Archive | March 2014

“… There’s no Planet B …”

2014SSEiconWhat does sustainability look like? Those who tuned in to WORT’s FM radio station’s “THE ACCESS HOUR” last night (Monday at 7:00 – 8:00 pm) at 89.9 FM (also available to listen to live at http://www.WORTFM.org, or through the WORTFM.org archives), would have a pretty good inkling of what sustainable living is truly all about, and why it is especially URGENT that all of us begin practicing it, NOW, since in the words of one of last year’s speakers, “there’s no planet B”.

On Monday, March 24, 2014, Madison, Wisconsin’s listener sponsored radio station, WORT-FM, aired on its “The Public Access Hour” program a show in which climate change educator and WORT volunteer Kermit Hovey interviewed a number of the presenters and participants who had attended last year’s Sustainability Summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The quotes on this post come from the March 24th Public Access Hour show.

This year’s Sustainability Summit is called “Conserving the Future Together” and is being held in Milwaukee on March 26-28, 2014. See http://www.sustainabilitysummit.us for more information.

Last Monday’s access hour show began with Kermit Hovey interviewing Milwaukee Area Technical College’s (MATC) educator George Stone, who was the 2013 and this year’s Sustainability Summit director. In response to Hovey’s question on how he would define “sustainability”, Stone answered:

“Well, A hundred years ago, in the era of Teddy Roosevelt, we called it “conservation”. I think basically that’s what it is. And when I think of sustainability I’m not thinking primarily about sustainable financial resources, or that sort of thing, I’m thinking of the sustainability of natural resources. You know the basic necessities of life, food, water, and that requires soil for the food, all kind of the materials that Mother Earth supplies, for our advanced civilization, they’re in limited supply, we live on a finite planet, with a growing population, we need to be wise – wise use – we need to be wise and frugal in the way that we use these resources, and adopting the Native American philosophy of inter generational justice: let’s say we have a responsibility to future generations -many of the Nations consider 7 generations in the future. So that’s sustainability. It’s our moral responsibility – and I might say, parenthetically, I consider that all human activity has a moral dimension – it’s our moral responsibility to pass on a planet, and habitats on this planet, to future generations that are as close as possible to what we’ve enjoyed. Plundering the earth, and destroying for our own excess, is not justifiable.

“So sustainability I think is an expression of that in the sense that there is a moral responsibility to future generations. James Hansen, our keynote speaker today, refers to it as “inter-generational justice”. That’s my idea of “sustainability”.”

Climate scientist Michael Mann: “… there’s only one planet, right? And if we screw it up, there’s no planet “B”, and so there couldn’t be anything more important in our lives especially when we think about the sort of world we want to leave for our children and grandchildren, what could be more important than trying to find a way to live sustainably, so that we don’t leave a degraded planet for future generations?”

Go to the archives for “The Public Access Hour” for March 24, 2014 at http://www.wortfm.org for the full interview by Kermit Hovey with Michael Mann along with other speakers and participants.

Advertisements

Will Today’s Children Be Left in the Lurch on Future Planet Earth?

aboeing737ai
What will Earth’s climate in the future be like? Today’s children will have no choice but to spend the majority of their time in whatever we leave them.

As anyone today who pays even the slightest bit of attention to what 98% of world scientists have been warning us, the consequences of our unprecedented and continued combustion of massive quantities of the earth’s fossil fuels – primarily in transportation, heating and electricity use – over the past several centuries will likely be dire.

The continuing build up of more and more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere (and oceans) from too much fossil fuel burning will likely leave our planet as a sickening place for today’s children, or children to be, to live.

The earth’s atmosphere will trap more radiation thus more heat from the Sun, making weather storm systems much more potent and deadly than those of today.

The water levels of the earth’s oceans will continue rising, warming and the oceans will become more acidic, causing intolerable conditions for many of our oceans’ species. Ecological and biological systems everywhere are likely to be severely impacted. Sustaining life (and living) will become more difficult on Future Planet Earth. If we continue our ecologically reckless burning of fossil fuels, even at the level we burn them now, today’s children and future children will have to pay the price of that overindulgence. The way we are living now is unsustainable, and how long our present day Earth will remain hospitable for human beings and animals to live is limited. Many known “positive global warming feedbacks”, such as more methane releases by the increasing thawing of the permafrost region; and increasing solar radiation absorption (heating) of the Arctic ocean waters due to replacement of its snow and ice cover with its darker, more sunlight-absorbing, sea water are quite probably already kicking in. Once those feedback systems approach their maximum, global warming could take on the characteristics U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently described as: “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”, and moreover that “the science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie… It’s warning us; it’s compelling us to act” (Kerry).

President John F. Kennedy once famously said: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Not many Americans these days must be thinking about the meaning of those words as so many in particular take round-trip flights by jet to far away places, yearly, which requires the burning immense amounts of fossil fuels, especially in take-off and cruising very long distances.

A prime example here in Wisconsin is Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) are sponsoring round-trip vacations for anyone who’s willing to pay them to arrange flights to Hawaii, Ireland, the Mediterranean, and New York City this year. More trips are being planned to other exotic places, as well. In addition to those people not spending their money to help out our state’s economy, those excursions contribute to the many tons of greenhouse gases from the jet airliners flying those tourists to their destinations and back to the Badger State over the course of those flights. I have informed WPR that flying by jet is without question the worst thing individuals can do if their goal is to minimize their greenhouse gas emissions. It appears they care only about making money off these excursions and care little or not at all about the perils of a warming planet they are helping to cause by arranging these exotic trips. It’s shameful.

