Tag Archives: climate change

Two Approaches to the Environment on the Ballot this Midterm Election

In November we will be given a choice to change the direction of the United States politically.  As is the case every two years the entirety of the U.S. House of Representatives is up for election.  Many of the House districts in the United States are drawn in such a way that partisan incumbents face little challenge to their reelection bids.

In Iowa, however, relatively fairly drawn House districts mean that we have an actually competitive race between incumbent Rod Blum, no friend of this blog, and Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer.

As an environmentalist I think comparing the candidates’ views on climate change to be instructive as it serves as a point of departure from the Trump wing of America and the rest of the country.

Rod Blum is a climate change denier.  As a member of the arch-conservative and downright wacky House Freedom Caucus Blum has not met an environmental rule or agreement that he did not want to gut like a catfish.  In 2014 he went on the record as a skeptic of climate change.  He supported Trump’s move to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  While in office he has continued to financially benefit from oil and gas stocks while moving to open up public lands to more oil and gas drilling.

The League of Conservation voters nailed it by giving Rod Blum a 2% lifetime score when it comes to national environmental issues.  Honestly, I am quite surprised he managed to drum up 2% given his voting record.  He’s basically Scott Pruitt, but from Dubuque, Iowa.

Contrast that with Abby Finkenauer, who has an entire section of her campaign website dedicated to the environment and clean energy.  Entitled “Growing our Clean Energy Economy and Protecting our Environment” it states that:

I’ll play a similar watchdog role in Congress, and will just as firmly stand up to attempts to weaken key programs and measures that fight climate change, grow our clean energy economy, and protect our environment. Ultimately it’s time we had a representative who fights for Iowa families – ensuring they can live in healthy environments supported by good jobs – rather than standing with corporate polluters and those opposed to science.

A-freaking-men!

I believe that the choice of what is right for Iowa’s 1st district and, thus, the United States is to vote for Abby Finkenauer this November.  It’s just the planet that is counting on you.

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You Must Read—The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution

Are you a parent, about to become a parent, or even thinking about having a child in the near future?  Good.  Be prepared to be scared shitless on a daily, if not more frequent basis, as only being a person responsible for the existence of another human being can make you.

9781608684816.jpgSaying that “you must read” Mary DeMocker’s The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution is a little misleading.  This is not a book you read cover to cover and take back to the library.  DeMocker admits as much:

Or you might adopt the fortune cookie method—keep the book nearby and, whenever you have a few minutes, crack it open and see what you get.  Most chapters are short enough to fit into the average bathroom breaks parents with young children allow themselves. [xxvi]

This is not a book with a powerful narrative streak built through successive chapters that concludes with a powerful final passage.  We know what the powerful narrative is before we even pick up the book because we are worried that our actions today will create a planet that is unlivable in the future.  The very fate of humanity rests in our hands.

The book is laid out into 100 chapters or fortune cookie moments if you will under broad headings like “Raise Empowered Kids” and “Build a Fossil-Free Future.”  I would quibble it should be a fossil fuel free future because I still want to see fossils at the Field Museum, but I digress.

What were the pieces that I liked best:

  1. Get Clear on Why There is Hope—There is hope. We often forget to message this fact when we are discussing the state of the world with regards to climate change, Donald Trump, Nebraska Cornhusker football…you know, things that seem so dauntingly horrible that nothing will matter. Well, our kids pick up on that vibe and it is our duty to make sure that we convey hope.

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  1. Plant Trees!—Trees are amazing. You will find no bigger advocate of trees as a solution to a lot of problems than me. Planting a tree with your kids is one of those teaching moments that keeps on teaching well after the planting.  Through the seasons and as the tree grows your child will be amazed, as they should be, by what the tree they helped plant does.

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  1. Be the 3.5 Percent—Apparently, non-violent movements become successful when approximately 3.5 percent of the population or more is involved. All right, let’s get 3.5 percent signed up.

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  1. Let Kids Play with Knives—I would like to amend this to also say let kids play with saws and shovels and hammers and what not. We have created a generation or two of children that have little experience with actually making things from bare components as opposed to pre-selected bits with tidy instructions. See what they can do with some potatoes and onions or a few scrap pieces of wood in the garage.

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  1. Tame Your Tongue—This one is the hardest for me because in a time when crass political language dominates the only method of communication that seems to break through is to out nasty the nasty. However, we are better served not behaving in such a way and it is my hope that I can follow this advice.

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I could have picked a lot more of the one hundred fortune cookie moments, but you get the idea.  You will pick the book up and key in on different moments.   That is the purpose of the book.

