Archive for February, 2014

Releasing a Tree

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

I thank my friend Nancy for sending me this lovely poem describing the experience of releasing a Norway Spruce from the snow that is weighing down its branches.  Like many of my favorite poems, this one gains in richness for me with each reading.

Says the former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser:  One of the founders of modernist poetry, Ezra Pound, advised poets and artists to “make it new.” I’ve never before seen a poem about helping a tree shake the snow from itself, and I like this one by Thomas Reiter, who lives in New Jersey.

Releasing a Tree
by Thomas Reiter 

Softly pummeled overnight, the lower
limbs of our Norway spruce
flexed and the deepening snow held them.
Windless sunlight now, so I go out
wearing hip waders and carrying
not a fly rod but a garden hoe. I begin
worrying the snow for the holdfast
of a branch that’s so far down
a wren’s nest floats above it like a buoy.
I work the hoe, not chopping but cradling,
then pull straight up. A current of air
as the needles loft their burden
over my head. Those grace notes
of the snowfall, crystals giving off
copper, green, rose—watching them
I stumble over a branch, go down
and my gloves fill with snow. Ah, I find
my father here: I remember as a child
how flames touched my hand the time
I added wood to the stove in our ice-fishing
shanty, how he plunged that hand
through the hole into the river, teaching me
one kind of burning can ease another.
The branch bobs then tapers into place
and composes itself, looking
unchanged though all summer
it will bring up this day from underfoot.

Good News for Our Climate

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

While I participate energetically in efforts to address climate change, I am generally not very optimistic about our future.  That is why I need to read articles like the one below.  It describes a number of strong, effective actions being taken right now that can give us all reason to be hopeful!–April Moore  

Beyond Keystone XL: Eight Reasons for Optimism on Climate Change

Sunday, 09 February 2014 09:11By Michael NorthropYes! Magazine | Op-Ed

1. We already know how to engineer zero-carbon buildings.

These buildings generate at least as much energy as they consume. Developers like K.B. Homes have been building them in multiple states during the past several years. Experts estimate that more than 200 of these buildings have been built in the United States during the past five years.

Within a few more, many thousands of these buildings will come online. California isrequiring that all new residential buildings be net-zero in terms of emissions by 2020 and all new commercial buildings be net-zero by 2030. Other states are enacting tax credits to create incentives for similar building techniques.

Net-zero buildings are just one example of a much larger trend nationwide toward energy efficiency. The Energy Information Agency, which tracks U.S. emissions, has shrunk its estimates of future energy use by buildings every year since 2005. The EIA’s projections for energy consumed by buildings in 2030 are now 40 percent lower than what they forecasted eight years ago.

2. We are finally entering the age of the electric car.

Rules enacted during President Obama’s first term are ramping up the average fuel efficiency of passenger cars—from 30.5 to 54.5 miles per gallon between 2013 and 2025—and boosting the market for electric cars. Eight automobile companies have 14 electric vehicles available in the U.S. market. Sales of these vehicles nearly doubled in 2013.

3. We are using more renewables, and less coal, than ever before.

Wind power development reached a new record in 2012: In the United States, we added 13,000 megawatts and invested $25 billion. Solar has also had two breakout years in a row. Installed solar in the United States more than doubled in 2012 to 7,000 megawatts, and grew by its largest margin ever in 2013 to more 10,000 megawatts by end of the third quarter, despite the low cost of natural gas.

Meanwhile, it’s more affordable than ever to install solar: The cost of panels has declined by 60 percent since the beginning of 2011. We have also finally learned how to finance solar, through mechanisms like solar leases that take away upfront installation costs as well as feed-in tariffs that allow purchasers of renewable energy equipment to receive a set price for the energy they put back into the grid.

4. States are showing that it’s possible to make policies that both cut carbon emissions and create jobs.

California has already rolled out its cap-and-trade program to rein in carbon emissions. At the end of June, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington and the premier of British Columbia announced that they intend to get the ball rolling on a clean energy program that will bring a million new jobs to the region. That program will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent or more.

5. Cities are facing the consequences of climate change and taking action.

In the months since Superstorm Sandy, a growing chorus of mayors is leading American cities to prepare for climate change and become more resilient in the face of storms and sea-level rise. New York City has helped drive this effort with a plan for protecting its infrastructure and citizens. It has also commissioned a study to examine how best to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

6. The president is ready to take action, at home and internationally.

Barack Obama’s Treasury Department has announced that it will no longer contribute money coal-fired power plants funded by the World Bank. Meanwhile, Obama has put together a coalition of other nations willing to make the same commitment, including critical funders and board members of the World Bank.

The Obama White House and State Department are also actively working with China and India to negotiate an agreement to prevent the use of hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases that are more than 1,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Here in the United States, since President Obama announced his new climate plan last June, the EPA has begun making rules for carbon pollution from power plants. The plan also lays out several other big-ticket actions to increase energy efficiency in large trucks and trailers and reduce emissions of methane, another especially powerful greenhouse gas.

