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December 31, 2009 – Time to take your brave pill. Why? Because today it’s time to talk taboo’s. Don’t kid yourself; that’s a hard thing to do. We’ll try to approach this taboo openly and honestly (which is what I always try to do). It’s time to talk about Overpopulation.

The first question is, why talk about it? What does too many people living in the world today have to do with global warming? There are, by the way, 6.7 billion people living in the world, right now. All the forecasts I’ve read predict a global population of 9 billion by 2050. We aren’t spread across the globe evenly, of course. Some countries are very densely populated (think China, India, and some other countries in Asia - and Africa), while others could support more people (think Russia and Canada). The simple-minded approach would be to insist that, by moving people from one place to another, the imbalance could be corrected. Problems arise, however, when you tell people they must leave all that is familiar to the…
December 22, 2009 – The post-Copenhagen verdict runs the gamut from “By George, we’ve got it!” to “The sky is falling!” depending upon whom you believe. My hope and my prayer is that it is a beginning, one upon which we will shortly build. One note to readers: when you hear that the United States is advocating a 17% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, be mindful that we use 2005 emissions as our starting point. The rest of the world uses 1990, as stated in the Kyoto Protocol. When we convert our reduction
to a starting point in 1990, the reduction works out to be 3 – 4%. Call it what you like. It’s not enough. That’s why Copenhagen must be considered a beginning only.

My hat is off to the thousands of delegates who worked tirelessly to bring us this far.

One attendee came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. Perhaps you heard: George Soros, the billionaire investor, has proposed that developed countries lend money they received in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) from the Internat…
December 15, 2009 – I’ve made lots of compost piles over the years, but none in the last ten. I decided a few weeks ago I was overdue. Blessed with an abundance of wooden dowels – the remnants of previous projects – I set to work (though I did have to buy chicken wire). There’s an area alongside our patio that must measure 5’x3’. It was perfect because there was mulch on top of the black plastic I’d used to keep away the weeds during my fruitless attempt to grow a mountain laurel. I understand that compost will decompose in sun or shade; this spot gets a bit of both.
I’d refrained from composting out of laziness, I guess. I never wind up with as much as I think I should, and amending the soil in my vegetable garden with green manure and peat moss seemed easier. I still think so, actually. However, letting all those fall leaves go to waste seemed a shame. These days, we need to recycle whenever the opportunity arises.
So – the 4’ dowels sank into the soft soil eas…
December 8, 2009 – It’s funny. The size of the group of people who are impassioned about the need to do something about climate change has, I suspect, reached critical mass. The fact I only suspect our numbers have reached the tipping point is attributable to our not all being together in one place (other than cyber space). That makes it hard to tell. That’s also the reason we’re not doing anything. We don’t have the impetus provided by hearing someone yell “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” What ARE we doing? Sitting in front of our computers and nodding in agreement. It’s awful when you realize that’s exactly what the politicians are hoping we’ll do.
The number of global warming experts who are now genuinely frantic about the need for us to change our behavior seems to be growing. Maybe that’s the missing piece of the puzzle: when they begin holding up signs and protesting, that will be the signal for the rest of us to join them. Until then, we seem to be left s…
December 2, 2009 – There was an article in yesterday’s issue of USA Today I’d like to talk about. It’s on the Op Ed page, under the heading “The Forum.” The title of the article is “Groupthink and the Global Warming Industry,” and it’s by Jonah Goldberg.

It seems that in late November, someone hacked their way into email at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), part of the University of East Anglia in England. What they found is disappointing and disturbing. If the emails made available to the public are to be believed, scientists at the CRU have been manipulating data in order to make it tell the story they want it to. The emails also discuss the importance of making data unavailable to unfriendly colleagues, i.e., global-warming skeptics. If these emails truly are representative of the way the CRU goes about its business, then the CRU has done enormous damage to itself and its reputation. While the wealth of data that daily increases our knowledge of climate change supports the se…
November 23, 2009 – Pesticide use has increased in the United States. Yes, that’s right, I said increased. We’re spraying more poison on our food. Small amounts of that poison enter our bodies when we eat those foods. Small amounts of that poison enter our children’s bodies when they eat those foods. The best news of all? The poisons are getting stronger.