Friday Linkage 9/7/2018

It is September and there about two months until the midterm elections.  Washington D.C. is crazy, even by its own messed up standards, as Trump is increasingly isolated and alone in the White House.  Anonymous op-eds, tell all books, and the constant drumbeat of scandal have made the past year and a half seem like an eternity.  Heck, Trump has even managed to alienate some of his staunchest supporters by going down the old “dumb southerner” route.  Way to go Donny Two Scoops.

It sounds trite, but the only hope for a path forward is to vote for candidates who will actually hold this administration accountable for its misdeeds.

On to the links…

A ‘Jaw-Dropping’ 15 Million Super-Environmentalists Don’t Vote in the Midterms—I do not know what a “super environmentalist” is, but I know that if there are really 15 million people out there eligible to vote yet do not cast ballots in November we deserve everything Republicans can do to us.

We Could Shift to Sustainability and Save $26 trillion. Why are Aren’t We Doing It?—Maybe because we live in a world where the “most power man on the face of the Earth” is a running joke of a human being.  Seriously, how can we have a substantive discussion about a transition to a sustainable global economy when the President of the United States spends more time on Twitter than reading briefing books?

An Old Anti-Irish Law Is at the Heart of Trump’s Plan to Reshape Legal Immigration—This is just the old racist handbook employed by politicians in the United States and across the globe for the past two hundred years.

Trump’s EPA Reconsidering Power Plant Rule Preventing 11,000 Premature Deaths Per Year—Here is what you get with the modern Republican party: more pollution and more death.  As long as the policy favors a rich interest like coal mining or oil drilling Republicans will favor the policy despite its impact on actual people.

The Giant Coal Plant Converting to Green Energy—We can debate just how “green” biomass burning is relative to other renewable energy sources, but is has to better than coal.  Why can’t we start a program of reforesting denuded landscapes with trees for biomass and convert coal power plants to burn the biomass in the U.S.  Is there not a large amount of acreage in Appalachia that has been devastated by mountaintop removal mining that could be part of this plan?

You’ve Heard of Outsourced Jobs, but Outsourced Pollution? It’s Real, and Tough to Tally Up—Imagine if a country claimed that it had reached a 10% emissions target.  Everyone applauds.  However, imagine if that country reached that goal by ceasing production of cement and buying it from a foreign provider.  The total emissions are unchanged, but one country’s scorecard looks a lot better.

Lego Wants to Completely Remake Its Toy Bricks (Without Anyone Noticing)—When I was in business school I sat in on a presentation by someone from LEGO.  The presenter was discussing quality control and production consistency.  The crazy thing was that he said bricks made today needed to be made to the same tolerances as bricks made thirty years or more earlier because customers expected them to be compatible.  Imagine another product having that same kind of concern and being designed for children.

Is California Becoming Unlivable?—California has always been a place of climactic extremes and natural disasters.  Maybe it was never meant to be such a large state in terms of population and economic activity.

Five, just Five, Solutions to Roll Back Greenhouse Gas Emissions.—It does not seem so hard:

  • Radical Efficiency! (Reduce demand!)
  • Radical Sufficiency! (Appropriate technology!)
  • Radical Simplicity! (Keep it dumb!)
  • Electrify Everything!
  • Decarbonize Construction!

Top 10 Secrets about Stress and Health—It is no secret that stress is detrimental to your health.

Friday Linkage 8/31/2018

It is almost September and I do not know if the United States can get any crazier.  The President of the United States surrounded himself with convicted and admitted felons.  Imagine Barack Obama having a member of his inner circle convicted of or admitting to a felony.  Sean Hannity’s false outrage would still be spewing from the Fox News caldera atop Mount Murdoch.  Right now?  Not so much.

Now the Trump administration is systematically denying American citizens the right to return to the country of their birth.  Why?  Mostly because they are brown people who have no powerful allies in Washington D.C. and with the midterm elections a little more than two months away someone needs to gin up the racists that comprise the Republican party’s base these days.

These are scary times, but do not despair.  We possess the tools to end this budding dystopia.

On to the links…

Here’s House Republicans’ List of All the Trump Scandals They’re Covering Up—If your member of Congress is not demanding hearings and investigations then they are part of the cover up of the Trump administration’s misdeeds.  If the House of Representatives can spend days on emails they can spare a little time to spend on actual corruption.

Environmental Law Experts find Major Legal Flaws in Trump’s Replacement for Clean Power Plan—Surprise, surprise.  When you major objections to something are “coal is good” and “it was created by the black guy” there is bound to be a lack of sound legal reasoning behind the replacement.