7. China wants clean air and clean energy.

Emissions from coal plants kill 1.2 million people per year in China, according to theWorld Health Organization. Air pollution from coal-fired power plants has become apolitical liability for the country’s leadership and is driving a widespread call for change. Just five years ago, Chinese officials said the country’s carbon emissions would not begin dropping until 2030. Analysts at Citibank now predict that Chinese coal emissions are likely to peak this decade.

This is not soon enough to rescue the climate, and many people are hoping to find ways to cut coal use even faster in China, as the country rapidly develops renewable energy. Not only is China now the largest manufacturer and exporter of solar and wind equipment; it is now installing these technologies at home much faster than anyone else. China built 10,000 megawatts of new solar in 2013, and will add another 12,000 megawatts in 2014, according to projections—much larger amounts than industry insiders anticipated even a year ago.

8. Renewable energy is on the rise around the world.

Renewable sources will produce more power than natural gas and twice as much as nuclear by 2016, according to the International Energy Agency.

For example, even Saudi Arabia, a nation synonymous with oil, is building 54,000 megawatts of new renewables for domestic energy consumption. Germany aims to get 80 percent of its power from renewables by 2050. Already, 25 percent of its grid is renewable.

Germany’s renewable energy legislation has become a model for governments around the world. Nearly 100 governments, including China, India, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, 20 European nations, and a large number of regional and local governments worldwide, have enacted some version of the German feed-in tariffs.

These are major milestones, and this is an important moment. We are a long way from solving the climate problem, but the threads of success are coming together. We need to find a way to seize these opportunities, reduce our emissions, and dramatically expand the low-carbon economy during the next few years.

A Love Letter to the Earth

Friday, February 14th, 2014

On this Valentine’s Day, the day we set aside to celebrate love, I am reminded not only of the  family and friends I have been given to love, but also this extraordinary planet, which gives us our life.

I found a lovely website full of love letters to our earth, written by people from all over the world.  I have posted below one of the letters that I especially like.  If you’re interested in reading more of them, you can click here.  love letters to the earthApril Moore

Dear Earth,

Thank you for all that you have given, still give and, hopefully, will continue to give to me and the other living beings who are blessed enough to have emerged from your vital energy. I wish that you will forgive our human errors and shine your light on other lost souls, so that they might remember the great source from which we all came, and one day will all return to.

I love you, dear Mother, for the pure balance and true meaning of life that you teach us.

Thank you from the centre of my soul.

Love always, your Daughter

 United Kingdom

Pristine Nature Sacrificed to the Sochi Olympics

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

 

dumping of waste and polluting of rivers, in the creation of Sochi Olympic sites

 

With the 2014 Winter Olympics about to begin at Sochi, Russia, the Russian government is getting a lot of bad press.  And rightly so.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is taking heat for his government’s human rights abuses, its opposition to gay rights, its treatment of Olympic construction workers and local Sochi residents, and its current efforts to silence a variety of protestors who are speaking out against the government’s actions.

All the issues I have heard the protestors raise are important.  But there is another issue, at least as important, that has been getting far less attention.  And that is the destruction of massive swaths of pristine, globally important natural environments to make way for this year’s Winter Games.

While, unfortunately, every Olympic Games involves destruction of land in the building of sporting venues, housing, etc., the Russians’ preparations for the Sochi Olympics are off the charts in destructiveness.

Part of the problem is the location of the 2014 Winter Games.  The Black Sea resort city of Sochi is at the edge of the Western Caucasus World Historic Site.  This Site “is the only large mountain area in Europe that hasn’t experienced significant human impact,” according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  It is a place where endangered, rare, endemic and relic animal and plant species are concentrated.  The Site includes four-fifths of the ecosystems of the Caucasus, which is a world center for plant diversity, a UNESCO document states.

Of course such an environmentally significant and sensitive area should never have been chosen for the Olympics in the first place!

Environmental leaders from around the world pleaded with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to yield to Putin’s intense push to host the Games at Sochi.  But Putin was determined, and he made big promises to create a completely ‘green’ Olympics.  And the contract that was ultimately signed did include measures to lessen the damage that would inevitably result from Olympic construction.  But Russia, the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, and the City of Sochi have all violated those binding environmental stipulations, charges Environmental Watch on the Northern Caucasus (EWNC).

