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Taking it personally
In the fight against global warming, local activists are walking the walk
BY LINDA FALKENSTEIN APRIL 19, 2007
This is the year Al Gore won an Academy Award for his documentary ‘ really more of a disaster movie ‘ about global warming. An Inconvenient Truth was a surprisingly entertaining ride through blind misdeeds to the planet that have left Homo sapiens teetering on the edge of disaster. Is there still time to save life on earth as we know it?
Even as the film made Al Gore the unlikely Angelina Jolie of climate change, the man who was once the next president of the United States was ripped by the right-leaning Tennessee Center for Policy Research for not being energy efficient in his own lifestyle. His home near Nashville, the group charged, uses more than 20 times as much electricity as the national average.
While some have defended Gore and challenged the group’s claims, the incident underscores the importance of not just talking the talk but walking the walk. Turning back the clock on global warming requires not just rhetoric but personal sacrifice.
Governments have an essential role to play. The federal government can insist on higher fuel-efficiency standards and promote alternative sources of energy. President Bush, seen by many as an impediment to progress, has called for a 20% cut in gasoline usage over the next 10 years.
In Wisconsin, Rep. Spencer Black and Sen. Mark Miller have introduced a ‘Global Warming Solutions’ bill modeled on a landmark law in California. It seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels. Black says possible approaches could include the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles, the development of biofuels, incentives for buying hybrid cars, an increase in mass transit, and other initiatives to reduce reliance on automobiles.
Locally, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has embraced a ‘Natural Step’ program to maximize the city’s energy efficiency. But the city council last month defeated a proposed ordinance to require landlords to use more energy-efficient lighting.
These initiatives aside, it’s clear, at least to some people, that turning back the clock on global warming will require widespread changes in personal behavior. The whole of our society is complicit in energy policies that have clogged the atmosphere; thus we all need to help find solutions.
But how great a role?
A common criticism is that the kinds of changes recommended for the average Joe ‘ buy a more efficient refrigerator, ease off on the heat and air-conditioning, use fluorescent bulbs ‘ are too slight. But when advocates advance more dramatic proposals ‘ fining people for driving gas guzzlers, making it harder to park, enforcing carpooling ‘ they are met with derision.
We can’t have it both ways. We can’t point to global warming as a looming catastrophe that cries out for forceful action, then ridicule and dismiss all calls for dramatic change.
In Madison, as throughout the nation, some individuals are taking personal responsibility for the problems caused by global warming. They are setting an example for others by altering the way they live their lives.
As we head into the 37th annual Earth Day this weekend, we’ve picked a half-dozen such souls from the Madison community, to present a range of responses to the crisis of global warming.
Finding win-win solutions
Jon Foley is not a pessimist. He knows the challenge is great, but he’s up to it.
‘To pretend everything is fine, to keep on dancing on the deck of the Titanic, is not smart,’ says Foley, 38, director of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at UW-Madison. But he doesn’t think all is lost: ‘We have to get started on solving these problems now ‘ but we also have some time to keep working on them.’
Foley knows it’s frustrating that many solutions seem small: ‘One percent here and there. But if we keep at it and look at the long term,’ these little actions add up. Besides, encouraging small changes is more effective than ‘screaming at people about how we are going to have to live in caves and eat tofu by candlelight from now on.’
Where is the best place to direct our attentions? Foley plays the ‘win-win’ card. Almost everything that ordinary people do to help save the planet will save them money too.
Among his suggestions: Use compact fluorescents instead of incandescent bulbs. Get a home energy audit. Install additional insulation and weather stripping. Have your furnace inspected, and change the filter regularly for better performance.
Foley doesn’t mince words about SUVs: Don’t drive them. He blames much of the U.S.’s abysmal per-capita energy consumption on these ‘living rooms on wheels.’ Buy a smaller car, he advises, or use the bus system.
In his own case, Foley used to live in Mazomanie and commute. But he moved to live close enough to walk to work. His four-member family, including two drivers, gets by with one car. He takes a taxi when the need arises, which he says is far cheaper than insurance and maintenance on a second car.
Foley and his family have managed to cut their home energy usage in half, mainly through upgrading appliances. They get by without air-conditioning. He’s looking to make other changes to his home, built in 1910 ‘ better windows, a new furnace, maybe even a solar water heater. He sees it as a five-year process. He spins it as ‘not a sacrifice, but living smarter.’
In addition, Foley’s family buys 100% wind power through a green energy program that Madison Gas & Electric hopes to expand in 2008 (currently there’s a waiting list). And he’s planted trees, which absorb carbon dioxide, keeping it out of the atmosphere.
The good news, says Foley, is that solutions to global warming ‘are in our grasp. We have the engineering solutions we need.’ And while he’s troubled that the state is eying more coal-fired power plants, he’s encouraged by signs that it’s helping to develop cleaner energy.
‘It’s time to become leaders in this field,’ he says. ‘This is a whole new industry, and Wisconsin could become the go-to place in the world for renewable energy and smart biofuels. It’s a great business opportunity.’
Curtailing auto use
Mike Neuman has been working on ‘the car problem,’ as he calls it, for 25 years. His original job for the state Department of Natural Resources was to study the environmental impacts of state highway projects.
