Archive for November, 2010

Call the White House on Climate Change: Wednesday, December 1st

Monday, November 29th, 2010

     Today, Monday, November 29, is Day One of a 12-day climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico.  Representatives from almost 200 countries will work to build on last December’s climate change summit in Copenhagen.

     While last year’s summit was a major disappointment in that the nations of the world failed to bind themselves to reduce carbon emissions, the meeting did at least result in a nonbinding agreement to take steps in the right direction.  

     Part of the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ was a pledge by the richer nations to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries adapt to the effects of global warming, protect their forests, and pay for greener technologies that would lower their greenhouse emissions.   

     Clearly, such help is needed.  Extreme weather conditions that contributed to last summer’s unprecedented fires in Russia and unprecedented floods in Pakistan caused great human loss and damage to agricultural productivity.  Forests in poor nations are rapidly disappearing as growing numbers of poor people have no choice but to cut down trees for cooking and warmth.  And these countries have scant resources to invest in greening their economies.  They need our help.

     So I invite you to join with me and with thousands of others in a national effort to urge President Obama to become a true global climate leader.  We must insist that the U.S. keep its climate promises to the poorest peoples of the world.  Even though the percentage of climate change deniers in Congress will jump in January when the new Congress is seated, President Obama must speak strongly and insist that the U.S. and the other rich nations fulfill the commitment made last year to help the world’s poor. 

     This Wednesday, December 1, is a national call-in day to the White House.  Please add your voice between 10 am and 5 pm EST.  The main switchboard line, 202-456-1414, is the number at which you’re more likely to reach a real person.  Or you can also call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111.  At that number you will most likely reach a recording where you can leave a message.  

     Below is a sample script.  But feel free to add your own comments when you call: 

     “My name is ____________________ and I’m from state or organization.  I’m calling today to tell President Obama and his administration that we need him to be a global leader for the global climate movement.

     President Obama must show leadership at the Cancun climate talks by: 

  • setting up a global climate fund similar to the global HIV/AIDS fund;
  • keeping his promise to mobilize public funds to help poor nations cope with climate chaos and transition to clean energy.

Thank you for taking my call.”

     Your call will be part of a flood that the White House can’t help but notice.  Wednesday’s White House call-in day is being organized by several national organizations, including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, 1Sky, ActionAid, and Jubilee USA.  And please forward this posting to others, so that we can increase our impact. –April Moore

Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

     I wish you a Thanksgiving filled with love and joy.  And on this day, I post here a short piece from the book, Earth Prayers From Around the World edited by Elizabeth Roberts.

     “At the heart of Earth Prayer is a sense of belonging.  Belonging is the basic truth of our existence.  We belong here.  Life belongs here. 

     “Likewise, at the heart of gratefulness, in its deepest sense, we also find an expression of belonging.  When we say, “Thank you,” we really are saying, “We belong together.”  That is why we sometimes find it so difficult to say “Thank you”–because we don’t want to acknowledge our interdependence.  We don’t want to be obliged.  But in a healthy society that is exactly what we seek:  mutual obligations.  Everyone is obliged to everyone and everything else;  we all belong together, we are of each other.  In this awareness we are freed from self-preoccupation–and only then, emptied of self, can we be filled with thanks.

     “As Brother David Steindl-Rast tells us, “Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise–then you will discover the fullness of your life.”

     “Within this human impulse to gratitude flow the vast cycles of universal reciprocity–for everything that is taken, something has to be given in return.  If you merely take in a breath and stop there, you will die.  Likewise if you merely breathe out.  Life is not giving or taking, but give and take.  This is the dynamic expression of universal belonging expressed in our thanksgiving.

We give-away our thanks to the earth
     which gives us our home.
We give-away our thanks to the rivers and lakes
     which give-away their water.
We give-away our thanks to the trees
     which give-away fruit and nuts. . . . .

