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Showing posts from July, 2013

Getting There was Half the Fun

July 29, 2013 – If you live in a city in the United States, chances are less likely you own a car than they used to be.Public transportation has become an acceptable alternative for many, and a foregone conclusion for the educated young.College graduates wait as long as possible to get their driver’s license, and they often don’t own cars.The further outside the city you go, the less true this becomes.As the distances increase to get to work, shop for food, and visit the doctor, car ownership becomes more of a necessity, especially where public transportation is not an alternative. There are a number of reasons for the decline in car ownership, perhaps the most obvious being the recession.The costs of buying, insuring, and maintaining a car have become financially prohibitive.One less obvious reason, at least to a baby boomer like me, is the Internet.Younger folks find interactions on the web a satisfactory substitution for person-to-person socializing.Shopping and entertainment can al…

The Wisdom of Youth

July 25, 2013 – If polls are to be believed, the Republicans are in trouble at the ballot box.It seems the darling old curmudgeons look at life somewhat differently than young voters do.Put simply, people under 35 would like to have a future to look forward to, and, in keeping with that age-old ambition, think Republicans will cost them that future.They believe this because Republicans don’t want to take action against climate change. The poll to which I’m referring was conducted for the League of Conservation Voters by the Democratic firm Benenson Strategy Group and the Republican firm G8 Strategy Group.The results of the bipartisan poll indicate firm 80% support among under-35 voters for President Obama’s climate change plan.There is, in fact, majority support even among youthful voters who dislike the president.Seventy-three percent of the under-35 group would not vote for members of Congress who attempt to block enactment of President Obama’s plan.

According to an analysis performed…

The Industrial Revolution's Birthplace

July 22, 2013 – News stories about the recent heat wave in England may not, at first hearing, sound all that alarming to American ears.Temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s constitute a very normal part of American summers, particularly in the middle of the country.Grassfires measured in “football pitches” may cause quizzical looks, and not much more.The fact remains, however, that nearly 800 people have died because of the ongoing abnormally high temperatures. First of all, anyone living at the latitude of the British Isles is simply not accustomed to hot temperatures.It is true that the blood of people living in northern climates thickens, while the opposite occurs to people who live in the south.We can be grateful this is true – it’s a natural defense against becoming too cold or too hot.When “normal” gets stood on its head – and we are all becoming acquainted with how that feels – what “normally” works, doesn’t.

It’s always surprising to me that people who smoke need to be told not to d…

Stranger than Fiction

July 18, 2013 - In so many ways, Chicago really is My Kind of Town. I grew up in its western suburbs, and to this day believe I've enjoyed a lifetime of benefit derived from its can-do qualities. It’s comforting to know that some things never change.Today, with Rahm Emanuel at the helm, the Windy City puts to work the best environmental ideas out there, as soon as they become available.Urban planning has become a lot greener over the years in Chicago, because climate change is causing very intense thunderstorms and extreme temperatures.These worsening problems have caused the city to take an experimental approach to their solution.

Take smog-eating pavement, for instance.With an active ingredient called titanium dioxide, the cement pavers set off a chemical reaction with sunlight that cleans all the air as far as eight feet above them.They were developed by Italian cement giant Italcementi when the Vatican wanted to build a church to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of Christian…

When They're Gone

July 15, 2013 - Last week, 37 million dead bees were discovered on just one farm in Ontario, Canada.  Last month, 50,000 dead bees were found in a parking lot in Oregon.  Last winter, the British Beekeepers Association recorded the worst die-off in its history. According to the activist group, a commercial beekeeper in the United States lost 500 million bees, constituting 80% of all of his bees.  The numbers are fast becoming staggering, and the reason is no longer unknown.  Once again, big money wins, the rest of us - so far - lose.

Scientists now say there can no longer be any doubt.  Bees are dying all over the world, and there is a common thread that links all of their deaths: neonicotinoid pesticides.  While there is no doubt that harmful insects are effectively eradicated by neonics, the downside to their toxicity is the simultaneous elimination of beneficial insects - foremost among them, bees.  It is frightening but true that neonics are sold in local gardening sto…

That Horrible Day

July 12, 2013 – I won’t be writing about climate change today.Worse yet, I will be writing about 9/11.I believe in letting the truth be known, and the lie that’s been told to the American people is so corrupting and corroding, it has to be discussed.Feel free to stay and read.If not, I’ll see you Monday.
Richard Gage is a brave, smart guy.He’s an architect, and when he watched the twin towers fall, he knew he wasn’t watching what so many of us believed we were watching.It turned out a whole lot of architects and civil engineers experienced that same sense of horrified disbelief that horrible day.They knew what the rest of us did not: the three buildings that came down had been wired for demolition.They could tell by the way they came down – very neatly.To a large extent, they came down within their own footprints (although there was too much refuse resulting from the demolition of the two main towers to stay completely within the buildings’ footprints – they were just too big).Building…

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

July 8, 2013 – China is reaping what it has sown, and that means they must clean up a mess that has penetrated to the far corners of their fairly large country.Farmers must now pollinate by hand in one region, because all the bees are dead.Air quality ranges from poor to barely breathable in many Chinese cities.Now, the government has announced a “work plan” for cleaning up the groundwater in the North China Plains region.
Is there a lesson for the United States in this sad state of affairs?Many of the chemicals polluting the groundwater in this area are extremely persistent, remaining in the environment far longer than just the days and weeks immediately following their release.Just as in the U.S., where suspicion runs high regarding the oh-so-secret chemical cocktail employed by frackers to release tight oil, suspicions must finally have boiled over in the North China Plains, because a massive government investigation of the groundwater was ordered in 2006.The investigation concluded…

The Good Old Days

July 4, 2013 - Today is Independence Day, not just for Americans, but for the whole world.  Egyptians are the people to have most recently shown us what independence means, not once, but over the course of two years, twice, with two almost bloodless revolutions.  We thank them for their example.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has just issued a report titled The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Climate Extremes.  Data from 139 nations demonstrate that droughts in Australia, East Africa and the Amazon affected the largest numbers of people globally.  Rampaging floods in Pakistan, Australia, Africa, India and Eastern Europe were the most frequent extreme weather events.  It is interesting that much of the decade's climate was influenced by La Nina, a cooling climate phenomenon that originates in the southeastern Pacific, along the western coast of South America.

Significantly, atmospheric concentrations of the most virulent greenhouse gases were at historic highs by…

Their Courage Was Unparalleled

July 1, 2013 - The sad days are here.  Death is very final, and the time when we could have prevented the Yarnell fire long past.  Today it is Arizona that submits to the wrath of God, and we reach out to them to comfort and encourage.  The 19 firefighters who perished yesterday were experts, deserving of our honor and gratitude.  I hope you will find a way to express your solidarity with the citizens of Arizona, or to express your hope to Gov. Brewer that she will at last act to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  I have done the latter.

Reading Sharon Astyk's latest book Making Home was pleasurable indeed.  I though it was her best, to date.  The reason I'm thinking of her book right now is that I would like to dedicate some new action of mine to the deceased firefighters.  She wrote about hanging clothes out to dry in winter, something I'd never considered, and said the smell was incomparable.  While hanging clothes out to dry these days would amount to an exercise i…