Can we go a week without a fossil fuel disaster?

As we come further along with renewable energy technology it becomes increasingly shocking to me that we still not only use fossil fuels but mine and develop new tech to exploit them. Last I checked, we don’t hear about wind spills or solar farms exploding. It seems like this last month we are on a roll for fossil fuel disasters. Which still makes me wonder – how can we still be debating the Keystone Pipeline? How can we still be building new infrastructure for coal/oil/natural gas? Here are the latest (at least reported) fossil fuel disasters in the last two weeks, all of which that have decimated the environment in that area.

  •   February 2, 2014: Dan River Coal Ash Spill. North Carolina. It is not certain yet how much coal ash has spilled into the Dan River and Duke Energy is being entirely uncooperative and petulant about the matter, but it is estimated that it is between 50,000 to 82,000 tons and up to 87 million gallons of waste water were released due to a broken pipe. Coal ash may sound harmless, but it is a waste material from the coal industry that contains arsenic, mercury, lead, and several other heavy metals, many of which are toxic. Now this has entered a fragile water system that not only waters thousands of people, but also (nor formerly) beautiful environment. Coal ash is one of the largest industrial wastes in the country. Funny how renewables don’t have industrial waste
  • February 5, 2014: Train Oil Spill. Minnesota. There is NO SAFE way to transport oil because oil is NOT SAFE. That’s what it comes down to. There’s been several train derailments in the last year. In this case, the train didn’t even derail. It was just traveling along with a leak resulting in 12,000 gallons of crude to dribble all over the tracks for 68 miles. But since it’s over dry land or who knows why really, I’m just making that part up – for some reason, no one is concerned about it and no one is bothering to clean it up. Who cares, right? But you bet someone is getting fired over it.
  • February 11, 2014: Natural Gas Explosion. Pennsylvania. This is still relatively fresh and not much is known, but a Chevron Natural Gas well blew up and burned for several hours. One person was injured and another person is missing. The fire burned into the afternoon and as far as we know, it is still burning. The cause of the blast is still unknown, but you know, natural gas is flammable. Wind and solar is not.
  •  February 11, 2014: Coal Chemical Spill. West Virginia. 100,000+ gallons of coal slurry (coal waste) from a coal plant somehow managed to seep into the Kanawha River and sickened six miles of Fields Creek. “This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River,” said Secretary Randy Huffman of the state Department of Environmental Protection. This is just a month after the “chemical spill” on January 9th that got a lot of press. But the press called it a “chemical spill” – and failed to mention that the “chemical” is a byproduct of the COAL industry. It is used to CLEAN the coal that is supposedly already clean that we are still mining for. This is probably the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and one of the ones that we are supposed to be phasing out.

That’s FOUR disasters in TWO WEEKS. And two of those are in the same day. Also, those are the ones that are reported. As we learned, there were nearly 300 pipeline spills in North Dakota alone that were unreported to the public in two years. What about the rest of the states? What about the rest of fossil fuels? Who knows how many more there were. We may never know. Again – it just baffles me there are still people toting how wonderful dirty fuel is. Or that people think that we still don’t have a choice. We do have a choice. It is just a matter of what we chose to invest in. The technology is out there.

Finally I would like to close with a recent report on the price of fossil fuel devastating our communities. About a year ago a pipeline broke near Mayflower, Alabama – a quiet little community. It has been deemed clean, safe, and a happy place to live again – by the oil companies. But of course, so has the Gulf, and that is far from the truth.  Many have moved away. Those that stay are plagued by headaches, nausea and dizziness from oil fumes that still seep from the ground. However running away is not so easy and ExxonMobil is not taking responsibility for its actions. The houses that are being put up for sale aren’t selling. This area of Mayflower is becoming a ghost town.

So tell me. Is this the price that we are going to have to pay for our fossil fuel addiction? Is Mayflower our future? Will we continue to suck the Earth dry rather than work with it until we kick ourselves off our own land? The more I read the news lately the more pessimistic I get about our future. We don’t seem to learn from our mistakes at all. We keep thinking we can just patch things over. There will come a time that the bandages will give way. We need to seriously rethink our actions and decisions.
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Just Like the First Time

Just Like the First Time

Do you remember the first time you discovered something new? Experienced a new sensation? Felt something? Do you remember what innocence is like? If we all could connect to nature like this little girl experiencing rain for the first time, the world would be a better place. The astrophysicist, Neil Neil deGrasse Tyson, once said “For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” Even before I knew the existence of this quote, I always lived life this way. Always went outside or delved deep into a book to find something about the world I didn’t know. Always tried to lesson the suffering of others – whether it be of people, of animals, or of the Earth. So today, go out. Discover something you didn’t know. Find that sensation, that joy. Embrace the sky.

