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A Newly-Revitalized EPA

December 27, 2010 – The Environmental Protection Agency will begin regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in January, with the implementation of new permitting rules.Large facilities that must obtain permits for other pollutants will be required to include greenhouse gases in their permit, if they increase GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tons per year.(That’s confusing – does that mean that if they are found to emit 75,000 tons to begin with, they need the permit?Or does it mean the EPA will wait a year to see if they’ve added 75,000 tons to their baseline emissions?)The GHG to be regulated are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.Readers will recall that methane emissions from sources in nature have been on the increase due to global warming.In addition, the EPA will propose industry-specific GHG standards no later than December 2011.The industries most affected will be fossil-fuel power plants and petroleum refiner…

It's a Changed World

December 23, 2010 – Climate disruption is becoming a reality for more and more people.
It’s become a bit personal, too – my son is in Southern California. He flies out today, thank goodness. Here’s a brief rundown of what the Golden State has been contending with:

· 17 feet of snow has fallen in the Sierra Nevada mountains
· Some locations have received their entire annual rainfall
· 20,000 homes are without power
· Roads and bridges have been washed away
· Mudslides are numerous because of wildfires that decimated vegetation
on hillsides

It remains to be seen whether and how the rest of the United States will be affected by this treacherous storm.

Meanwhile, Western Europeans stand amazed as snow, ice and freezing temperatures bring airports and rail terminals to their knees. Millions of holiday travelers have been affected by the unusually harsh weather, with flight cancellations and long delays at rail terminals being the rule. Thousands have slept on …

Listening to Them What Knows

December 20 – The Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, has issued a very powerful issue of their periodical, Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A, entitled “Four Degrees and Beyond.” The Royal Society A is a British organization that has been in existence for 350 years. Its website can be accessed at http://royalsociety.org/. I’d like to direct your attention to what I believe are the more important aspects of one of the articles comprising this issue. This may or may not be an educational experience, because I’m rushing in where angels fear to tread, i.e., I’m going to try to make sense of a pretty high-toned scientific paper. Because I don’t have a background in climatological science, I’d like to issue a disclaimer. While I will make every effort to simply ignore the parts I am unable to understand, it is entirely possible that unintentional errors may make an unwanted appearance. I’m not going to attempt to claim that this will be the firs…

It's the Little Things

December 16, 2010 – The EPA was largely rendered a toothless tiger during the Bush II administration. The damages wrought while Dracula guarded the blood bank (a very nice metaphor, with thanks to Jane Fonda) will become known to us over time. In fact, one such damage has recently been found out. As luck would have it, there’s at least one person with a conscience employed at the Environmental “Protection” Agency. That person took it upon him-or herself to leak evidentiary documents to Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald, implicating the EPA-approved pesticide Clothianidin in the development of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Beekeeping isn’t a business most people pay a great deal of attention to, so let’s get brought up-to-date. American beekeepers have noticed for some time now that their hives were sickly. Various causes for the worsening situation have been explored, then rejected. As bee colonies began their wholesale implosion in 2006, the name Colony Collapse Disorder was deemed su…

Do the Right Thing

December 13, 2010 – There are a couple of stories in the news worth talking about.The first, about the climate talks in Cancun, is a bit of a surprise: the talks have resulted in the adoption of two agreements.One is an agreement to further delay deciding the fate of the Kyoto Protocol (that’s not the surprise).The second, to which both China and the United States are parties, involves committing to cut greenhouse gas emissions, establishes a framework for transparency, sets up a global climate fund of $100 billion, and recognizes the importance of limiting deforestation.Some brief discussion, if you please.It goes without saying, God help us if the R’s take back the White House in ’12.The 192 other countries (all attendees, with the exception of Bolivia) who adopted the agreement can and will proceed without us, if need be, but that would be a thoroughly bankrupt outcome for a small victory that was extremely difficult to achieve.The United States should absolutely aspire to show lea…

Paying - the Piper?

December 9, 2010 – There’s a story about how the United States was trooping into an arena along with other countries in order to take part in the Olympics, back in the early years of the 20th century. As the American cadre of athletes approached the platform where the head of the host nation typically sits, the flag bearer dipped our flag as a sign of respect. An athlete from Ireland is said to have run forward and caught the flag in its downward trajectory. “This flag bows to no man,” he admonished. Ever since, the United States has refrained from dipping its flag.