Looking at emissions and the effect of highways, he saw that car emissions were clearly causing environmental harm, including forest and wetland loss. And he tied vehicle emissions to an increase in asthma attacks, including the one that killed Madison Times publisher Betty Franklin-Hammonds after a peak traffic period.
In 1999, Neuman made headlines when he proposed a plan to actually pay people not to drive. An uproar ensued, and Neuman ended up being reassigned within the DNR. Having him continue to review environmental impact statements, he says, was ‘just too much for them.’
Neuman cites evidence that the climate is warming faster than scientists previously predicted. ‘We can’t put this off. We have to reduce motor vehicle use, increase mass transit use, particularly buses, get rid of single drivers and instead carpool.’
And while Neuman, 57, still owns a car, he tries to use it as seldom as possible. He bought his near-west-side home more than 20 years ago, and always commuted to his job downtown via bike or bus. ‘I can’t say I’m 100% non-driving, but I’m more watchful in terms of how many miles I drive.’
Neuman considers environmental advocacy his second job. He frequently writes letters to the editor and to public officials. He has testified before legislative committees, and works within groups, including the Preserve Our Climate Coalition and the Madison Bus Advocates. He also writes for madisonindymedia.org on environmental issues.
The number-one thing people can do to combat global warming, says Neuman, is to cut back on auto use. ‘The auto is the worst thing to ever happen to the environment,’ he says.
Well, actually, it’s the second worst thing. Air travel, it turns out, is even more of a burden on the environment, per passenger mile, than driving cars. Neuman suggests that people fly less and ‘invest in forestry somewhere’ to offset the impact of jet fuel emissions.
Andy Olsen, 46, has long cared about the environment. The former Dane County supervisor (and, briefly, Madison alder) is now a policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. He’s working on ‘repowering the Midwest,’ helping farmers invest in cleaner, renewable energies. This involves some ‘rabblerousing in very rural America,’ where farmers and environmentalists have often disagreed. A big part of his work is to form coalitions with ag groups.
Olsen helps farmers to become more energy-efficient and utilize renewable technologies like wind, solar power and biofuel. This allows agriculture to be ‘more part of the solution than the problem’ in terms of global warming. And farmers can own the energy-creating systems, so these initiatives contribute to rural economic development as well as environmental protection.
One innovative project Olsen supports is the Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program. It would pay landowners for storing carbon in their soil through ‘no-till crop production and longtime grass-seeding practices.’ The Farmers Union would then trade the carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange. Big companies could purchase these credits to offset their emissions. Thus industry would foot the bill to pay farmers for following environmentally sound practices.
At home, too, Olsen looks out for the health of the planet. Last year, as a birthday gift, he got a portable solar panel that folds up like a briefcase ‘ basically a solar generator that recharges batteries.
Olsen and his wife, Debra Stapleton, have bought a hybrid car, invested in a high-efficiency washing machine and an energy-efficient refrigerator and are continuing to weatherize their home. He’s also looking at installing solar space heating. He uses compact fluorescent bulbs, and has given these bulbs as Christmas gifts. Through such means, he estimates he’s cut his energy use by 30%.
‘Before you go solar, start with efficiency,’ he advises. ‘It gives the most bang for your buck.’
Having faith in the future
Dave Steffenson, a Methodist pastor, retired in 2000 and began working with Wisconsin congregations to reduce the ecological footprint of churches and parishioners. He’s now acting director of the Wisconsin Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign, preaching that protecting the planet invokes three central precepts of the Judeo-Christian tradition:
Stewardship. In Genesis, it says the role of humans is to take care of the earth for all creation.
Justice. The role of religion to speak for the voiceless ‘ including, in this case, the natural world.
Values. The prophets and Jesus believed in a life
not based in materialism. People of faith are called on to live a sustainable lifestyle.
Even so, urging people of faith to change their ways is a challenge, says Steffenson, because ‘congregations have not had environmentalism in their self-image.’ Some Christians on the extreme right ‘misunderstand environmental themes, see it as pagan or New Age, nature worship or blasphemy.’ But he sees a shift occurring, especially among younger church members.
Churches themselves can be somewhat wasteful, because they tend to be large buildings that are not in constant use. Steffenson likes to start with noncontroversial changes, like switching to compact fluorescent lighting, and move on to larger projects, like advocacy to the Legislature.
Steffenson, 69, has a long history of activism, starting with civil rights campaigns in the 1960s and the peace movement during the Vietnam War. He became interested in environmental issues when he moved to Green Bay in 1972. The environment, he says, is a ‘good way to get at a whole lot of social issues.’
He moved to central Madison so he could walk more, noting that he’s getting a little old to bike. He owns a hybrid car and buys locally grown food.
‘I’m just one indicator of the religious community in U.S. becoming aware of the threat [to] nature and becoming active,’ says Steffenson, who has 14 grandchildren and is ‘haunted by whether they will curse us in the future. We have a very short time to do the turnaround. That’s what motivates me.’
Pulling out all the stops
Jan Sweet, 48, is not actually a global-warming activist. He is, however, vehemently anti-car.
Sweet’s crusade to reduce oil use would doubtless help combat global warming, even though he is ‘neutral’ on the issue of climate change. ‘Weather does change in cycles,’ he says. ‘I’m not on board with global warming 100%.’
But Sweet does think humans have failed to manage the earth’s resources. Instead, ‘we extracted and exploited,’ creating a world of trouble.