Coal Country: EPA Plan Is Short Term Boost, No Solution For Industry Decline—Remember, when Donald Trump leaves office in 2019 or sooner if the federales finally figure out a way to indict a sitting president all of the coal barons who buddied up with the corrupt administration will have no friends.

Research Shows That A Low-Carbon Future Will Be A Renewable Future—That is unless nuclear fusion comes to fruition.  It’s a decade away and it always will be…

Affordable Clean Energy Rules Or Not, Coal Stabbed In The Back Again—At the same time that the Trump administration is trying to prop up coal it is also promoting natural gas, which is one of the primary drivers behind the collapse of the coal industry in America.

Western States Could Save $600 Million By Using More Renewable Energy—Colorado is leading on this front, but the other three states on this list are really lagging behind their true potential.  Ironically, Wyoming seems to be making some progress because it sees the development of wind power as something it can export to the Front Range in Colorado.  It’s not coal, but it’s an extractive mindset.

US Army Installs Largest Battery Storage System—The military has great need to be able to operate independent from the grid in times of natural disaster or conflict.  Combined with renewable energy generated on site a military base could become a self-sufficient island in terms of electricity.

Minnesota Could Reap $30 Billion Driving on Electricity—The dollar savings are one thing, but for a state like Minnesota that produces no oil for gasoline or diesel but does produce a lot of electricity from wind turbines the dollars that are spent can be kept in the state.

Planting a Mix of Tree Species ‘Could Double’ Forest Carbon Storage—One area where we do not focus enough energy and resources on is reforestation.  Degraded and denuded lands need help to regain vegetation coverage, especially in a climate change paradigm.  Effectively locking up more carbon is icing on the cake.

Photos: Scenes from the Yellowstone Fires — Then and Now—As the west burns and the fires become more common, it is important to remember that fire is part of this landscape and that the land can be restored.  Perhaps with a little help from humans we can accelerate the progress just like we accelerated the destruction.

Here’s How Climate Change is Affecting Your Cup of Coffee—It might be time for pumpkin spice lattes, but climate change is a real threat to actual coffee.

Republicans Tout Hemp’s Potential—Just like marijuana legalization made strange bedfellows of libertarians and hippies, hemp is finding advocates in staunch right wingers looking to toss a life line to struggling agricultural communities.

How to Identify Truly Green Products—Most of the stuff out there is just dreck.

No Helmets, No Problem: How the Dutch Created a Casual Biking Culture—I see lots of people in lycra riding bikes where I live, but a casual bike culture has been slow to develop.  On the weekends people will cycle between bars in downtown Cedar Rapids, but it is not an everyday part of a person’s life.  We need to develop a casual bike culture.

‘Too Little Too Late’: Bankruptcy Booms Among Older Americans—I may rag on baby boomers a lot, but I believe it is because that particular generation is due some serious scorn after decades of general misbehavior.  I wonder what the correlation is between the rise in older Americans declaring bankruptcy and the general ageing of the baby boomers into that cohort.

Tomorrow is a Dangerous Word

It is my contention that tomorrow is not the hopeful word that we make it out to be but that it is a dangerous word.  Perhaps, it is the most dangerous word that we frequently use without considering the ramifications on our daily lives.

A few years ago CSX, the railroad giant, had a television ad that featured the word tomorrow in all of its hopeful glory.  The idea was that tomorrow held infinite possibilities for good things.  All true, no doubt, but what if we never act on those possibilities because there is always the perception of another tomorrow.

I posit that tomorrow is the most dangerous word because it lets all of us off the hook.

All of the things that might be a little difficult today we put off until tomorrow.  And tomorrow never comes for a lot of the things that we put off.  I will ride my bike to work tomorrow.  I will pack my lunch tomorrow.  I will plant that tree tomorrow.  I will be a better person tomorrow.

The idea of tomorrow allows us to bask in the glow of the virtuous thing we intend to do without actually having to accomplish anything.  We will get to it tomorrow.  It is so tantalizingly close as if it were today.  Tomorrow is the instant gratification that our Instagram obsessed culture demands.

However, the environment may not have a tomorrow because we are so greedy today.

What if there is no tomorrow?  What would you do today?

Friday Linkage 7/27/2018

I want to wake up and think that today is going to be a good day, but with the current state of affairs in American politics I wonder if that is ever possible anymore.