Before going further, allow me to relate what I suspect was a case of coming to grips with this very Frankenstein in my own front yard. This year’s crop of dandelions was nearly unprecedented. (One might say they grew like weeds ….) Since we try to treat our yard for them as infrequently as possible, we had a bumper crop. Our yard was a sea of yellow. Then a neighbor came calling, claiming to be speaking on behalf of other neighbors. The short and the long of it was the dandelions had to go.

Our front yard isn’t small – nearly half an acre. There could be no question of digging the dandelions up anywhere near as fast as the neighbors…
My apologies for taking so long to write this article. I hope you'll find it worth the wait!

November 19, 2009 – I’m learning more about Transition Towns (see my Oct. 20 blog). Read on to learn more about the concept and its current status. First, though, let’s get started with some transition vocabulary. Two ideas that are central to understanding this grassroots movement are relocalizing and permaculture.
Relocalization is, in fact, the United States’ own version of transitioning. While transition takes its name from the need for communities to make the transition from being carbon-based to post-carbon, relocalization focuses on the need for communities to make basic goods and services available locally. This, in turn, necessitates re-skilling. More vocabulary! Let’s go back over this paragraph and make some sense of it.
What is meant by saying that a community is carbon-based? Simply this: communities throughout the world derive their energy from fuels containing lots of carbon: n…

Corporations aren't People

November 3, 2009 – You know, it has only lately occurred to me that Americans aren’t
the greedy ne’er-do-well’s we are sometimes portrayed. It is not American citizens who
are using 25% of the earth’s natural resources. It can’t be – not when we’re told that by
making various changes in our personal lives, only a very small, single-digit percentage change will have been made in the resources we consume. Finally it dawns upon me: it is the corporate citizens of the United States who use and use and use, with utter abandon. I have read reams of information on the subjects of birds, conservation, and climate change, but it has only just sunk in.
Corporations are not people, no matter what the law says. Why in heaven’s name
has no one sued to have their personhood revoked? ( It’s my understanding that the granting of this status was a clerical error, anyway.) Because they provide us with livelihood’s, that’s why. Except, of course, that lately, they don’t. Corporate loyalties seem not to resid…
October 26, 2009 – I’d like to review a very important book today.

Brown, Lester. Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.
New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2009.

Before I do, allow me to correct a misstatement in a previous article. I believe I erroneously referred to Brown as one of the “unsung” heroes of the environmental movement. That, as it turns out, is rather far left of the truth. I’ll quote directly from the dust jacket of this book:

“Lester R. Brown is the president of Earth Policy Institute, an organization dedicated to building a sustainable future. Described by the Washington Post as ‘one of the world’s most influential thinkers,’ Brown started his career as a tomato farmer. Shortly after earning a degree in agricultural science, he spent six months living in rural India, where he became intimately familiar with the food/population issue. Brown later became head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s International Agricultural Development Service. In 1974, he founded …
October 19, 2009 – Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Transition Towns. I hadn’t until very recently. I’d like to share the little bit I know, because I think this is an idea whose time has come.

The idea is that people with an awareness of the changes underway in our world should begin discussions on the local level about surviving global climate change. Because members of communities bring varying talents and knowledge to the table, each can make a contribution to the common good.

