Today’s NY Times featured a great letter that I thought was worth re-posting here. It is in response to an op-ed on 9/29 stating strong opposition to wind turbines being placed on a mountaintop in Vermont, the state where I went to graduate school. [Read more…] about An Argument On Wind
Tribute to Professor Wangari Maathai (1940-2011)
(Excerpted from the United Nations Environment Programme tribute)
Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement and patron of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Billion Tree Campaign, died 9/25/11 in Nairobi. She was 71 years old. Professor Maathai was one of Africa’s foremost environmental campaigners, internationally recognized for her commitment to democracy, human rights and conservation. She founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, encouraging women in rural Kenya to plant trees in order to improve their livelihoods through better access to clean water, firewood for cooking and other resources. Since then, the Green Belt Movement has planted over 30 million trees in Africa and assisted nearly 900,000 women to establish tree nurseries and plant trees to reverse the effects of deforestation. In 2004, the Nobel Prize Committee recognized Professor Maathai’s lifelong commitment to environmental sustainability and the empowerment of women by awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize. She was the first environmentalist and the first African woman to receive the honor. In December 2002, Professor Maathai was elected to Kenya’s parliament and appointed Assistant Minister for environment and natural resources. [Read more…] about Tribute to Professor Wangari Maathai (1940-2011)
Moving Planet Sounds the Call for Climate Action
September 24, 2011 was the annual global day of climate action organized by Bill Mckibben’s 350.org. Groups from 175 countries (!) called on elected officials to move on climate change policy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Several actions took place on Long Island and NYC, and the photo of our Walk for 350 at Jones Beach is below. Photos of all the inspiring actions from around the world can be viewed at moving-planet.org.
The creativity was incredible!–And the message was loud and clear: we need to achieve at least 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in order to stabilize the global climate and avoid more of the intense storms, floods, and droughts we have already been experiencing. Right now we are at 390ppm. It’s not time for politics, it’s time to MOVE!
Climate Change Deniers
In response to TX Governor Rick Perry’s proposition that climate change data has been altered by scientists, NY Times Columnist Thomas Friedman got it right. Friedman was interviewed by Piers Morgan on CNN several days ago, and his response was to point out that the oil and gas industries donate millions of dollars to congressional campaigns, but we question the collective thinking of climate scientists working for grants of $25,000? Scientists could make more money by denying it! Also, Texas happens to be facing numerous wildfires burning at the moment, causing Governor Perry to declare a state of emergency last week. Friedman pointed out that such wildfires are fully in line with the extreme weather/drought/flood predictions of climate scientists.
I hope many people heard his comments and discernment starts to sink in, that the opinion of a politician on climate change is simply not as informed as the thousands of climate scientists around the world, including those who signed onto the last IPCC Report (2007) and the National Academy of Science’s reports. Opinions should be based on facts, not politics. Science can certainly change, but there is a huge foundation of reports and studies validating human–induced climate impacts. To not act on this knowledge is irresponsible and has serious implications for the future.
Watch the CNN clip here: http://piersmorgan.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/08/thomas-friedman-climate-change-actually-happening-under-rick-perrys-nose-and-hes-denying-it/
My Visit to the Middelgrunden Wind Farm, Copenhagen
It was a thrill for me to be able to travel to Denmark July 19-21, 2011 and visit the Middelgrunden Wind Farm, installed in 2000. It is located about a mile out in the North Sea from Copenhagen city, and is comprised of 20 turbines in a subtle arch formation. They produce 40 MW of energy, or enough to power 3% of the city of Copenhagen. Though the tours happened to be closed during my time there, I managed to find a ferry that goes past the wind farm to Middelgrundsfortet (a small island fort) right from the beautiful area of Nyhaven, which was near my hotel. It was a glorious experience to see functioning offshore wind turbines, since my organization and many others had worked so hard to encourage a wind farm offshore Long Island. Most people I met in Copenhagen didn’t seem to think the turbines were a big deal; most said that though turbines do impact the view, it is necessary and they in fact wished their government would install more of them. I hope we can learn from others about the importance of pursuing this clean energy source as we face continuing climate change. They are a beautiful solution…
Brilliant Op-Ed by Bill McKibben
Since I couldn’t have said it better myself, I am re-posting an op-ed by Bill McKibben that appeared in this week’s Washington Post newspaper.
A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Nah…
By Bill McKibben, Published: May 23
Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.
It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.
If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.
It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.
Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?
Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.
It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.
Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign 350.org and a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont.
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