Sweet devotes himself full time to raising public awareness over our finite supply of oil. He fronts a Madison group called Cities Without Cars, devoted to reducing oil dependence and strategizing ways to survive when oil is no longer available.
‘Maybe when the car you have right now reaches its maturity, you don’t get another one,’ he suggests. In the future he foresees, with more co-housing, groups of 25 families could share one or two cars.
He has proposed building new housing without parking and a ban on auto ads. He’s called for capping buildings at five stories in anticipation of the day when there won’t be enough electricity to run elevators. He’d plant fruit trees around town to stave off famine from breakdowns in the food supply.
To the extent that there’s been a response at all to Sweet’s push, it’s been hostile. A Wisconsin State Journal editorial has deemed his proposals ‘twaddle.’
Yet it may be a misstep to dismiss his ideas out of hand. One of Sweet’s more recent proposals, to charge drivers a toll to drive into central Madison, is modeled on a system adopted in London in 2003. If you’ve ever been stalled in a bottleneck on East Johnson or University Avenue heading in or out of the isthmus, you can see how the argument makes some sense. Even if everyone were driving a Prius, there would still be a traffic jam.
Sweet’s concerns about cars destroying communities started decades ago, when he went to the UW-Milwaukee for a degree in urban planning. He gave up his car in late 1980s. ‘The first year was the hardest,’ he relates. ‘It gets easier.’ Living in Madison ‘ a walkable city with good public transportation ‘ makes things a bit easier.
If some of Sweet’s ‘little economies’ seem a bit offbeat, his goal is sincere: ‘I’m tickled to think that I am doing something to help Madison.’
Getting by with less
Marion Stuenkel is so conscious of her carbon output she didn’t go to a family gathering in Ohio last Christmas. The 60-year-old grandmother could have ridden in a car with other family members ‘ as they pointed out, she wouldn’t be using up any extra energy ‘ but Stuenkel held her ground. ‘You have to give up the idea that you will only be happy through traveling,’ she says.
Stuenkel’s parents were conservationists. Her father, a steelworker, once turned down a job at a nuclear plant: ‘There was always a sense that we were mindful of the environment.’ She moved to Madison in 1993, in part to be closer to her son. ‘I didn’t want to waste energy going back and forth from New Mexico to Wisconsin.’
Last year, Stuenkel retired from her state job, after calculating that she could get by on retirement benefits. Given her lifestyle, it doesn’t take much.
Stuenkel avoids shopping, because ‘we don’t need all this stuff that we’re advertised into buying.’ She walks or takes a bus most places she goes; she owns only a few pieces of clothing; she drinks tap water. Her view is that stuff generates more stuff: If you buy books, you need a bookcase. Clothes need hangers. Bottled water generates bottles.
Because most grocery store food is transported long distances, she buys food only at farmers’ markets. That means this time of year, her diet is ‘somewhat restricted.’ The one indulgence she hasn’t given up, yet, is coffee.
If this makes retirement ‘ a time when others are playing golf and taking Caribbean cruises ‘ sound like enforced penury, Stuenkel doesn’t see it that way. As she puts it, ‘Working all your life does not give you license to destroy the environment.’
Stuenkel admits it’s been hard not to travel. She’d always dreamed of seeing the Great Wall of China; she has friends in New Mexico and a Swedish exchange ‘sister’ she may never see again. But she prefers to see the positives in staying put. She calls it ‘gathering appreciation’ and ‘swearing stability.’
In her 644-square-foot apartment on Madison’s east side, Stuenkel unplugs appliances (including her refrigerator) when they’re not in use and relies on natural light when she can. If she needs to use the Internet, she goes to the library. She uses a solar oven for her personal cooking. It’s portable and can cook eggs in about two hours, she reports, so long as the sun is shining. And when it’s not? ‘You don’t always have to eat cooked food.’
While Stuenkel believes in everything she’s doing, she is not one to force her practices on others. But she thinks others will come around as the need for change becomes more evident.
‘All this stuff has been thought of before and shoved aside,’ she says. ‘Thoreau has one paragraph that says it all.’ She’s referring, of course, to his classic advice: ‘Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!’ He wasn’t ahead of his time, says Stuenkel, so much as we are behind ours.
Global Warming is a Local, State, National and International Emergency that Will Only Worsen in Time, Not Get Better
Unfortunately, as the volumes of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases that are being released to the atmosphere on a daily basis as a result of human activity (mainly from burning coal, natural gas, oil and jet fuel) continue to accumulate there; and Earth’s remaining green space (forests, prairies and other carbon dioxide (CO2) consuming (sequestering) vegetation) is reduced; and Earth’s oceans, seas, the Great Lakes and numerous other water bodies become evermore warmer and saturated with carbon dioxide (CO2), making them more acidic; the prospect of Earth being as hospitable as for life as it has been in the recent millennia in which humans have inhabited this planet is getting slimmer and slimmer.
Scientific studies have been showing for decades, and now with more and more clarity, that modern day living – particularly by residents in the developed countries of the world, who rely so heavily on burning fossil fuels in their daily living – for energy warmth in winter, and electricity generation and transmission, year-round, for shipping goods and trading, and, moreover, for personal or work related travel, the construction, pavement and land alterations that are done which not only allow for that activity, but promote it, that that kind of living by so many millions and even billions of people, will ultimately lead to grave consequences for our planet.