Americans to this day consider themselves and their country exceptional, but are capable of explaining why only with platitudes such as “because this is the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” The rest of the thought, “… and it is for this reason that we represent to the world the hopes and prayers of all of humankind,” is generally regarded as window-dressing, and goes unsaid. We increasingly ignore the responsib…

Power Down

December 6, 2010 – The heat is off and it’s 14 degrees outside.Our furnace broke, so we’re having it replaced with a more efficient furnace for which the feds will help us pay.It will take about six hours to install the new one.Until then – no heat!Powering down will take time.It will happen over time, not with a resounding crash, but in a series of steps, at the conclusion of which I think we’re all hoping for a gentle thud.What’s taking place today, in my home, is one of a million tiny steps in the direction of powering down.Our source of electricity is a nuclear power plant.Nuclear has, in fact, been the source of electricity for most of our homes, whether we’ve lived in Illinois, North Carolina, or here, in Ohio.We may have had nuclear power in Texas, as well – I just don’t recall.According to John Michael Greer, in his book THE LONG DESCENT, some of the uranium being sold today isn’t being mined at all.It’s being stripped out of old Russian nuclear warheads.One wonders how long t…

Regulatory Progress Abhors a Vacuum

November 30, 2010 – It’s funny how the United States has had to go about tackling alternative energy. A vocal minority of climate change deniers, most recently in the guise of the so-called “Tea Party,” won’t permit action on the national level. It appears they will continue drowning out the voices of the better informed as long as they have an audience. Because the media decided inserting themselves into the story is OK , they keep prodding deniers with gleeful, rhetorical questions, all with this noble purpose in mind: let’s you an’ him fight. Thereby creating a story for the aforementioned audience. Sort of the way they insist on treating Sarah Palin as if she were capable of serious thought. No one believes it, but pandering is such fun.

While these shadow puppets provide infotainment, the real story continues to unfold at the local, regional, state and – brace yourselves – corporate level. At least that’s what Bloomberg Businessweek claims in this week’s article, “Unlikely Allies …

The Most Important Subject

November 22, 2010 – My long-ago introduction to caring about the world around me was bird watching. From there I quickly moved on to conservation. At some point during the late ‘70’s I learned about global warming and its attendant problems. Jimmy Carter made his famous malaise speech. I kept on reading. By the early 80’s, it had been made apparent to anyone who cared to pay attention that Ronald Reagan had no intention of doing anything about global warming, other than (allegedly) studying it. I began writing letters to elected officials, insisting upon the urgency of the matter. It was at about this juncture that I discovered an amazing organization called The Worldwatch Institute, and decided that I wanted to subscribe to their papers. My global warming education was truly underway.

Before going on, let me urge anyone reading this blog to avail themselves of this treasure trove of information. The Worldwatch Institute can be found on the web at http://www.worldwatch.org/. These days…

Planning for an Unknowable Future

November 15, 2010 – Back in 2009, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a report saying that temperatures will remain hotter than average for 1000 years after greenhouse gases cease being emitted. How much hotter? Another NOAA report says 9 – 11 degrees Fahrenheit hotter across the United States. That, of course, is an average: some places will experience even hotter temperatures, others cooler temperatures. The hottest, it appears, will occur in the Arctic. Moscow is feeling the pinch already, with temperatures 20 degrees above normal this November. 2010, NASA tells us, will be the hottest year in 131 years of record keeping. What will life be like, when winter is the season everyone looks forward to, and summertime temperatures cause human beings to work, and play, in the dark? How will future generations teach our great-great grandchildren to look forward to a better time they will never know? Tree planting will become a human being’s sacred duty, and se…

Measure Twice, Cut Once

November 8, 2010 -I’ve been waiting for this one, and Jonathan Bloom has finally written it - a new book called American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of its Food.Don’t worry: no one’s going to lecture you about children in Haiti starving.This might be a very good time, though, to give thoughtful attention to the adage “Waste not, want not.”It all has to do with the human tendency to disregard that which is plentiful. Funny, isn’t it?We worry constantly about the lack of time, but steadfastly believe that food will always be there when we’re hungry – or even if we’re not.To all appearances, we have the food to waste, if that’s what we want to do with it.There’s a vague sensation that this might be wrong, but with each meal relentlessly pressing down on us, who has the time to worry about matters like portion sizes, buying unusable quantities in the name of variety, and forgetting what we still have back home in the fridge?If the head cook works outside the home, tha…

White House Takes the Lead

November 1, 2010 – October was National Energy Awareness Month. A lot happened, I’m happy to say. It was NOT brilliant of President Obama to say that much of what he does goes unrecognized (Jon Stewart wanted to know if he was going to throw a surprise party so he could tell us), but here’s some of the stuff he was talking about:

I’m guessing you’ve heard that SOLAR PANELS will once again reside atop the White House, along with a solar water heater. The need for the President to set this example is so painfully obvious it sets my teeth on edge to realize it’s been lacking for 30 years. As you may not be aware, Bill McKibben and a fearless band of environmentalists had trucked the Jimmy Carter originals to Washington, as a way of pushing the issue. Good for them – they got results!

The DOT and EPA announced the first-ever proposed NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS and fuel efficiency for HEAVY-DUTY TRUCKS, vans, and buses. This translates to a savings of 500 million b…

Can China Get What It Wants?