We beings on earth:  the trees, the animals, the wind
     and the rivers give-away to one another
     so all is in balance. . . . . .
[Dolores LaChapelle]

     “In the midst of a pragmatic world in which we constantly ask ourselves how “useful” things are, these prayers may seem “useless.”  Yet perhaps the greatest gift we humans have to offer the rest of creation is our heartfelt appreciation.  The ability to receive in thankfulness the blessings of life is an awesome quality.  We alone on this planet can reflect on all that surrounds us and through our loving recognition the rest of the Earth achieves a deep fulfillment.

     “Our praise and thanksgiving are as essential a part of life’s give and take as are the cycles of oxygen and water or any other nourishment flowing through the biosphere.  For millennia prayers and songs. . . .have been offered up to celebrate the miracle of existence of which we are part.  May their voices join our own.”–Elizabeth Roberts 

 

 

 

 

    

 

photo by Ken Day

photo by Ken Day

The Earth in Perspective

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

     I am posting here a link to a short video that can quite accurately be described as ‘awesome.’  It briefly tells the story of what astronomers saw when they pointed the powerful Hubble telescope at ’nothing.’

     This video offers a different context for thinking about the Earth.  The wonder of our life-filled planet exists within the marvel of billions of stars and galaxies that are  constantly hurtling outward.  Into what?–April Moore 

hubble-ultra-deep-field-3d.htm

Grief

Friday, November 19th, 2010

     A few days ago I was outside, enjoying myself raking leaves while listening to NPR’s environmental show, ‘Living on Earth.’

     I learn a lot from ‘Living on Earth.’  I hear hopeful reports about interesting projects to help heal the planet.  But of course the news is not always good. 

     As I raked, in the fragrant, dried leaf-scented air, I thought I heard suppressed tears in the voice of the scientist being interviewed.  Her barely contained pain caught my attention as she reported that deep sea coral, a few miles from BP’s downed oil rig, is dying.  I shared her grief as she explained that since the health of deep sea coral is necessary to the health of organisms at the top levels of the Gulf as well, the impact of the coral dying in the depths is widespread.  Further, deep sea coral is so slow-growing that recovery will likely take many decades.  Scientists plan tests to determine for certain whether the die-off was caused by the BP oil disaster, as they believe it was.  If they are right, then the damage caused by the BP disaster is greater than has yet been acknowledged.   

     As I listened to these horrifying facts, only the latest in a very long litany of assaults we humans are committing against our planet, I felt a scream well up inside me.  It spread through my being, and I pictured myself screaming and screaming, again and again and again, from an anguished, grief-stricken core.

     But I did not actually scream.  I was silent.  I knew screaming would only make me hoarse.  And embarrassed if anyone heard me.  So I did what I usually do.  I swallowed my grief.  I penned it inside, and I went about my business of raking as if nothing had happened.

     As I continued to rake, I reflected on my grief.  Does it make sense, I wondered, to just continue on with my life as if everything is basically okay, as if all is proceeding normally? 

     Grief, we are told, is a healthy response to loss.  Grief should by fully experienced, not suppressed.  But isn’t the destruction of the living planet of which we are a part, and on which we depend, as worthy of our grief as the loss of any beloved human?

     If I learned that a beloved person had died, I wouldn’t continue with my raking;  I would grieve without holding back.  Why don’t I also express my grief when my fellow species are carelessly murdered or maimed?  Maybe grief over the extinctions of species and the destruction of large swaths of habitat is not ‘socially acceptable.’  Or maybe we lack meaningful rituals to help us express our grief over the dying of the natural world. 

     Perhaps we need to develop such rituals.  If we had them, I think we could live more authentic lives.  Honoring and expressing our grief might make us emotionally stronger, more able to do the very hard work that must be done if we are to save our planet for future generations.

     I think we ignore our grief at a cost.  Psychologists believe that burying deep feelings and failing to face them saps our energy and perhaps even diminishes our health.  To act as if all is well, while our planet is dying around us seems an example of schizophrenia to me. 