Olympics – An Open Call to Boycott

On the news and social media lately you’ve heard countless things going wrong with this year’s Winter Olympics at Sochi. Most of these things have to do with human rights – which in itself is a great reason to boycott the Olympics. So is Russia’s attempt to slaughter free-roaming dogs. They’ve known the Olympics were coming for a while, why this last-minute massacre? However this is an environmental blog, hence I want to focus on the overwhelming ecological damage these Olympics are costing the environment, despite Russia’s promise that they’d be green.

  • Steamrolled Wetlands: Sochi used to be home to beautiful wetlands that were home to vulnerable birds and plants. It was a paradise for over 60 birds that used to overwinter here. Now, thanks to the Olympics, this sanctuary lies under 7ft of crushed gravel and has been paved over for the Olympic Park. Where are these birds going to go now? And what about all these plants? Wetlands provide a valuable service of long-term carbon sequestration. Now these are gone. Thanks, Olympics.
  • Razed Forests: Not just the wetlands have suffered from the construction from the Sochi Olympics, but the entire mountain region has – 5,000 acres of pristine forest have been annihilated. The new railroad built to the remote region has disrupted migration and hibernation patterns of all animals. They have built a good portion of the Olympic Park in the National Park – displacing hundreds of trees and animals. What’s going to happen after the Olympics are gone? No one was rushing to go to Sochi before the Olympics. It was a quiet little village on the Black Sea, not a bustling city like previous locations. Odds are this will become a ghost town – at the cost of the loss of biodiversity.
  • Toxic Dumps: The hasty building of this new Olympic City has another price – waste. Where is it going to go? In Russia there is surprisingly stringent dumping laws, but all of these are being ignored for the Olympics. Residents have been complaining about an illegal landfill that has polluted the air and contaminated their water – this was evident by a photo tweeted by a reporter in Sochi a couple days ago. The river that runs by Sochi used to be a picturesque, clean, white-water river. Now it runs brown, infected with chemicals, pollutants, and debris thanks to runoff by a wounded environment.
  •  Make it Snow: Let’s talk about the carbon footprint of trying to create snow in a coastal environment. You walk out of the airport in Sochi and you see palm trees, not snow or ski slopes. Temperature there is in the low 50s in the winter and in the 70s in the summer. Hmm…not quite the obvious place for WINTER Olympics, huh? There has long since been a concern that Sochi wouldn’t have enough snow for the winter sports. In fact they DON’T have enough snow. They have to CREATE snow for the winter sports. A good chunk of the budget for these Olympics have gone to create the snow. And if they don’t have enough snow to create with their snow 400 cannons, they’re falling back on snow they’ve been “stockpiling” in the valleys and canyons in the mountains.
  • Blackfish, Revisited: However one of the most offensive and frivolous acts of these winter Olympics is the capture of wild orcas for the sole purpose of entertainment. It has been well documented that orcas are capable of higher emotions and thinking. To rip these animals away from their tight-knit family groups is devastating. To put them in a tank that is equivalent to putting a human in a closet and ask them to perform tricks is equally demoralizing. These animals were caught for the sole purpose to bring in money and people to the games. They will live a lifetime of depression and abuse. All in the name of entertainment.

This all really is only scraping the surface of the environmental impact of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games at Sochi. Russian officials refuse to allow reporters or environmental activists near dumping sites or construction zones – nor have they released any information on full environmental impact. Undoubtedly they have something to hide.

Tomorrow night the opening ceremonies at the Olympic Games start. Dancers will be stomping and twirling flags over the bones and mud of a marshland that had to sacrifice itself for the cause. People will chug in by railroad, built specifically for the occasion. As they come in, they will not see a pristine white river. They will not see brown bears happily roaming the mountains. For dinner people will not eat local salmon – they’ve all but disappeared now from the construction and pollutants. This is the price of the Olympics.