To my mind, a big piece of the puzzle will consist simply of people sharing their tools and appliances with one another, rather than each household needing to own one. Carpooling trips to the grocery and pharmacy would be a good place to start. Banning leaf blowers would be a simple way to reduce a neighborhood’s carbon footprint, as would the use of non-motorized lawn mowers. Growing food organically where grass used to grow would be an improved use of lawn space. Eliminating association bans on clothe…
October 13, 2009 – October has been a mixed bag, thus far, though a few more of those bright, blue-sky days that serve as a backdrop to the colors of the changing leaves wouldn’t hurt at all.The weekend was sunny and brisk, perfect for working outside.I observed some interesting things while gardening that I thought I would share.First, and not at all amazingly, the chickadees are steady, noisy customers at the sunflower buffet.I think they’re helping themselves to Echinacea seeds, too.A bit more surprising, perhaps, is the plenteousness of bird activity I’m seeing.All the birds seem to have a lot to say these days; it’s a very songful bunch I have in the backyard.The continuing abundance of rain coupled with warm nighttime temperatures is causing some flowers to re-bloom. Hydrangea, gazania and hibiscus are the three stand-outs in my yard.My floribunda rose, Distant Drums, continues to wend its gorgeous way through the year.My most startling observation was – a grasshopper!I haven’t …
October 4, 2009 – Why is it that the American media do such a poor job of reporting about the effects of global warming, especially in places other than the United States?It is, after all, global warming, a phenomenon that is, by definition, happening everywhere.To what degree will they be held culpable, when the American people say, “But I didn’t know that … ?”While it is true that Americans have shown an appalling lack of interest in righting this horrific wrong (for which they bear an enormous burden of responsibility), can it not be argued that it is the media’s job to heighten awareness, thereby creating a climate (!) of concern and urgency?Perhaps even more to the point, how is it that the British do such an exemplary job of bringing home the really significant stories of the day?Time and again I find myself impressed by their unflinching pursuit of a story – whatever it may be about – without regard to whom it may please or where it may ultimately lead.Permit me an example:“Dus…
September 27, 2009 – Lester Brown is one of the unsung heroes in the battle tomitigate climate change.Founder of the World Watch Institute, and current president of the Earth Policy Institute, he has been at the leading edge of the movement to reduce waste and teach respect for the environment for decades.His most recent book, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, will be reviewed in this blog at a later date.The title, by the way, is not grandiose.It says what it means and means what it says.So my heart was indeed gladdened when I read Brown’s recent article, “On Energy, We’re Finally Walking the Walk.”(I now link to the Earth Policy Institute, whereyou can find the article in its entirety.)Brown gives us a fact-filled overview of how far we have come in the last two years, and tells readers about the ambitious goals we must set for ourselves to get the job done.What job, you ask?The job of suf-ficiently slowing our production of pollution so that we avoid the very worst conse…
September 21, 2009 – Last week, I recommended a couple of radio stations to you
that broadcast what I believe are important shows about global warming. While I
did not discuss Radio Ecoshock, a Canadian program originating in Vancouver with
host Alex Smith, I will now. First let me say that Smith does a superlative job of
not interrupting his interviewee’s, and of selecting the most important questions in
need of asking. Back in June of this year, he hosted a show he called “American
Climate Change.” The show was broadcast on June 18, two days after the release of
a “State of the Climate – National Overview” report by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.

