: Fracking protesters to storm national Capitol Saturday  - MPNnow Hard to imagine that anyone in New York State doesn’t know about the Fracking controversy by now, but I suppose there are.  And, I’ll bet there are many who still don’t care.  As long as the quiet majority in our state think they might get a job, free our energy security from other nations, get a windfall by signing a lease on their property for drilling rights, or not get sidetracked from the fun stuff they’re doing by this issue, they will remain mum. As our species tends to do, far too many will sit back and think this environmental issue has nothing to do with them. (July 2012)  ...more
  • Will the Fracking boom bypass NYS and set us up for a greater economic boom? New York State seems to be balking at the idea of riddling our countryside with natural gas production. The rise in public concern over Fracking in New York State and current low natural gas prices appear to be giving the gas companies the jitters. Some perceive that NYS is over-regulating the drilling industry, which might mean that the boom could go bust. That is added to the cascading of Fracking moratoriums (60 as of today) being passed by localities in the state, in part because of concerns over water quality due to the reluctance of gas drilling companies to reveal what’s in their Fracking fluids. (See What the Frack is in That Water? - ProPublica).  (March 2012)  more...
  • Congress Moves Toward Tougher Stand on Pipeline Safety, But is it Enough? - ProPublica A bill to strengthen pipeline safety regulations passed the House and Senate last week and now awaits President Obama’s signature. But while many applaud Congress’s move toward more oversight, others question whether the impending law goes far enough to prevent oil and natural gas pipeline accidents. The pipeline industry reports more than 100 significant hazardous liquid spills each year [1]. (See a map of those spills [2]). Every year, an average of 275 accidents kill 10 to 15 people and injure five to six times as many.  (December 21, 2011)  [more on Energy in our area]
  • Why add more methane (GHG) leaks from Fracking when our existing gas system is a clunker? This article by NPR begs an interesting question given that New York State is about to end the moratorium on Fracking: How much gas (methane) is normally leaked into our atmosphere via the existing system of gas pipes in our state, or our country for that matter? Boston's Leaky Gas Lines May Be Tough On The Trees : NPR A scientist in Boston has been driving around the city measuring leaks in the gas mains. He's found a lot, and he wants the public to know where they are. Gas leaks aren't uncommon, and gas companies spend a lot of time tracking them down and repairing them. But the scientific team says they're surprised at how many they've found, and what those leaks are doing to the health of the city's trees. (November 21, 2011) NPR : National Public Radio So, I asked myself, what is the present state of natural gas leaking greenhouse gases (GHG) including the methane gas (CH4), one of the most potent GHG from our existing gas system? It could be quite a significant contributor to Climate Change, even without hydrofracking.   more...
  • Fracking, EPA study, NYS moratorium on Fracking and connecting the dots  The media is abuzz over the recent EPA study (Investigation of Ground Water Contamination near Pavillion, Wyoming) as to whether contamination in Wyoming lake water is due to a nearby hydrofracking operation. The timing for this study probably couldn’t be worse for the gas industry, as we New Yorker’s near the deadline for a decision on whether to allow horizontal natural gas drilling, hydrofracking, in our state. After January 11th 2012 it will be all over but the shouting—and there will be a lot of shouting.  more...
  • Wait! Before you let NYS start Fracking, this is already on our plate: Soon, on December 12, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will close public comments on the Revised Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program (September 2011. It’s the draft (where you can make public comment) on whether or not to lift the moratorium on hydrofracking in our state. Before we here in New York State allow the rush for gas companies to prime the pumps for Fracking, you really ought to read this: Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID). more...

Brownfields

These essays highlight the importance of cleaning up and preventing Brownfields in the Rochester, NY region.