And with our human population continuing to grow geometrically, coupled with the outright refusal of much of the population, their political leaders, and even the recently elected president of our United States of America, Donald J. Trump, continuing to advocate for the highly resource consumptive “business as usual” lifestyle — many human and other lives have already been lost, and people all over the world have suffered, and many more people and animals living in the future will suffer, or be lost, and many trillions of dollars will be lost as well as a result of climate change related “natural” disasters, and rising sea level, a situation which now is not only unprecedented but becoming increasingly dire and predictable.
It’s not like you can just turn the water faucet off and global warming will stop. As stated in Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe’s comprehensive textbook: “Climate Change – Picture the Science” (2008), it could take centuries and even millennia to reverse it. “even if we act to keep atmospheric concentrations at the same level they are now [atmospheric CO2 concentrations 400 parts per million], the global mean temperature will continue to increase for a few decades as a result of past greenhouse gas emissions [GHGs] and the thermal inertia of the oceans [Water holds heat and releases it much slower than hard surfaces such as cement and asphalt.]”
All we can do now is to slow the pace of global warming by conserving energy obtained either directly or indirectly from burning fossil fuels. Moreover, changing to energy alternatives that don’t add to the rising concentrations of GHGs takes more time and money [but creates more long term jobs], and finding ways to adapt to the changes in the climate and the effects brought about by those changes will also cost money and will hurt the poor and the very young and the more elderly individuals [very young have less body mass to buffer individuals to higher heat; older persons are more susceptible to heat stroke].
“In short, there are no shortcuts to addressing a challenge that is global, pervasive, profound, and long term. Global citizens must grasp the challenge, master its intricacies, and take responsibility, for our own generation, and those to come”.[Jeffrey D. Sachs, New York, 6/16/2008]
Also see “UW-Madison Faculty Challenge DNR Climate Change Revisions”.
The following is from Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 22, 2017:
In a shift from the practice of two other state agencies, Wisconsin emergency management officials have released new information on climate change and its implications for the state.
In a report that it posted online last week, the state Division of Emergency Management devoted extensive attention to climate change and how a warming planet could spur natural disasters such as floods, drought and forest fires.
The report contrasts with the Department of Natural Resources and the state Public Service Commission, which scrubbed mentions of climate change and human-generated greenhouse gases from their websites.
As recently as December, DNR officials removed language from a web page devoted to the Great Lakes that had earlier acknowledged the role humans play in global warming. Officials inserted new wording saying climate change is a matter of scientific debate [Not – true! Truthful scientists will tell you the scientific debate ended years ago. MTN]
The PSC, which regulates electric utilities, eliminated its web page on climate change at some point before May 1, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found recently. The scrubbed information included a link to former Gov. Jim Doyle’s task force report on global warming. The Democratic governor’s report in 2008 recommended that Wisconsin reduce the use of fossil fuels and rely more on renewable sources of power. The measures were never enacted.
In the cases of the DNR and the PSC, the information can still be found on the Wayback Machine, an online archive.
In a new five-year disaster preparedness plan, the Division of Emergency Management cites research such as from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. It shows global warming is likely to produce more extreme weather. Examples: more days of 90-degree-plus temperatures and more intense rain events.
Bursts of rainfall, the report said, could lead to natural calamities such as flooding, collapse of dams, sinkholes and lake bluff failures.
While other agencies have removed references to the role of human activities in global warming, officials at the Division of Emergency Management included such a statement.
“Although it is widely accepted by the scientific community that the observed changes in global temperatures are the result of human actions, there is considerable uncertainty about the impacts these changes will ultimately have,” the agency wrote.
The document also acknowledges “some debate about the cause of climate change,” but added that statewide temperatures have increased 1.1 degrees in the past 50 years and that more extreme weather events are likely.
The new planning document was approved in December by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Lori Getter, spokeswoman for the state Division of Emergency Management.
Wisconsin was one of the first states to complete a new plan. As part of the process, FEMA required states to consider potential climate effects, she said.
Big Time Media Blew It Big Time – They Failed to Fact Check Donald Trump’s Denial of Human-caused Global Warming
President-elect Donald Trump’s pre and post U. S. Presidential Election statements describing his unscientific “belief” that global warming is not human-caused is flat wrong and the media should have corrected him. It is a scientifically accepted truism that human activity – especially coal and natural gas (methane) burning to generate electricity, petroleum product burning including automobile gasoline, diesel and jet fuel burning, the latter for use by the U. S.’s military aircraft, commercial airplanes and private jets, and humans having either paved over or replaced billions of acres of land formerly in tropical rain forests, prairies, wilderness, or in other lands containing carbon dioxide sequestering vegetation with greenhouse gas producing uses by humans.industries resulting changes in the climates on all of the Earth’s continents, the rising sea levels, worldwide, due to the measured acceleration of the melting of all the Earth’s glaciers, most notably Greenland’s, massive GreenlandIce Sheet are very wrong and very threatening to our planet. Global warming, which is known to be an inevitable consequence of increased trapping of radiated heat energy at the earth’s surface which originates from the sun, due to the known increase in the volume of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, and other human engineered trace gases), primarily caused from excessive burning of fossil fuels over time, and by the paving over of the planet’s land surface, is factually undeniable.