     And I wonder about those who do not feel grief about the dying of the natural world.  Isn’t it a kind of deep denial to experience no pain over the accelerating rate of species extinctions, for example?  And what about people who are actively hostile to others who care about the environment?  Are such people not also denying their own connection with, and dependence on, the natural world? 

     What kind of price are these people paying for their denial?

     I am looking for ways to express my grief.  For the time being, I think I will follow my friend Louise’s advice, and at least bow to my grief.  I will honor my grief, even if I don’t know the rituals for expressing it.–April Moore 

 

Scientists see dramatic damage to deep sea coral near the downed BP oil rig

Scientists see dramatic damage to deep sea coral near the downed BP oil rig

 

 

 

What’s RIGHT With Kansas!

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

     Here is a feel-good story that is both true and inspiring.  It reminds me that we can do a lot to move our country in a green direction, even if Congress is failing to address climate change and other pressing environmental issues.

     Three and a half years ago, the western Kansas town of Greensburg was flattened by a tornado.   A week after the tornado, which destroyed 95% of the buildings in town, Greensburg officials passed a resolution that the town would rebuild, and it would rebuild green.  Municipal buildings over 4,000 square feet would be built to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s prestigious LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum designation.

     Greensburg’s commitment to rebuilding green attracted a great deal of media attention.  It even sparked the creation of a reality TV show on Planet Green that starred Leonardo DiCaprio.  Thanks to all the outside interest, the town was able to attract help from many sources as it began its green rebuilding initiative.

     The nonprofit Greensburg GreenTown was launched to coordinate the green rebuilding efforts.  With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) formed a team to work with city and county administrators, businesses, and residents to rebuild the town greenly.  Numerous corporate sponsors also contributed a great deal.

     Today, three and a half years after the devastating tornado tore through the town, Greensburg truly lives up to its name.  The town is carbon neutral, and it has more LEED Platinum-certified buildings per capita than anywhere else in the world.  More than 100 new Greensburg homes are 40% more efficient than code requires, and many buildings are headed toward LEED certification.  A wind farm owned by John Deere produces enough power for more than 4,000 households.

     A few highlights of the Greensburg of 2010:

  • The new City Hall is LEED Platinum-certified.  The building has solar panels and geothermal technology.  It was built of reclaimed brick from a power plant destroyed by the tornado.  The building will have a green roof with a vegetable garden on it.
  • The new Centera Bank has energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems and energy-efficient lighting systems.  The building uses water efficiently and has an onsite bioswale (a landscape feature designed to remove pollutants and silt from runoff surface water).  The bank is seeking LEED certification.
  • The  Eco Silo Home has solar panels, a green roof, eco-friendly finishes, energy-efficient mechanical systems, water-efficient fixtures, and more.  The building is cylindrically shaped to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour.  The Eco Silo Home is headquarters for Greensburg GreenTown and also serves as a bed and breakfast for tourists interested in experiencing green living. 
  • Kiowa County Memorial Hospital was rebuilt with an onsite wind turbine and is expected to use 40% less energy than a hospital built to standard code.
  • Thanks to help from NREL in developing a conservation plan, the John Deere dealership slashed its utility bills 40% and its water use by 50%.
  • Greensburg has become an eco-tourist destination, with interested individuals and groups coming from all over the world to learn from Greensburg’s experience.

     I find the story of Greensburg extremely heartening.  Here is a town in a conservative area that has enthusiastically embraced a much greener way of life than the one they had before the tornado hit.  Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixon told E Magazine, “Sometimes we hear the word ‘green,’ and we think modernistic.  But green is just being good stewards of the resources we’ve been blessed with.”