The report was released, with some degree of fanfare, by Dr.’s Jane Lubchenco, Thomas
Karl, and Jerry Melillo. Each made lengthy comments with regard to the various
impacts of global warming described in the report. (Let me suggest you visit http://www.ecoshock.org/ if you would care to hear their comm…
September 13, 2009 – I’ve happened upon a terrific new source of climate change information - and inspiration! - I’d like to share with you.It’s called http://www.climateradio.org/, and with Copenhagen fast approaching, the time for listening is NOW.The programs originate from England, so for Americans, Climate Radiooffers the opportunity to hear what not only the British, but also countries that are part of the EU, have to say about the upcoming climate negotiations.The current program – The 300-350 Show – focuses largely, though not solely, on what are described as Climate Camps.These are places activists can go to learn about climate change and to enact civil disobedience.Described as a grassroots movement, the camps can be found in Europe, North America, and Australia.At some point in the near future I will devote an article to this growing phenomenon.Other programming examines closely the ideals, goals, and fears of representatives from the 200 nations that will participate in De…
September 6, 2009 - In emailing with a friend this week, I was reminded by her of the sometimes infuriating response of people who have willfully remained ignorant about climate change.(An aside: do you sometimes get the feeling that, in the minds of conservatives, anyone who is alarmed about global warming is “just” a tree-hugger and, as such, linked with hippies and war-protestors and lawbreakers and touchy-feely “make love, not war” kinds of stuff?All of which is supposed to provide a good excuse for their obstinacy?Yah – me too.)Not that she responds that way, but I guess members of her family do.I’m at the point of shrugging and saying “Get out of my way, I haven’t got the time for you.”Not particularly gracious, I’ll grant you, but the time for conversation has run out.Arguing with ignorant people is just a waste of time.Those of us who understand what is at stake need to remember the importance of persistence.We’ve elected a good man as President; now our place is standing shou…
August 30, 2009 – Speaking of the cancer epidemic: so few people seem to be aware that there is no ONE thing causing the enormous increase in cancer since World War II.Instead, it is the cumulative effect of pollutants and synthetic chemicals unleashed on us and the environment that is causing widespread cancer, not just in our country, but throughout the world.I just read an excellent article on Health.com, and I’d like to share with you some of the very important points they bring up, along with some of my own thoughts on the matter.(The article can be found at http://living.health.com/2009/03/15/how-to-detox-your-body/, and I accessed it today at 10:17 a.m.)The article begins with rather ominous words, which the author treats in a curiously upbeat fashion: “Every day we put potential toxins into our mouths, breathe them into our lungs, and track them into our homes without ever really knowing where they’ll end up – or how much damage they’ll do when they get there.In fact, if you c…
August 23, 2009 – Are you conserving energy at home?It really comes down to a matter of habit, one that we all need to form.All the light bulbs in your home should be compact fluorescent by now.I know, I know: so many of today’s light fixtures require specialty bulbs, which aren’t made as CFL’s.Do what you can:remember your garage lights and your outdoor lights.Turn the lights out when you leave a room (turn off everything electrical when you leave a room!).As you replace worn out appliances, replace them with energy star models. The biggest “gas guzzler” in the house is your refrigerator.Take the time to ask questions when you buy a new one, and make sure the salesperson understands that energy consumption is a major consideration, as far as you’re concerned.Don’t’ put your old model in landfill!Vietnam Vets, or a similar organization, will find it a good home.Don’t use the A/C on days you don’t need it.Some folks just close up the house once it gets hot and don’t think about it agai…
August 17, 2009 – Optimistic, persistent leadership. The kind that refuses to recognize failure as a plausible outcome. The kind that does not allow “no” for an answer, particularly when the future of humankind depends on “yes.” The kind of leadership provided by people who never, ever give up. Not even when the saltwater is up to their necks in Washington, D.C., and the wildfires are burning out of control in all 50 states.

Future generations are calling to us, demanding their right to enjoy the gift of life. We already know that it will be an impoverished existence, lived on a sorely abused planet. There is a great deal that needs doing, and it falls to each of us to do all we are able. Optimistic, persistent leaders will show us the way. Finding them is the first challenge.

Fortunately, as we know from very recent experience, inspiring leadership is near at hand. This means we must be watchful and ready to act, not only to enable the inspiring leaders of tomorrow to take their place …
August 9, 2009 – Well, well.It appears the Pentagon is taking a look at the havoc climate change will be causing, and trying to figure out what the military and humanitarian implications might be.I hope that once they’ve examined the issue closely, they will begin doing some cooperative planning with the folks at the UN.While there are those decrying the uselessness of NATO, I have to think that organization might have a key role to play in addressing the looming crisis.There’s a great deal to anticipate and plan for, and I definitely believe this is an instance where two heads are better than one.Well-informed heads, that is.The earlier we learn to cooperate with each other, the better off we will all be.Assuming humankind is capable of cooperation on a sustained basis, how would we best go about it?There are organizations that have made it their business to learn all they can about global warming.The Worldwatch Institute comes to mind.The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Wildlife Fe…
August 2, 2009 – Since I didn’t begin buying organic fruits and vegetables because I thought they were more nutritious, I can’t be disappointed by reports that they aren’t.I’m guessing that buyers who are unaware of the carcinogenic effect of herbicides and insecticides on their food must have assumed that superior nutri-tion was the reason to buy organic.The same would be said, therefore, about buyers who are unaware of the deleterious effect of soil compaction, caused by enormous, very heavy farming machinery being driven over the soil.(Plants grow best when the soil is loose, allowing for air, earthworms, and various microscopic residents of the soil to co-exist with plants.)And the effect of “mining” the soil, i.e., farming it without rest by merely supplying the needed fertility through chemical fertilizers, rather than replacing the lost fertility with the use of organic fertilizers, which not only fertilize the plants, but leave an organic residue that improves both tilth and f…