Will you watch?  
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Antarctica’s Purpose

Ever since I started this blog I have been itching to do a post on Antarctica, a place that is unlike any other place in the world that I’ve visited before. I never thought that this White Continent could have any impact on me, but oh boy it did. I enjoyed my time there, but it wasn’t until I returned did I realize the hold it had one me.
              I met a friend after returning for coffee and when I told them where I’d been, they said, “Oh you must be glad to be back to reality.” I smiled and said yes. When I left them though I thought more about what they said. Reality. What is reality? I wandered around my house. I knocked on the walls, turned my water on and off. I looked outside and watched the cars go by. Reality? This is not reality. This is what we’ve created. This is not real – it is all artificial.
              I often try to imagine what the Earth once looked like without any human impact. I thought I had a grasp of this when I was out west in the high desert in California. I thought I definitely knew what this looked and felt like when I lived in Kenya and wandered for miles in the Great Rift Valley. It felt like there wasn’t a soul, but the truth is, no matter where you are in Kenya, people always emerge from the haze. It wasn’t until I went to Antarctica did I understand what true reality meant. What the Earth means without human impact.
              It is one of the few places that humans have a minimal footprint. When I came down there in 2012 I kept looking at mountains and glaciers and one thing that kept me in awe was thinking “no one has put a footprint here. No one has touched that rock before.” No humans are going to come out of the mist here. This is what the Earth looked like before humans put their stamp on it. I want to keep it that way.
              As Antarctica becomes more accessible, we need to draw the line. This is the last frontier. Without a doubt science in Antarctica is very important. This should never end. Exploration of Antarctica is also important. This is Antarctica’s legacy. I also think that tourism is very important to the region. Without this people will never come to this breathtaking region, fall in love, and feel the need to protect it.
              One thing I do object to though is using Antarctica as a playground, which I am starting to see more and more. Recently there was a documentary that came out whose sole purpose, as far as I could see, was to show off these fellows snowboarding in Antarctica. Their crew did not conduct any scientific research (as far as I could see). There were some token scenes of wildlife, but for the most part it was these two guys that got bored with their mountains at home and came to Antarctica to seek out new and exciting mountains to snowboard and to be the first.
              I appreciated the magnificent scenic views, but did not appreciate what this could insinuate. It also could potentially open the door for others to come and use Antarctica as a playground. You do not mountain bike in the Serengeti. Why is there snowboarding in Antarctica? This should not be allowed. The Antarctic Treaty was founded and designated Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.” This does not include using it as a recreation area. I would think snowboarding and likewise activities would hinder scientific pursuits and impair the environment.
              Antarctica is a continent that is not meant to be tamed. She may come across as a lonely, beautiful landmass enticing us to come keep her company, but she will turn on you in the flick of a fin. The winds coming off the glaciers change, the glaciers calve, and she reminds you that while she likes you being there, she is still in charge. People using her for recreation is an attempt to tame her. Scientists coming down to study her and her secrets is respecting her. Tourists coming down to appreciate her natural beauty is to pay her homage. We need to continue to treat Antarctica with awe and respect that she deserves.
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Keystone Pipeline – We Shall Overcome

              Yesterday I joined hundreds of people all over the United States at 270 sites across the nation to come together to let President Obama know that building the Keystone Pipeline is not acceptable. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it given that my area was getting a torrent of snow, but I stubbornly trudged through two miles of deep snow to the local train station to get into New York City. This is a cause I believe in and I’ll be damned if a little bit of snow keeps me from it.
              I am glad I donned my Antarctic parka (which in hindsight might have been a bit of an overkill, but I was toasty the entire time) and made my trek into the City. I have been feeling overall pessimistic about the Keystone Pipeline, as evident in my last two posts. There’s something about being in a group of like-minded people that share your passion that electrifies the spirit and gives you hope.
              At the end of the vigil we sang the classic, “We Shall Overcome,” which given Pete Seeger’s recent passing made me really take in the song more than I ever have in the past. I felt Pete’s presence there with us as I know if he were alive he would have been there or at a KXL protest nearest him. The song is a quiet, enduring, steadfast song of peace meant to be sung in unity. It is the epitome of everything Pete stood for.
              It is also the epitome of everything we are fighting for when we fight for the rejection of the Keystone Pipeline. We shall overcome the Keystone Pipeline someday. Someday we will look back and say we did not put that pipeline in the ground and bring that dirty oil down from Canada. We can look back on that accomplishment in pride. And if they reject the pipeline and they want to bring it by rail, we will still be there to block their way and we will overcome that as well. Deep in our hearts we know this. We will walk hand in hand in peace until we drive those forces of dirty energy set to destroy our environment away from our borders. We are not afraid. Deep in our heart, we do believe, we shall overcome some day.