A great deal of the Western Caucasus World Historic Site, including the Sochi National Park within the Site, has been destroyed.  Here are some examples of the damage resulting from Olympic construction:

  • Sensitive Caucasian wetlands, a paradise for more than 60 bird species, including some vulnerable species, has been buried under crushed stone and criss-crossed with irrigation canals.
  • Brown bears and certain reptiles have disappeared from the areas around the mountain venues.
  • Illegal dumping of waste has been documented in Sochi National Park.  And the construction of power lines has caused landslides in the park.
  • Of all the damage to the Sochi wilderness, “the river is the biggest shame,” says Igor Chesten, who heads the World Wildlife Fund-Russia.  The Mzymta River, which flows from a lake high in the Caucasus down to the Black Sea, was known for its beauty and cascading waterfalls.  The Mzymta was also the spawning site for about one-fifth of Russia’s valuable Black Sea salmon. But the high-speed railway and road built along the Mzymta’s unspoiled edge to connect the Sochi airport with upstream ski resorts, have destroyed much of the river’s beauty and all of its value as a fishery.  Environmentalists report that the formerly clean, white-water river has been transformed into a controlled waterway, tainted by chemical pollutants and debris, and now devoid of trout and many other fish that formerly thrived in its waters.

Event organizers made attempts to ameliorate some of the damage they caused, but not with great success.  

For example, Olymstroi, the state corporation overseeing the Olympic construction, planted more trees than they cut down.  But, according to Suren Gazaryan, a scientist with EWNC, much of the tree planting was pointless.  Planting a bunch of trees could never substitute for the loss of an established forest, which is a complex ecosystem, he explains.  Besides, he adds, much of the planting was done by unqualified workers, with large-scale violations of methodology.  Most of the planted trees died.

To ‘make up’ for the destruction of sensitive wetland habitat for birds, an “Ornithological Park” was created outside Sochi, complete with benches and artificial ponds.  ”But there is not a bird in sight,” reports Maria Antonova in YAHOO! SPORTS.

The degree of damage to pristine mountain forest land and to the habitat of so many animal species sickens me.  Yet I will watch the Olympics anyway, as I always do.  And while I’ll enjoy the beautiful feats on the ice and on the slopes, I will be mindful of the horrible damage that has been done  to our planet to bring these Games about.

But I do have an idea for future Olympic Games.  

Why should there be a new host city every two years?  Why destroy so much of the natural world that surrounds any host city?  I suggest that the IOC determine a small group of cities that have already hosted the Olympics and wish to do so again.  Let’s rotate the Games among these cities, reuse the sporting venues, hotels, and other infrastructure these cities have already created?  Then we won’t continue destroying more of our planet for these biennial extravaganzas?–April Moore

A Polar Bear Plunge to Combat Climate Change

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

CCAN staffers hacking up the river ice, so that we plungers could enter the water!

    I had quite an experience last Saturday, and I feel great about it.

     Along with about 150 fellow climate activists, I took a BRACING plunge into the Potomac River, just south of Washington, DC.  And while my whole body said ‘no!’, my walk out into the icy river was well worth it.

      We ‘plungers’ undertook this insane act in order to raise money for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN).  CCAN works in a variety of ways throughout Virginia, Maryland, and DC to combat climate change.  And every January, CCAN calls on its supporters to participate in its annual Keep Winter Cold (looks like we’ve done a pretty good job of that this year!) Polar Bear Plunge.  Each of us ‘plungers’ invited friends and family members to support our plunge by making a financial donation to CCAN.

     So during the month of January, I invited many of the people in my life to support my plunge with a donation to CCAN, and I am gratified by the response.  I thought perhaps I had set myself too ambitious a fundraising goal–$2,500.  But, in fact, I ended up raising  more than $3,000 for CCAN!  It’s heartening to me that so many people feel strongly enough about the need to tackle climate change that they were willing to support  CCAN’s work financially.  And CCAN surpassed its overall goal of $65,000 by more than $6,000!  

     I think a Polar Bear Plunge is a brilliant fundraising strategy.  If I had asked individuals to make a donation to CCAN simply because it’s an effective organization, I doubt my request would have gotten much notice.  But when I told people I was planning to plunge out into the Potomac River in January, that made an impression!  People notice insanity, it seems.  

     Although this was my third CCAN Polar Bear Plunge, I still felt nervous beforehand.  Fortunately, my dear friend Diane Loomis accompanied me, as she had with both of my previous plunges.  Diane came with me into the changing tent, helped me keep track of my things, took photos, and helped me stay reasonably calm as I anticipated facing that icy water. 

      Unlike in years past, there was so much ice on the river last Saturday that event organizers had to arrive early to deal with it.  Wearing wetsuits and wielding pick axes, they hacked away at the ice to create a ‘pathway’ so that we ‘plungers’ would be able to make our way out into the river! 

    The pre-plunge rally was, thankfully, brief, but inspiring.  Rev. Lennox Yearwood reminded us that while the Civil Rights Movement had been important in addressing equality, humanity is now in an even more serious fight–for survival, for a livable planet for our children.  

The plunge was brief.  And we all made it out alive.  Once we were dry and dressed, we all had fun celebrating at a nearby restaurant.  

Thank you, CCAN, and I hope to be there again next year.–April Moore   (photo below by my friend Ira Shorr)

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