Do you remember a time when the talking heads on Fox News would bloviate about how Barack Obama wore a tan suit or put his feet up on the desk in his own office?  Yep, it happened.  Where is Sean Hannity’s outrage now that the current occupant is a thrice divorced serial philanderer who has paid off multiple women to keep the stories about their affairs quiet prior to an election?  Where is Sean Hannity’s outrage now that the head cheese puff is literally taking the side of a Russian dictator over the intelligence agencies of the United States?  Where is…oh, fuck it, we’re screwed.

On to the links…

POW Wants Skiers to Become Effective Climate Advocates—I am a member of Protect Our Winters because I fear that my generation will be the last to remember real winters where it got cold and snowed.  If we want our children to be able to play in the snow it is essential that we act in this time of national environmental disgrace.

The Teenagers Fighting for Climate Justice—As the right wing gets older, whiter, and closer to death these kids—now I sound old—are the future of our politics.  Republicans are going to have to reckon with multiple generations of people that they have screwed over for the benefit of the Baby Boomers.

Fossil Fuel Industries Outspend Clean Energy Advocates on Climate Lobbying by 10 to 1—Do you want to know why Exxon Mobil wins in Washington D.C. every time?  Dollars.

Accidentally-Released Documents Show Interior Agency Prioritized Industry Over Public Lands—Why did national monuments get shrunk by Donald Trump?  For the oil, gas, and mining industries to take advantage of our public lands.

Trump Administration to Stop Collecting Money from Companies that Damage Public Lands—Not only are these companies getting a sweetheart deal on leases on public land, but now they will not have to worry about paying for the cleanup.  This administration is officially worse than that of Warren G. Harding.

Most Americans support the Endangered Species Act—People like these environmental rules.  You know who does not like these rules?  Rich people who run companies that benefit other rich people.  You know who is going to win out on this issue?  The rich guys.  Always bet on the rich guys to win in Washington D.C.

This Is Why Lawmakers Want to Gut the Endangered Species Act—It is my contention that a lot of these interests see the intersection of this current Congress and Donald Trump as the last time in a generation when their policy prescriptions will find traction.  They are trying to get while the getting is good, so to speak.

Trump Wants to Weaken Coal Miner Protections as Black Lung Disease Makes a Comeback—Trump loves coal miners so much he wants to make it easier for them to get black lung, harder for them to get treatment for black lung, and probably wants coal miners to thank him for all of his “help.”

Scandals Pile Up For Interior Chief Ryan Zinke—Ryan Zinke is no Scott Pruitt, but he probably now holds the mantle for Trump’s most scandal plagued cabinet member.  Remember, this guy thinks he has a chance to become President of the United States in a few years.  Oh wait, given the current occupant I would not be surprised to hear that Paul Reubens thinks he has a shot as well.

Trump’s Plan to Revoke California’s Car Pollution Waiver makes a Mockery of Conservative Principles—Just stop at “Trump makes a mockery” and you will be fine most of the time.  Seriously, Republicans only care about states’ rights when it refers to abortion.  Everything else falls under the federal purview.  I do look forward to this court battle because it will place a lot of people at odd angles to each other.

The Billion Tree Project In Pakistan Is A Success—Given the current wildfire situation in the western U.S. I have to wonder if there is a place in our national discussion about a massive effort to reforest degraded landscapes.  Let’s see, it would bring jobs to rural areas and improve the environment.  It would provide long term benefits for important watersheds and help mitigate the impacts of climate change.  Yeah, it’s got no chance.

China Made Solar Panels Cheap. Now it’s Doing the Same for Electric Buses.—Do you remember when seeing a house or building with solar panels was rare?  Now, it is common.  Get ready for the same thing to be true with electric buses.

What Other States Can Learn from California’s Solar Mandate—I do not think we should worry about pushing small scale distributed rooftop solar onto residential roofs until every warehouse, big box store, and parking lot is covered in solar panels.  If you want to put panels on your house’s roof like me, make that choice, but the effort should be going into the big roofs first.

Climate Change May Cause 26,000 More U.S. Suicides by 2050—Well, isn’t that an uplifting headline.

How to Fight the Actual Source of Ocean Garbage (Which Isn’t Straws)—I bet if you asked one hundred people what the major source of ocean pollution is that not one of those one hundred would name abandoned fishing gear.  Demand change.

Microplastics Are Invisible, Scary, and Everywhere—The archaeological record of this late stage of our civilization will record us being the “plastic people.”  Someone or something will dig up our remains and wonder what our obsession was with plastic.

Disney to Eliminate Use of Plastic Straws by Mid-2019, Other Single Use Products to Follow Suit in the Coming Years—Straws are one thing, but the other single use plastics are the things that get me.  We need to eliminate disposable plastics across our consumption patterns.