October 29, 2010 – China is in the news lately because of its planned use of alternative energy.Something tells me their latest five year plan may have taken the past summer’s flooding, which displaced 38 million people, into account. In developing the country’s plan for 2011-1015, Beijing has committed to supplying whatever is necessary to put China in the lead in developing electric cars.(Meantime, the Obama administration has earmarked $5 billion in stimulus funds for the development of alternative vehicles, and the installation of charging stations in test markets.The United States intends to produce 40% of the world’s advanced vehicle batteries by 2015.More “power” to us!)China’s goal is to have 5 million electric cars on the roads by 2020.That’s not very many, when you consider China’s total population; on the other hand, I don’t know how many Chinese can reasonably expect to own any kind of car by 2020.Chances are, it will be a small percentage.Bear in mind, however, that only …

Adapting to Climate Change

October 25, 2010 – The White House released a report on the 14th of this month about climate change.The subject of the report is adapting to climate change.Not preventing, little in the way of mitigating.Adapting.Yes, I know – it’s too late for prevention.I also know that actions being taken on the city and state levels will help to mitigate some of the effects of climate change.I know that anything the federal government does is best done quietly, without fanfare.I know that the EPA is kicking into high gear (and that the Republicans only await a favorable verdict on Election Day before they act to stop it).Still: how very inspirational it must be to our international “partners” to know that we are devoting ourselves, at the national level, to adaptation. The title of the report says it best: Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.So much said with so few words; this title speaks of missed opportunities, of misguided attempts on the part of our govern…

The New Way Forward

October 18, 2010 – I spotted this in Forbes magazine, of all places: “The Forbes team of experts and authors predicts that by the year 2018, 20% of all food consumed in U.S. cities will come from rooftop and parking lot farms.Read that again: 20% of all food in the U.S. [sic] That is an enormous number.In addition to making our cities more resilient, the health benefits, for both our bodies and our planet, of consuming food that is grown within a small number of miles of our homes or workplaces are significant.”Somebody made a bit of a quantum leap there, from 20% of all food consumed in American cities (51 million people) to 20% of all food consumed in America (62 million people), but you and I both get the point.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * What a very different approach the French take to climate legislation than we do.Rather than permitting legislative “death by lobbying,” France’s government invited the main stakeholders to the consultativ…

Transition and the Role of Elders

October 11, 2010 – Transition and the Role of Elders. This article is a bit risky,
because it could include so very much. In an attempt to narrow the field, I’d like
to examine two groups of Elders and their approaches to “repairing the world.”
Then I’ll talk about what I believe should be the role of Elders in guiding the
world through the perilous times ahead. As should be readily apparent from its
name, one of the groups – The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers – is very organic. It came into being as the result of a shared vision,
in answer to a perceived need on the part of a wounded world. The other group,
known simply as The Elders, was formed at the behest of Nelson Mandela, in
response to an idea presented to him by Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel. They,
in turn, had looked to traditional societies for inspiration. The leaders Mandela has
called upon act in concert or independently to support individuals and groups who
work to better the world.

Elders, fre…

An Economy that Works for Everyone

October 4, 2010 – I’d like to begin by saying that September wasn’t supposed to gang up on me like that, but before I knew it, my husband and I were on our way to Paris to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. My apologies for failing to explain this PRIOR to it actually happening.

Be sure to check out a new online publication that launches today: Transition Voice.
You will find it - naturally - at www.transitionvoice.com. I cannot claim to be a strictly disinterested party; TV is running an article about permaculture, and a book review, by yours truly. I’ve had an opportunity to peruse TV’s initial issue, and I like what I see.
Take a look.

Awhile back I wrote about degrowth, touted at the time as the opposite of growth. I notice that the Post Carbon Institute is currently featuring an excerpt from Richard Heinberg’s work-in-progress, tentatively titled The End of Growth, on their website. We’re talking about economic growth, of course, and the fact that, having reached peak every…

Book Review: A Nation of Farmers

August 30, 2010 - BOOK REVIEW. A Nation of Farmers, by Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton. 2009. GabriolaIsland: New Society Publishers. This is a terribly important book, packed with information. Its co-authors take turns writing chapters, and while their styles are – as you would expect – a bit different, the difference isn’t great enough to be jarring. Sad to say, the book is poorly edited. That’s nothing new anymore, but the missing words, wrong forms of the right words (i.e., considerable/considerate), and general lack of understanding with regard to the need for punctuation can all be distracting. That having been said, the authors have created a book which will serve as an important reference in times to come. Their observations are gleaned from lives spent gardening and/or farming. Among them, the observation that 2,000 acres farmed by 500 individuals yields a great deal more than 2,000 acres farmed by one individual – or corporation. My own observation: people who farm absolutely…

Making It Up As They Go Along

August 23, 2010 – Another correction!My apologies – the issue of Permaculture Activist I alluded to last week was the Autumn issue, not the Summer.Just when I think the Republicans might not be hell-bent on self destruction after all, the sound of the misinformation machine clanking away brings me to my senses.All this nonsense about a mosque planned for ground zero, when it’s a community center being built many blocks away.(The imam has been a friend to the United States, helping both the Bush and Obama administrations.)Then there’s that idiotic story about Obama’s ostensibly hard-to-figure-out religious convictions surfacing again.Do we actually have to SEE the media in bed with the R’s to understand what’s going on here?When did newspapers, television, and radio begin running stories based on the (admittedly fascinating) question, “Guess what the Republicans are alleging today?” If there ever was a mystery about why readership and audiences in this country have declined, there is…