Sunday, May 29, 2011

To Potential 2012 Candidates

The potential 2012 candidates are beginning to position themselves, so I thought I'd get a jump on the polls.

Typically I make a list of my top items and begin rating candidates on their agenda against my list. The candidate who has the agenda that most closely matches my agenda gets my vote.  I list the usual agenda items like foreign policy, economic growth, debt issues, etc.  Its not very scientific, but it works for me.  For 2012, the candidates who receive my vote:
  1. Will NOT have received substantial contributions from gas, coal or oil companies, recently or over their career.
  2. Will openly acknowledge that human activity directly contributes to climate change.
  3. Will clearly state a high level (or detailed strategy) to move the US into clean energy.
  4. Will acknowledge the importance of the Endangered Species Act and not accept any attempts to weaken it.
  5. Will state a high level plan to reduce the toxins that are introduced into our food supply.
I know it might be complex in the details, but I think my list is pretty short.  I'm not asking for too much, simply environmental stewardship and protection of our civilization from dangerous chemicals.  The other issues are important and can still be addressed, they're just not on my list.

Just saying....

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lake Champlain Management

In the May 26 edition of the Press-Republican, an individual had a letter to the editor published, the title of which was Lake Management, hence the title for this post. As I write this, it was predicted the lake would rise to 112.5 feet, well above flood stage of 100 feet.

The letter suggested and supported the need for a plan to lower the non-flood lake level by two feet. Reference was made to a plan from the 1930's and the revival some years later. The writer stated "The powers then in charge backed down, giving in to environmentalists concerned about its potential impact on the snail, frog and reptile populations".

The writer admitted he wasn't a bible reader, but was familiar with a reference claiming "the Lord gave man domain over all creatures of the Earth" and he asked if it was reasonable to believe that the greater good is served by enduring billions of dollars or more of damage or losses to save a few snails?

I admit I'm not an avid bible reader either, but if we are going to say that God gave us the right to preserve the human species without consideration for any other species, I'll offer the following:

"Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it" (Gensis 2:15, New King James version)

Just saying....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Accepting Climate Change

While most of the rest of the civilized world seems to have accepted climate change, it is still a very hotly debated topic in the US.

The first step for us, from a very high level, is to decide for ourselves whether there has been a change in our climate or not.  We have all said and heard comments such as “the winters are starting later”, “the winters are shorter”, “it’s hotter”, “it’s muggier”, I think you get the idea.  What we’re really saying is “the climate has changed”.  So the first step is pretty much set, the climate has and is changing.  We just need to recognize it for what it is.

The next step is to try to come to some understanding of what is causing the change.  The climate changes regularly, in geological time terms anyway.  It’s pretty well understood that ice ages come and go, that the earth warms and cools naturally.  Scientifically, there are a number of reasons as to why this takes place.  Volcanoes erupt; the ash cloud circles the globe, blocking sunlight, creating a cooling effect.  When events such as these occur, the biosphere cleanses itself over time.  But these events don’t occur constantly, minute after minute, day after day. 

We (the human species) expel the same gasses that occur naturally, every minute of every day.  I don’t know that there is much argument that we send carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, black carbon (soot) and halocarbons into the environment constantly.  So really, we all agree on the second step of understanding.

The third step is accepting the science that our continual introduction of these gasses contributes to climate change.  There are basically two camps; the science camp, which includes both scientists and non-scientists, who conduct the tests, report the results and agree that human activity (you may have seen it referred to as anthropogenic impact) contributes and accelerates climate change, and the political/corporate camp that simply denies that the accelerated introduction of these gasses by human activity has any effect on anything (including our health).

This is the hard part.  People like you and me don’t really know much about halocarbons, what they are or where they come from.  What we do know is that we put people in place that we thought we could trust and would stand up for our interests.  We look to these people to do what’s right for us.  Because of this, we are torn between what to believe, the science or the politics.

We also see corporate officials, some even scientists, who say the corporation would never do anything to harm its consumers.  The problem with that is that’s what corporate scientists get paid to say and the corporation is in business to make money.  But we see these successful corporations and think the people running them must be pretty smart, so they must know what they’re talking about.

We need to be careful.  I’m not sure how many of the elected officials have science degrees and can read a study, or how many corporations would be willing to say, “Yeah, this is going to kill you, buy it anyway”.  We need to sift through what we are given and understand climate change is about science.  It isn’t about shareholder profits or the next election and the campaign contributions needed.  Climate change is about you and me, our children and our grandchildren.  The best thing you can do is read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.  There’s also a good book, Dire Predictions, Understanding Global Warming, that uses terms you and I can understand and very good accompanying graphics.

Just saying…

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Big Oil History

When I was a kid, my parents, like all parents, asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  My response was "I want to be a hermit".  As I grew older, I lost that ambition from the list of things I wanted to become.

My days as a youngster were filled with the outdoors.  I would spend hours in the woods behind our house, exploring and searching.  I practiced my outdoor skills and set up an outpost in an old log cabin that had been abandoned.

When the bugs pushed me from the woods, I headed for the mighty St. Lawrence River.  I fished and swam all day, every day, until school started in the fall.  Then school was just an interruption in my time in the woods.  It was a great way to spend a childhood.

In June of 1976, the tugboat Eileen C was pushing the NEPCO 140 barge filled with crude oil up the St. Lawrence when it ran aground.  It backed of the rock and continued, as it leaked oil into the river.  Four miles later, it ran aground again.  All told, some 300,000 gallons of oil leaked from the barge, covering an 80-mile stretch of the river.  I lived in the middle of that stretch.

That summer, there was no swimming, fishing or anything other than oil clean up.  Clean up of the shoreline, the docks, the boats and everything else that touched the water.  But it was the wildlife that was the worst.  The waterfowl, animals, birds and amphibians that were affected was beyond belief.  But it wasn't just that summer.  We pulled crude off rocks in the islands for a long time.

So I have a connection with Big Oil as well as with the residents of the Gulf.  While 300,000 gallons doesn't compare to the volume spilled as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, I can understand.

Today, oil companies are fighting to retain their subsidies and tax breaks and attempt to gain access to additional drilling sites, similar to the site of the Deepwater Horizon platform, while we try to see if we can keep schools open.  Oil companies report record profits while people I know couldn't afford to heat their homes this past winter.

The government says there's no money, yet recently that same government voted to continue handing oil companies tax breaks and subsidies.  If you look at the politicians that voted to keep giving these companies their benefits, you'll notice that a lot of them have received substantial contributions from the oil companies.  The 67 co-sponsors of the bill to expand oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and open the coastal waters of Virginia to exploration received a combined total of over $8.8 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry during the course of their careers.  Makes one wonder about the motive behind the vote.

I'm not naive and I don't think we can stop using petroleum tomorrow, but I do think there needs to be a plan that's better than the one we have now.  Sometimes the life of a hermit doesn't look so bad.  Just saying...