What Does It Take to Make a Decent Paper Straw?—Now that more and more places are foregoing the plastic straw you are going to have to become used to what makes a good paper straw and what is just cheap, imported crap.

Friday Linkage 7/6/2018

I absolutely love the discussion about civility in national politics right now.  I love how people like Donald Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or anyone else associated with the right wing can claim to hold any shred of credibility with regard to being civil when these are the same people who have given us the likes of Steve King, Louie Gohmert, and others.  Heck, they gave us Donald Trump who is literally the most vulgar person to hold the office of President of the United States in the history of the country.  Come at me with a different person, please.

We have truly entered the straight up Orwellian dystopia phase of the current political cycle.  Up is down, black is white, and Trump is right.  If you are not with the dear leader, regardless of where his policy position is that day, you are against the dear leader even if you have done nothing but maintain long held beliefs.  Just wait until they start burning books that do not have more space dedicated to pictures than words.

On to the links…

Scott Pruitt Asked Aides To Find His Wife A $200,000 Job—Scott Pruitt may be the most corrupt person in Washington D.C. since the administration of Warren G. Harding.

It’s Time for the Republican Congress to Impeach the EPA’s Scott Pruitt—This is not the opinion of a liberal mouthpiece.  It is coming from a business publication.  Here is the thing I wonder about.  When the administration changes how will Republicans react to the smallest of infractions by a Democratic administration?  What sort of faux outrage will people like Chuck Grassley manufacture after spending the prior four years closing their eyes, plugging their ears, and screaming “La, la, la!” while Trump and his cronies looted America?

This is how People Tried to Teach Scott Pruitt about Climate Science—Remember, this is the man in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.  You can’t teach Scott Pruitt because Scott Pruitt is bought and paid for by the oil and gas lobby.

Path to Zero Emissions Starts Out Easy, but Gets Steep—Does anyone really doubt that this is true?  However, we will not get to the innovation part unless we start on the easy stuff first.  If history is any guide to the future, however, advances in energy production will come along that moderate the steepness of the deployment curve.

Coal Power Plants Retiring Quickly During Trump Administration—It looks like we are already trying to get coal out of the picture.  Despite Trump’s best efforts—which have probably slowed down retirements but not stopped the trend—coal is not the way we will generate electricity in the future.  Maybe he really should try and bring back Blockbuster?  Or ToyRUs?

Solar Power Employs Twice As Many As Coal In US—For every coal mining job Trump claims he is trying to save, which is really code for him just trying to save coal barons’ paychecks at the expense of everyone else on the planet, he is endangering more solar jobs on the other side of the ledger.  This is a losing hand that he is playing to the bitter end.  Good luck with that Donny two scoops.

Electric Vehicles Alone Could Cause Peak Oil Demand within Decade—Peak oil used to be about Hubbert’s Peak and the decline of production based on economically producible reserves, but maybe the worm has turned and we will just demand to use less oil.  I like to think that I am contributing ever so slightly by biking into work several days a week.  Demand destruction is real.

Climate Change is Making it Harder to Revive Damaged Land—Just add this to the list of things that climate change is going to make harder for future generations.

Call to Turn Oil Rigs into Nature Reserves—Why don’t we just take every offshore rig at the end of its life and turn it into a combination artificial reef and offshore wind turbine?

UK Renewable Electricity Generation Tops 30%, Scotland Increases By 11%—The U.K. generated over 30% of its electricity in the third quarter via renewables.  Not for a day or a month, but an entire quarter.  In the same report it was noted that for the entirety of 2017 Scotland generated almost 70% of its electricity from renewable sources.  The future is now folks.

Battery-Backed Solar Power to Undercut Coal in China by 2028—So, once China figures out how to cut the price of solar with storage what is the market for energy going to look like?

Solar Power Fuels Savings, Consumer Loyalty and Competition Among Craft Brewers—You mean to tell me that people like it when their favorite beer makers also believe that the world is a better place with more solar power?  I would have never thought such a thing were possible.

The Dirty Little Secret Behind “Clean Energy” Wood Pellets—Do any biomass energy schemes ever work out as intended?  It always seems like the promise is predicated on a bunch of ifs.  If the forest is replanted or if the forest is not clear cut and so on.

The US has a 1.39 billion-pound surplus of cheese. Let’s try to visualize that.—I am stuck here thinking about what a 1.39 billion pound round of cheese would be like sitting on the mall in Washington D.C.:

Cheese_Stock__1_