Last Sunday’s (3/2/2014) Demonstrations of Civil Disobedience on Potential Approval of Keystone XL Tar Sands Crude Oil Pipeline to Enter U.S.

Several hundred people were arrested during a peaceful protest in Washington DC after they strapped themselves to the White House fence and laid out their demands on Pennsylvania Avenue in protest against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

More than 1,000 students from across the country signed up to take part in the march. They carried placards reading “climate justice now” and “don’t tarnish the earth” with the aim to convince President Obama to reject the pipeline saying it will have dire consequences for the environment if built.

Along their route, they made a stop outside the residence of US Secretary of State John Kerry to push him to recommend President Obama reject project of a 1,700-mile crude oil pipeline stretching from western Canada to the US Gulf Coast.

Keystone-pipeline-protest-007

This protest took place a week ago today. I could find no Mainstream TV news on the action or arrests. WORT-FM carries Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” program so that’s where I first heard of it.

Police were waiting for them in front of the White House in their buses and vans. Around 450 people were arrested in this “largest youth act of civil disobedience at the White House in a generation,” according to the environmental organizers 350.org. Prior to the detentions authorities warned the activists that blocking the sidewalk or strapping themselves to the fence would lead to their arrest.

1369971625-protest-over-keystone-pipeline-during-obamas-chicago-visit_2102510

According to the Sierra Club, Keystone XL is the “keystone” to expanding the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. “This madness cannot continue. Treasured wild places, threatened wildlife, and the health of our climate are all at stake if the pipeline is built.”

“Our future is on the line. The climate is on the line,” said 20 year-old Aly Johnson-Kurts, from Smith College in Massachusetts. She said she had decided to get arrested on Sunday. “When do we say we’ve had enough?”

The $7 billion oil pipeline is destined to deliver high-carbon tar sands oil from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta to a hub in Nebraska, where it would then connect with other existing pipeline networks to deliver 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries in Texas.

Critics of the project say that, in addition to the carbon-intensive impact that results from the extraction of tar sands that will only worsen the effects of climate change. The opponents also feel that the pipeline will also put communities nearby at risk of oil spills and their subsequent fallout.

Activists are also concerned that oil will go to growing economies overseas that have an increasing demand for more fossil fuels and is unlikely to lower the price of gasoline in the US.

In late January, the US State Department released a report on the project raising few objections to the environmental impact of the pipeline.

Obama blocked Keystone XL approval in January 2012, saying he needed more time for a fair review, pushing the decision to after his re-election campaign. Following the publication of the report Obama is expected to make a definitive decision on approval of Keystone XL in a matter of months.

Global Warming Likely to Hurt Wisconsin Agriculture

ag-scenic-farm

Agriculture has been a critical dimension of Wisconsin from early settlement and the logging era, through industrialization, and remains an important economic, social and cultural component of the Dairy State. Wisconsin ranks first nationally in cheese production, and second for milk and butter production. Yet Wisconsin is also second in milk cows, oats, carrots, and sweet corn used in processing. It remains the national leader in processed snap beans, cranberries, corn for silage, mink pelts and milk goats. It is also among the top five states for important agricultural commodities such as potatoes, maple syrup, mint for oil, and cucumbers for pickles.

Continue global warming is predicted to bring increases in both the frequency and the severity of droughts and floods, resulting in increased challenges for Wisconsin farmers and livestock operations. Warmer water temperatures are also likely to cause the habitat ranges of many fish species to shift and disruption of ecosystems already stressed by human activity. Overall, climate change in Wisconsin resulting from global warming will make it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and places as in the past.

Changes in the frequency and severity of droughts and floods could pose challenges for farmers and ranchers. Meanwhile, warmer water temperatures are likely to cause the habitat ranges of many fish species to shift, which could disrupt ecosystems. Overall, climate change could make it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and same places as we have done in the past.

Heat waves, which are projected to increase under climate change, could directly threaten livestock. A number of states have each reported losses of more than 5,000 animals from just one heat wave. Heat stress affects animals both directly and indirectly. Over time, heat stress can increase vulnerability to disease, reduce fertility, and reduce milk production.

Drought may threaten pasture and feed supplies. Drought reduces the amount of quality forage available to grazing livestock. Some areas could experience longer, more intense droughts, resulting from higher summer temperatures and reduced precipitation. For animals that rely on grain, changes in crop production due to drought could also become a problem.

Climate change may increase the prevalence of parasites and diseases that affect livestock.The earlier onset of spring and warmer winters could allow some parasites and pathogens to survive more easily. In areas with increased rainfall, moisture-reliant pathogens could thrive.

Increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) may increase the productivity of pastures, but may also decrease their quality. Increases in atmospheric CO2 can increase the productivity of plants on which livestock feed. However, studies indicate that the quality of some of the forage found in pasture lands decreases with higher CO2. As a result, livestock would need to eat more to get the same nutritional benefits.

The negative effects of climate change will be exacerbated by continuing declines in the acreage of Wisconsin farmland. Wisconsin lost more than 620,000 acres of farmland from 2007 to 2012, a 4% decrease according to the Census of Agriculture, which is conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Likely causes of these declines are urban sprawl development, enabled by federal, state and local highway expansions which replace vegetation and topsoil with heat-absorbing Portland cement or asphalt in order to facilitate continued growth in motor vehicle driving (more fossil fuel burning) and more employment and profits for the construction and bridge building industry.

Sources: U.S. EPA; U. S. Department of Agriculture; Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impact