     If Greensburg, Kansas, can go green in a big way, it should be possible anywhere.–April Moore

Greensburgs green new City Hall

Greensburg's green new City Hall

   

Eco Silo Home in Greensburg

Eco Silo Home in Greensburg

The Dancing Cockatoo

Friday, November 12th, 2010

     This is not the type of piece I normally post on THE EARTH CONNECTION.   But I find this You Tube video so entertaining and so fascinating that I want to share it.

     Never before have I witnessed a bird so obviously ‘grooving’ on music as the cockatoo is in this video!  The bird is amazing to watch as it energetically rocks from side to side, lifts its wings, and even spins its head vigorously!

     I never imagined that a bird would respond so enthusiastically to music.  I don’t really know what is going on for this cockatoo as it ‘dances’  to Ray Charles singing “Shake a Tailfeather.”  But I am reminded that animals’ experience of their world and their behavioral repertoire are often much broader than we humans have any inkling of. 

     So, for a good laugh and several minutes of delight, click on Shake a Tailfeather.–April Moore

Fear of Flying

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

     Typically, my postings on the action thread of The Earth Connection are relatively easy, feel-good steps we can take to lessen our impact on the earth.  But the ‘inconvenient truth’ is that the steps that matter most are also the hardest.

     Take air travel, for example.  There was a time when I thought flying was an environmentally better choice than driving.  I saw air travel as a form of ‘public’ transportation.  The planes were going anyway, I figured, so it was better for me to be on one than to also put a car out on the road. 

     But that line of thinking, it turns out, is bogus.  If we Americans were to travel less or to travel by other means, the demand for air travel would fall, and the airlines would fly fewer planes.  That would be a very good thing.  

     A typical round-trip flight between Los Angeles and New York  yields about 715 kilograms of carbon dioxide per economy class passenger, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization.  And because of the great height at which commercial airliners fly, the climatic impact is magnified, more than doubling that carbon dioxide emission figure to 1,917 kilograms, or almost two tons of global warming emissions per passenger.  

     To put those figures in perspective, the International Institute for the Environment and Development maintains that if we are to keep within a safe upper limit of atmospheric carbon, emissions must be brought down to 0.45 tons per capita per year.  Thus, that Los Angeles- New York trip accounts for about four years’ worth of a person’s flying ‘allowance.’  Frequent air travel and a sustainable lifestyle are clearly at odds. 

     These are sobering facts.  Like many other middle class Americans, I love to travel.  I don’t even have the ‘excuse’ of traveling to important environmental or business  meetings.  I fly primarily to visit loved ones and to see the world.  Perhaps a little ironically, I am posting this piece from Boston.  And how did I get here from my home in Virginia?  Yes,  I flew.  Flying was justified,  I reasoned, because the train was far more expensive and would have taken much longer.  Like most of us, I am used to getting to my destination quickly.  Such convenience feels natural and normal.  

     That feeling–that  flying is ‘natural and normal’– is part of what is doing in the planet.  Because flying has become fairly convenient and inexpensive, and because the most earth-friendly form of mass transit of all–rail–has been allowed to wither in this country, flying is very often the only way to get  somewhere.   And I, like many others, have not, until very recently, even begun to  question whether my desire to go somewhere that requires me to fly is justified, in light of the damage my flight  will do to the planet.

     That, for me, is the really hard part.  Should my husband and I give up the 25th anniversary trip we are planning to Europe next fall?  I know I won’t give it up.  And so, I am caught in an environmentalist’s bind.  I know I should walk my talk, but doing so would get in the way of getting something I really want.  And if even I, a self-proclaimed defender of the planet, refuse to sacrifice for the planet I love, how can I expect others to do so?