  • Not news: Genesee River (which runs through Rochester, NY) ranked 32nd most polluted river in the US. Back in 1998, when I first began RochesterEnvironment.com to collect and access all the environmental issues surrounding one community—Rochester, NY—I created a page called Genesee River. I created it because some major articles and reports had just come out that the river that runs through Rochester, NY was very toxic and polluted. Here is an entry I posted on my web page back in the day (though none of the links work anymore):   more...
  • Litter Day for Rochester, NY’s environment A warm spell in February should be a day to get a glimpse of the spring to come, not a morbid revelation that we been throwing packaging and everything else out the window all winter long.   Today (February 18, 2011) was a beautiful day to get out and walk in Rochester, NY.   more...
  • Why Godzilla is bad for our Rochester, NY environment Strange creatures in our region are evolving quickly to adapt to our toxic soups—those Brownfields and polluted waters we’ve been neglecting in our region for quite some time.   Who knew, those Japanese weren’t kidding—Godzilla lives!  Check out what’s happening in the Hudson River, just a few biomes away: “Most people think of evolution occurring gradually over thousands of years, but apparently no one told the Atlantic tomcod. In just 50 years or so, the Hudson River fish has evolved to become resistant to toxic PCBs that polluted the river, researchers reported Thursday. Their secret is a gene variant. " (February 17, 2011) Hudson River fish resists PCBs through gene variant | syracuse.com " “Monsters in our midst” make for great headlines for local environmental issues that don’t often get many headlines.   That’s great because according to mainstream media, a planet that is slowly wasting away due to human pollution and other environmental issues is dull potatoes.   Mutant species, though, arising from the gunk we once called rivers, is another kettle of fish.  more...
  • Ubiquitous Pollution    Within the last couple of weeks, I have posted numerous environmental articles on Brownfieldsway more than normal Speculating as to why there is a sudden interest in Brownfields in the local media, I thought of several possible factors: There’s a rash of Brownfields actually springing up; or, the media is clearing their desks of Brownfields related articles; or, because localized pollution events oftentimes show up randomly anyways; or, the media are becoming more attentive to what our policies towards recklessly releasing man-made chemicals into our environment has wrought.  Possibly, because the United States does not have strict regulations on the chemicals used in our products or released into our environment (as the Europeans do) this irresponsible policy is catching up with us.  more ...

 

Water Quality

These essays highlight the importance of preserving our Water Quality in a time of Climate Change and as the threat of Fracking comes to New York State