The U. S. mass media (TV, radio, newspapers, social media, other) are most responsible for Trump’s deception filled presidential election victory, which will exacerbate global warming heaviest toll on the children of today, future generations of people and other living things having no choice but to struggle to live on a much more inhospitable planet which is destined to become more and more unlivable as time goes on – because of our uncaring actions of excessive fossil fuel burning today.
People in the U.S. and elsewhere could do so much more than they’re currently doing to stop projects such as the Dakota Pipeline project, and other environmentally disastrous energy, transportation, and natural resource consuming unsustainable projects with countless unintended negative consequences that will unquestionably hurt the living conditions for people and all other life on Earth by simply making more thoughtful decisions in how and where they choose to live, recreate, work, travel, etc.
In particular, it is essential for all to MINIMIZE the burning of oil (fossil fuels) in recreational and other needless travel, especially long distance travel, by jet airplane and daily solo motor vehicle commuter travel. In that way, we all reduce the economic need oil and other fossil fuel extraction and pipeline projects, reducing the eventual burning of the fossil fuels and adding to the already catastrophic volumes of atmospheric greenhouse gases, scientifically established to be warming our planet, melting the earth’s polar ice caps, and virtually all the world’s glaciers, thus causing sea levels to rise, the oceans and the earth’s other water bodies to warm and acidify, killing off an untold number of earth’s species, including significant degradation of earth’s many wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef to say nothing about the countless loss of life and human suffering caused by the increase in extreme weather events including droughts, flooding and severe storms such as have already been transpiring across the globe including the heavy costs borne by our own United States over the past year and right now. The losses already occurring to the world and its people and other life on the planet are beyond measure yet our political representative are doing virtually nothing to stop this terrible tragedy to our planet and its future and those who will have no choice but to call it their home.
Please sign my petition for the U.S. Congress to establish and sufficiently fund federal and state programs that would offer the American public monetary incentives to reduce their unsustainable travel levels. Tell your elected representative to legislative act now before it’s too late! http://www.allthingsenvironmental.com.
Please do not patronize TV networks. Their so called “news” programs, sports coverage, and many other programs are financed heavily from automobile industry commercials, while Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television are funded by the travel industry, heavily promoting airline and long distance travel motorized travel, which contributes huge volumes of greenhouse gas emissions, from jets,automobiles and other fossil fuel powered vehicles, mostly for recreational purposes, leaving a permanent, indelible mark for succeeding generations live with. National Public Radio is funded by the Koch Brothers. They all say they are “neutral” on political issues. But Climate Change is Science. It is continuing and in fact accelerating, regardless if the president-elect believes in it or not. To say otherwise does not comport with the facts.
Either we act now or life as we know it on this planet may soon be history.
“The Sun will never disappear, but the Earth may not have many years…. Remember, Today… Well well well, oh, well”
– John Lennon (9 October 1940 -8 December 1980), musician, peace activist, artist, band leader of rock band “The Beatles” and founder of “The Plastic Ono Band”, humanist, dreamer … murder victim.
Upgraded and Expanded “Conservation Rewards” Proposal for Government, Individuals and Families to Reduce Wisconsin’s Fossil Fuel Burning Emissions Aired on WORT-FM, Madison, Radio’s “Public Access Hour” Show Monday, August 15th, on 89.9 FM, and Streamed on www.wortfm.org, from 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM CST
You can listen to this one-hour music and narrative on this proposal and by going to the wortfm.org achives for August 15, 2016, the “Access Hour” radio call-in show, to hear songs of hope and despair about climate change, global warming, and our country and the world’s progress in ensuring (or not ensuring) world sustainability for people, plants and animal.
People must stop their actions that promote living just only for today as if tomorrow doesn’t matter.
A plan for all governments (state; federal, other entity who may wish to contribute) is proposed that would provide annual rewards (cash incomes) to individuals and families who take personal action to reduce their annual fossil fuel burning actions in transportation (cars; airplanes; household purchases) and in heating their homes and using electricity use from power plants that produce electricity derived from fossil fuel burning (coal; natural gas; diesel oil generators)
Tune in to 89.9 FM around Madison, or log into http://www.wortfm.org anytime and anywhere to hear and hopefully enjoy the show. Please join me and Bruce Springsteen in making “High Hopes” for all Wisconsinites and hopefully others a true reality in reducing the growing threats of climate change, rising income inequality and poverty, and excessive militarization of in the world by the United States of America.
“Love is always the answer.” – Mississippi Charles Bevel, written on cover of his excellent CD called “Not of Seasons” that he sent personally to your’s truly, recorded 2000. The beautiful cover song “Not Season” has a very poignant message – we ought not forget it. It reminds me of Elvis Presley’s song “In the Getto” written by Mac Davis.
Song: “GO“, CD: “COME ON NOW SOCIAL” [Inspirational]
July 4th (or any day!) is a Good Day to Initiate Positive Changes in our Economy and Environment
This post is being offered as a work in process. Readers are encouraged to submit constructive comments, all of which will be considered in final development of the post.
The inspiration for this post has come from: University of Wisconsin professor Bassam Shakhashiri, who has informed so many children and adults in the Madison area through his “Science is Fun” shows.