     So, in closing, I urge all of us to at least think about our own travel.  Can we get there by some means other than flying?  Is the trip really that important?  Would it be much of a sacrifice to stay home?  And if we’re traveling for business, can we accomplish our goals with Skype? –April Moore

 

 

 

photo by Greg Bajor

photo by Greg Bajor

Beautiful November

Friday, November 5th, 2010

     I like the following poem by Robert Frost very much.  It evokes November’s somber beauty.  And I am intrigued by the poet’s musing on the beauty that someone else finds in November days.  He does not entirely share her appreciation, although he certainly appreciates her.–April Moore

MY NOVEMBER GUEST
     by Robert Frost

   My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

 

a November view from our deck

a November view from our deck

Obama’s Climate Change Efforts

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

     While I wish President Obama had made climate change his first legislative priority, instead of health care, he nonetheless has publicly committed to making progress to address climate change.  And he has taken some significant steps in the right direction.   Since most of Obama’s efforts in this area have gone largely unnoticed, I am highlighting some of them here:

  • Obama’s 2011 budget request includes significant increases in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs at the federal Departments of Energy, Interior, and Agriculture.
  • The Administration is raising vehicle efficiency standards to historic levels.  Most notable are the first national emissions and efficiency standards for heavy vehicles.
  • The Administration is reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s largest energy consumer, the federal government. 
  • The Administration is moving forward on greater renewable energy production on public lands.
  • Having determined that climate change is a threat to public health and welfare, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is about to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from large polluters.
  • EPA is toughening its regulation of environmental impacts from fossil energy industries, such as the impacts of mountain top removal coal mining in Appalachia.
  • A presidential task force has been working for more than a year to frame a national strategy for climate adaptation.
  • Another presidential task force is developing national policy for protecting our oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has incorporated the effects of climate change on wildlife into the grants it makes for protecting endangered species.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy has cleared its backlog of new appliance efficiency standards, an achievement expected to save the public billions of dollars over the next 30 years.
  • The Administration has created a strategic plan for high-speed rail in America.
  • The Administration included more than $80 billion in green investments in the stimulus package, making it the largest piece of energy legislation in U.S. history.
  • President Obama has directed nine federal agencies to expedite construction of transmission lines on public lands to help distribute renewable energy.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Nature Conservancy are working to protect coral reefs from climate-related damage in the Caribbean, Florida, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has issued new guidelines on truth in green labeling.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued guidance on how publicly traded companies should report climate risks.
  • EPA and the Department of Transportation are revising fuel-economy labeling for cars and light trucks to show each vehicle’s carbon emissions profile.
  • EPA requires 10,000 of the nation’s largest carbon emitters, as well as federal agencies, to publicly report their emissions.
  • The Administration is working on a requirement that climate impacts must be considered in environmental assessments of federally funded projects.
  • Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued an order to improve federal water policies to deal with climate change, population growth, and other pressures on freshwater supplies.
  • NOAA created a new office to improve climate change information for local governments, academia, and industry.
  • Just weeks ago the military equipped a field encampment of Marines in Afghanistan with fold-up solar panels, energy-efficient lights, solar chargers for phones and computers, and solar tent shields that provide both shade and power for tents.
  • The Navy recently introduced its first hybrid vessel, the USS Makin Island.  On its first voyage, from Mississippi to San Diego, the ship used 900,000 gallons less fuel than a traditional vessel.
  • The Air Force is slated to operate its entire fleet on biofuels by next year.
  • The Administration has negotiated agreements to collaborate on carbon sequestration and clean energy technologies with Canada, Mexico, China, and India.

     All of the above actions are helpful steps in addressing climate change.  But it cannot be denied that they are extremely modest.  Taken together, they account for about 70% of Obama’s goal to reduce U.S. carbon emissions by a mere 3% by 2020, according to Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project.  Still, “Obama and his team have made more progress on this issue in 22 months than all his predecessors managed since Lyndon Johnson was warned about climate change by his science advisors in the 1960s,” writes Becker.  And he’s done it at the same time he’s wrestled with his immediate predecessor’s debilitating legacy of red ink, the Great Recession, Wall Street scandals, the housing crisis, the collapse of some of the nation’s biggest companies, and two wars.”

     The above list of the Obama administration’s accomplishments on global warming come from Bill Becker.–April Moore

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