  • Water quality concerns for Rochester, NY’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program The due date for public comment for Rochester, NY’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) comes to an end this December. You can complete a survey and/or submit a comment online here: Rochester LWRP Update. The description of the program is as follows from the City of Rochester: “The purpose of this project is to update the city’s LWRP and expand the boundary of the plan to include all of the city’s waterfront areas along Lake Ontario, the Genesee River and the Erie Canal.” The ten questions on the survey mostly contain a wish-list of projects to make life more appealing to those who visit, live, or want to develop along our city’s waterfronts.  Stuff like creating a skate park, more fishing sites, more bars and restaurants, more residential homes, and more trails figure large. And then there is a project peculiar to our city, and I suspect wildly expensive, the ‘re-watering the old Erie Canal through downtown’.  There’s also the Garden Ariel loop project that would “Through stewardship, innovative design, and community outreach to preserve natural and historic resources, and cultivate High Falls transformation into a world-class public green space.”  [December 2013] more...
  • More water, sewage, and Climate Change in the Rochester, NY region Home, the movie by artist-activist Yann Arthus-Bertrand, is quite an amazing film about our home, Earth: how we have radically compromised its health in a very short time, and how we have to fix it quickly as our planet warms from Climate Change. You can watch the entire film at no charge on YouTube (as a gift to the public) here, though I recommend getting a hold of the Blu-ray version because the photography and music are incredible. I mention Home to open this essay on waste, sewage, and Climate Change in our region because it provides the proper perspective (“HOME is the first film that has been made using aerial-only footage.”) from which we must now view our local environmental issues. There are no environmental borders that our planet understands. Last year I wrote “Water, sewage, and Climate Change in the Rochester, NY region” to make the case that, according to various Climate Change studies, frequent heavy rainfalls in our Rochester, NY region should be high on our priority list. My thesis was, and is, that combined sewer systems, which dominate the urban Northeast, are going to be increasingly overwhelmed by frequent heavy rains, thus spewing raw sewage into the waters where we drink and fish. [June 2013]  more...
  • Water, sewage, and Climate Change in the Rochester, NY region Uninteresting and unappealing as the subject of sewage can oftentimes seem, two news items this week about a couple of our New York State cities’—New York City and Buffalo—sewer systems caught my attention. New York City’s new sewer system plan was hailed as a model of how combined sewer overflows can be significantly reduced and Buffalo was excoriated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to comply with federal Clean Water Act requirements for combined sewer systems. [March 2012] more...
  • Will the Fracking boom bypass NYS and set us up for a greater economic boom? New York State seems to be balking at the idea of riddling our countryside with natural gas production. The rise in public concern over Fracking in New York State and current low natural gas prices appear to be giving the gas companies the jitters. Some perceive that NYS is over-regulating the drilling industry, which might mean that the boom could go bust. (March 2012)  more...
  • One good thing about the NYS DEC Fracking process As we reach the last day for making public comment on whether to lift the moratorium on Fracking in New York State, something good has come out of the four-month comment period. That something good is that we New Yorkers have had a conversation about our environment. Albeit, limited but a conversation nonetheless. Usually, when environmental concerns come up, we only argue about them as NYMBY issues, as how the environmental effects of a project will affect those immediately surrounding that particular project. Or, an environmental disaster occurs and folks start pointing fingers and calling up lawyers. We are a long way from adequately addressing environmental concerns in the media. (Note the almost criminal denial of media attention on Climate Change in the US presidential campaigns this year.)  (January 2012) more...
  • Last desperate plea to stop Fracking in New York State According to the recently published Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) funded and published by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) our electricity generation for New York State is broken down by these fuel types as of 2009: 30% nuclear, 1% oil, 23% gas and oil, 12% natural gas, 1% wind, 19% hydro, 13% coal, 2 % methane/waste/solar/wood.  (December 2011)  more...

 

Food and our Environment

These essays convey the concern over food production in our region--especially as Climate Change kicks in.

  • Agriculture in the Rochester NY region during Climate Change Many expert reports conclude that in New York’s Rochester region, agriculture will fare well as Climate Change kicks in.  One study says, “…though there will still be risks of early-season frosts and damaging winter thaws, warming is expected to improve the climate for fruit production in the Great Lakes region.” (Page 73, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States) By the end of this century our growing season could lengthen by a month.  If we manage our incredible water resources properly, studies suggest there’s hope that the $4.5 billion dollar agricultural sector of our state’s economy will thrive.   That bodes well for our (thus far) Frack-less region, despite contentions that we cannot be saved financially unless Fracking is allowed to proceed.  Let this be a warning: Fracking in Texas portends catastrophic issues we here in New York State might have if we lift the moratorium on Fracking. [August 2013]  more...

 

Living Green in Rochester, NY

A we adapt to a warmer climate what we do to live in an environmentally friendly way will evolve.  Mostly the less greenhouse gases we emit--on a large and quick scale-will matter most.

 
  • Living environmentally friendly in a warmer Rochester, NY The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), our environmental authority in New York State, offers several seasonal ideas for living sustainably: Make a Difference “Green Living - Tips and Resources for Making Environmentally Responsible Choices in Your Daily Life | Looking up at the sky through fall foliage on trees.” There are, of course, many places online and off that make suggestions on living more environmentally friendly.  Some are merely trying to make a buck on the inclination of many to continue business as usual with a greener flare; while others are very earnest in their attempts to get us all to change course and get on a sustainable path to the future. The DEC, which runs the voluntary Climate Smart Communities programs, for all their expertise and authority, seems focused on not aggravating anyone with more robust adaptive measures.  Make a Difference misses many critical aspects of living green in a warmer world, including even mentioning that our environment is warming up. This oversight is a crucial distinction because without viewing all our environmentally friendly actions through the lens of Climate Change, none of them are going to actually work.  [October 2013]  more...