The post is also inspired by the Steve Miller Band’s performance of the song “Fly Like an Eagle”, played to a full capacity Breese Steven Field venue in Madison, Wisconsin, on July 1, 2016. The song can be heard and the lyrics read by clicking on the above description. It is well worth listening too and applies more now due to all the strife in the world than ever before.
Due to wars, poverty and the threatening and dangerous changes to climates around the world (23 people died from extreme rain fall and flooding in West Virginia), president Obama and other world leaders have told us actions to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are “urgent”. Certainly, former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson (1916 – 2005) founder of the first Earth Day, held April 22, 1970 (and every 46 years thereafter on April that same date), would see little to celebrate our country’s 240th birthday today.
Record levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and oceans, leading to deadly heatwaves, storms, and record levels of global average temperature. Travel via driving and flying contribute more than one-third of the U.S.’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
According to a study by Sabrina McCormick, Jaime Madrigano, and Emma Zinsmeister: “Preparing for Extreme Heat Events: Practices in Identifying Mortality”, published in April 2016 in the journal Health Security, the authors make the following assertion:
“Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme heat events. These events affect cities in increasingly abrupt and catastrophic ways; yet, many of the deaths caused by exposure to heat have gone unnoticed or are inaccurately identified, resulting in a lack of urgency in addressing this issue. We aim to address this under-identification of deaths from heat waves in order to better assess heat risk. We investigated death records in New York City from 2010 to 2012 to identify characteristics that vary between deaths officially categorized as caused by heat wave exposure (oHDs) and those possibly caused by heat (pHDs). We found that oHDs were more often black and of a younger age than would typically be expected. We also found that there was a lack of evidence to substantiate that an oHD had occurred, using the NYC official criteria. We conclude that deaths from heat waves are not being accurately recorded, leading to a mis-estimation….”
Science shows us that the global warming is contributing to higher sea levels and a 30 per cent increase in the acidity of the oceans, leading to declines of species and in losses to fishing and tourism industries, worldwide.
Meanwhile, poverty and income inequality in the United States and elsewhere are having devastating effects on millions of individuals, families and so many unfortunate children. A recent study shows children growing up in poverty suffer permanent brain damage.
President John F. Kennedy told us in 1961 to”Ask not what your country can do for, ask what you can do for your country”. The best thing U.S. citizens can do everyday is to minimize their daily and annual greenhouse gas emissions.
The Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, reads as follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …”
Our government officials at the state and federal level have failed in not passing legislation that meaningfully reduces Wisconsin and the U.S.’ catastrophic levels of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. What is needed is that our government at the federal and state level should by now have enacted programs which offer meaningful positive financial incentives (dollars) to the public to reduce total annual motor vehicle driving, flying, and using electricity and heating that have been derived through fossil fuel burning.
Reducing the amount of fossil fuel burning in the state and country would have “cost reducing” benefits as well, such as reductions in oil spills, train derailment explosions, and the financial and cost of expanding highways, airports and fossil fuel fired power plants.
Burning fossil fuels, whether this is done in highway motor vehicles, jet airplanes, sea going ships, recreational motor boats, gas or coal-fired electricity generation plants, or in furnaces to heat one’s home, has a pronounced adverse effect on public and animal health, worldwide, by increasing breathable air particle pollution while at the same time adding to the record high and ever growing, catastrophe creating, quantities of heat generating greenhouse gas volumes in the atmosphere.
The mounting volumes of these gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) are known to be warming the planet, accelerating rising sea levels around the world, causing more acidic and warmer oceans (bad for sea life and coral reefs), stronger and more costly and deadly storms (Hurricane Sandy, Houston, TX and West Virginia floods), and unparalleled drought and wildfires (California , Alberta Canada, Africa, Australia, Middle East, which has led to major upheavals in countries’ economies, population migrations and known calamities of major human and other life fatalities.
According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), monthly global average temperatures for May 2016 were the highest recorded monthly average global temperatures recorded since the agency initiated monitoring Earth’s monthly temperature values in 1880, setting a string of consecutive record high monthly average temperatures for our Earth’s combined global ocean and land surfaces in the 137-year record.
May 2016 was characterized by warmer to much warmer than average conditions across Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Central America, northern South America, northern Europe, Africa, Oceania, and parts of southern and eastern Asia, according to the Land & Ocean Temperature Percentiles map above. Areas with record warmth included much of Southeast Asia and parts of northern South America, Central America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and northern and eastern Australia. Near- to cooler-than-average conditions were present across much of the contiguous U.S., central and southern South America, and much of central Asia.
The sooner that people living today accept the fact that their own actions – such as driving gasoline and other greenhouse gas emitting fuels powering their highway motor vehicles, and choosing to fly today’s jet fuel (a fossil fuel) powered airplanes, and using electricity derived from burning fossil fuels and burning natural gas (another fossil fuel) – and deforestation and cement paving and other human activities that are known to be adding to the already known dangerous and abnormally high concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and warming and acidifying of the earth’s oceans – the better off things will be for all future life on Earth.
It’s Now or Never – Please Join the Movement to Save Our Planet from Runaway Global Warming by Signing “Preserve Our Climate” Petition
It’s now or never, folks. What’s wrong with making extra income by helping to save our planet from run away global warming? If not for us, how about for today’s and tomorrow’s children? How about as an alternative to the federal government raising the minimum wage?
Our USA spends over $600 billion a year on military defense, and plans to spend trillions of dollars upgrading its nuclear weapons (see yesterday’s story on this at http://www.democracynow.org). This week, the U.S. Armed Services Committee of the House of Representative voted to approve 3 new combat ready naval ships, one more than the Navy had asked for!
In addition, our President Obama signed a multi-billion dollar spending bill on December 3, 2015 funding a major and costly rebuilding and expansion of the capacity of the country’s highway system, providing for millions of cars and trucks burning fossil fuels, free of charge. And rebuilding highways puts more millions of tons of greenhouse gases from the cement making process and large equipment emissions into our and future Earth inhabitant’s atmosphere and oceans, again, free of charge.
And next up is Congress’s continued funding of the nation’s aviation system, to provide the flying public with greater airport capacity, meaning more pavement of the landscape and more people flying, adding million more tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and oceans, again, free of charge. All of these billions of tons of emissions may be free of monetary charge, but they are certainly not “free” of cost. The ultimate cost of degrading the planet’s atmosphere, oceans and all growing things is insurmountable — upholding the status quo is clearly very, very costly – to us now and to all those who will have no choice but to live on the earth bequeath them.
It’s no wonder today’s children are getting increasing worried about what is reported to be happening to their future of their planet. They have good reason to be concerned, don’t you think? I know I do, and have said so for the last 16 years of my life, to my former employer (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – as a whistleblower), to my family, to public and community radio , and to our area’s newspapers readers.
I also helped formed the nonprofit “Preserve Our Climate” with two area women, working to the inform Madison area people about the issue in the first few years of this century, holding workshops, funding a play at the University of Wisconsin Theater, and trying to keep “Kites of Ice” possible in Madison – the organizers ultimately decided the reliability of our Madison area lakes to have safe ice all winter long was no longer the case, thanks to a warming climate caused by an increasingly stronger “blanket” of greenhouse gases since Earth’s human population started burning ever greater quantities of fossil fuels in power plants, transportation, agriculture and in the construction industries.
Others concerned about the future of Earth’s climate have tried to change things, as well. But unfortunately, all the efforts have been to little avail, because the “powers that be” want to keep things the way they are, promoting the increased burning of fossil fuels often for frivolous activities. They are not only fools, what they are doing is criminal. Things will never be the same – they can never be.
But we have to do what we can to prevent a worldwide catastrophe of unimaginable dimensions. You can sign the Preserve Our Climate petition here. Then IMAGINE a world the famous peace activist and musician John Lennon believed was possible, until his life was taken.. And speaking of John Lennon, we need to “Give Peace a Chance”., and stop funding the militarism of the world as the famous civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about . Peace is what most everyone who doesn’t profit from war wants; and not the continuing destruction of the planet and death and injuries to so many of Earth’s human and other populations. Peace on Earth is what all civilized beings need and deserve, not more “investment” in war.
Meanwhile, Tensions Rise Between Sanders and Clinton over Fossil Fuel Financing …
Fossil fuel money being used to finance presidential campaigns? Does that surprise anyone? During an event at State University of New York at Purchase last week, Hillary Clinton accused the Sanders campaign of lying about her when she was confronted by a Greenpeace activist, who asked whether Clinton would continue to accept money from fossil fuel companies. In response, Sanders called on the Clinton campaign to apologize during a rally in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “The truth is that Secretary Clinton has relied heavily on funds from lobbyists working for the oil, gas and coal industry. According to an analysis done by Greenpeace, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and her super PAC have received more than $4.5 million from the fossil fuel industry. In fact, 57 oil, gas and coal industry lobbyists have directly contributed to her campaign, with 43 of them contributing the maximum allowed for the primary. And these are not just workers in the fossil fuel industry, these are paid registered lobbyists. Secretary Clinton, you owe our campaign an apology. We were telling the truth.”
Enbridge Pipeline Public Hearing Wednesday in Madison
The State of Wisconsin, which has already issued a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources permit to the Enbridge Company to increase the capacity of its pipeline across Wisconsin, to transport up to 1.2 million barrels of tar sands oil a day, will hold a contested case hearing on March 23, 2016, in the hearing room at the Wisconsin Division of Hearings and Appeals, 505 University Avenue, Suite 201, Madison, WI, at 9:00 am.
The tar sands oil, some of which is already being pumped through the pipeline, originates from the tar sands mines located in Alberta, Canada where the product is processed, is also believed to contain significant quantities of flammable additives which make the product fluid so that it can be pumped through the pipeline. The fluid of additives is then returned to the processing site in Alberta, Canada via an adjacent pipeline for reuse.
Unseasonably Warm Weather in Wisconsin
Below is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Outdoor Report summary for March 10, 2016. However, conspicuous by absence is any mention that Wisconsin’s unusually warm weather this month is at all related to human activities that cause climate change. Some of the many sources of fossil and other fuel combustion that emit greenhouse gases to the atmosphere in Wisconsin include: fossil fuel burning in highway motor vehicles (gasoline and diesel oil); jet aircraft (refined oil/jet fuel); electric power producing plants (primarily coal, and natural gas – methane); natural gas burning for heating homes, buildings, churches and other buildings, recreational utility vehicles; road construction vehicles; in cement and asphalt manufacturing; in snowmobiles, boats, motor vehicles used in tractors and other agricultural machinery, in lawn mowing, in logging, and in other miscellaneous motorized products that burn fuel. Other greenhouse gas emissions may come from mining operations including sand and gravel mining and mining for metals, and from animal livestock propagation for food sales.
Despite the findings and recommendations from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concludes the climate change problem is “urgent”, as does President Obama, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker and the state’s Republican lawmakers have refused to even hold a citizen hearing regarding the growing threat of climate change, not just to Wisconsin’s future economy, but also the quality of life future residents and visitor to Wisconsin will be provided, as well as the threats of a changing climate to animal and plant life in Wisconsin for generations to come.
Unseasonably warm weather melts snow cover, slows maple tapping efforts
Wisconsin has experienced some unseasonably warm weather in the last week with daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s and even a low 70 reported in Milwaukee. The warm weather has melted most of the snow cover statewide, with just snow surviving in some forested areas of the Northwoods. Snowmobile and cross-country ski trails are now closed statewide and most will remain so even if the state does experience a late season snowfall.
State park and forest trails that were groomed for skiing are now open again to hiking, but most properties are reporting that rail-trail, mountain bike and horse trails are closed, as conditions are soft and muddy and use of trails in these conditions can cause significant damage to trail surfaces.
With the general inland game fish season now closed except on those waters open to game fishing year-round, only a few panfish anglers have been venturing out, but ice conditions are rapidly deteriorating and many shorelines in southern and central Wisconsin are opening up, making access difficult and dangerous.
Most anglers on Green Bay are removing fishing shelters prior to this Sunday’s deadline as waters are rapidly opening up. Anglers were out in high numbers around Sturgeon Bay last weekend with many limits for whitefish reported. Anglers were open water fishing the Fox River at Voyageur Park for walleye but success rates have been low, though with the warmer weather that is expect this to change.
Raccoon, skunk, muskrat, mink, and opossum activity has increased as temperatures have increased and snow has departed. Wild turkeys have been strutting and starting their spring courtship. Flocks are breaking up and the large groups of toms and jakes have already decreased in size as they establish their spring pecking order.
With the warm weather and south winds there has been a significant increase in spring migrants sighted this week, including red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, robins, song sparrows, swamp sparrows, bluebirds, turkey vultures and more. Other early migrants returning to breeding territories include American woodcock, great blue herons and eastern meadowlarks. There was a heavy waterfowl migration across the southern half of the state, including common goldeneyes, all three mergansers, green-winged teal, pintail, wood ducks, and many others. Greater white-fronted geese are moving through in numbers, as are large flocks of Canada geese and occasional cackling, snow, and Ross’s geese. Canada geese are staking out territory and will begin nesting soon. Sandhill cranes are courting and dancing. Bald eagles are incubating eggs and some great horned owls already have chicks.
Maple syrup season has gotten off to a very slow start due to mild temperatures, especially overnight lows staying above freezing. One producer placed out 670 taps late last week and harvested 370 gallons of sap on Monday. The 10-day forecast does not show any significant changes to overnight lows. The concern is that trees will bud out soon resulting in an early end of the season.
A number of observers reported seeing leopard frogs, spring peepers have been heard in the south and salamanders were active with the warm temperatures. Unfortunately the warm weather has also brought out reports from shed hunters and maple tappers finding the first ticks crawling around on them.
A Day to Remember – February 29, 2016
I could not allow this day – Feb. 29 – to pass without comment. Leap year – a year having an extra day in February – occurs only every four years.
So, is that good or bad?
It’s not good, in fact it’s DISASTROUS, because yet ANOTHER day, and year, and decade has gone by while our elected officials in the State of Wisconsin Legislature, and the U.S. Congress, and the population of our state and country, refuse to take the threat, and now reality, of global warming caused by too much fossil fuel burning – in cars, trucks, airplanes, electric power producing plants that burn fossil fuels, seriously, despite alarming increases in sea levels.
Too much fuel burning primarily coal, methane (natural gas), and oil products, have been burned by humans over the past decades and centuries for the energy that has been produced, resulting in the emission and accumulation of elevated concentrations of “greenhouse gases” in earth’s atmosphere, resulting in global warming, the rise in the elevation levels of earth’s oceans, due to the melting of the earth’s Arctic and Antarctic Circle’s land ice and snow, the shrinking of earth’s mountainous glaciers, a thawing of the earth’s permafrost region (one-fifth of the earth’s land surface), causing a warming, expansion, and acidification of earth’s oceans, leading to a dangerous rise in sea level.
The warming is already wreaking of havoc on earth’s biological systems, including humans, most notably in poorer, tropical countries, many of which are already experiencing grave losses due to extreme weather events, such as drought, heat waves and severe storms, along with unprecedented flooding, all of which had been scientifically predicted well over a century ago!
The warming has been compounded by the increasing loss of vegetation, particularly the loss of the tropical rainforests, which had been naturally sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but not anymore, by the ones which have been replaced by other forms of development or money producing mono-culture agriculture.
Global warming from human causes is not rocket science, despite what the flat earth believers may still be claiming. However, saying that human-caused global warming is not occurring, because it has not been “proven” to be happening – as of this February 29, 2016, is utterly preposterous, and those who claim human-caused global warming is not happening are either fools or worse yet – liars.