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Keystone XL – What are We Fighting For?

Image              Since the State Department’s verdict on Friday my waking and even sleeping hours have been consumed with thoughts of the Keystone Pipeline. On February 17th, 2013 I was front and center with 350.org marching to the White House to show my displeasure the last time a similar report came out. Despite frigid temperatures there was an impressive turnout of people from all over the country. I felt surely someone must have heard us.
Then this report came out, the same as before. Has it fallen on deaf ears? No. Are people ignoring the environmental and climactic impacts? Yes. I do believe those in power are aware of the implications. And I do think they are choosing to overlook them because they believe we have no other choices. The fact that we’re developing the tar sands is admitting defeat. It’s licking the residue in the pot when there’s nothing left.
The more I read about the pipeline, the more pessimistic about it I get. I ask – why are they building this pipeline? Because there is an addiction to oil and dirty energy. Stopping the pipeline is not going to cure this addiction. The truth is – the pipeline is the safest way to get this filth to its destination. It is too dangerous to transport by truck – not to mention the carbon emissions from the trucks. It is too dangerous to transport by rail – the several derailments this past year have proven that. So that leaves a pipeline – which has also proven to be equally as dangerous – there was the spill in a farmer’s wheat field in North Dakota. We are fighting to not transport this filth over our boarder altogether.
The tar sand oil is going to flow (well, it doesn’t flow to begin with, so that’s not really an apt word) no matter what. So what are we fighting for? Today (weather permitting, since we are in the middle of a major snow storm right now, hoping it will end in time) I will head to one of the locations nearest me to once again protest the Keystone Pipeline. Please find a location near you to do the same. I will be there with hopefully hundreds of others fighting the fight to keep the keystone pipeline out of this country.
But I am not so jaded to think that it will not soon be built. The southern portion is already in place. I am still going to resist the northern portion. I want to believe that there is still some people in this nation that we can come together and fight against something. We will fight to show that our nation is above the oil addiction. We are fighting to keep carbon out of our atmosphere – which the State Department’s report DID say is a likely scenario – it could be upwards of 27.4 MMTCO2e annually which is equivalent to the tailpipe emissions from 5.7 million passenger vehicles. We will fight for hope that our president will realize that this is not about politics, but about our future.

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Keystone Pipeline Verdict – A Disgrace

Like many in the environmental movement I was disheartened when I heard the news about the State Department’s report, but not surprised. I expected our government, which is blinded by greed, to not put our planet first. By putting our planet first they would be putting people first. But I have figured out that is not how things are run in society. In modern society they put money first. The cost? Everything – citizens, our children, the Earth, our future.

One just has to look at pictures of the area being developed by the Tarsands to see that there IS an environmental impact. Its desolation and wasteland. At first glance you don’t even see oil – you see sand. Where is this precious black gold that people seek? This used to be a pristine ecosystem of boreal forests. Bears, moose, wolves and deer used to graze over these lands. Migratory birds used to stop over here. Now when they stop over here they land in toxic sludge ponds and die. How can you say there’s no environmental impact?

ImageThe State Department’s report specifically looked at the impact of the Keystone Pipeline would have on climate. I imagine they just completely ignored the impact that the Tarsands already have on climate in their study. Oil sands production emits 3 to 4 times more greenhouse gases than producing conventional crude oil. Without a doubt this makes it one of the world’s dirtiest forms of fuel. It is for this reason that Canada will continue to fail to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals in the future. It is also ridiculously difficult to extract oil from sand and uses a ton of valuable other resources. While I don’t condone using natural gas as a resource, more than 600 million cubic feet of natural gas are used per day to extract and upgrade the oil from the tar sands. What if we used this elsewhere? It could heat more than 3 million homes every day!

Right now there is a devastating drought in California. There are farmers that were not able to plant crops this year – this is going to affect everyone, not just California. There are people that have to recycle shower water to water plants and garden. It is very serious. But in the Tarsands, they use roughly 170,000,000 cubic meters of water per year to extract bitumen. And that water cannot even be recycled! 95% of the water used in Tarsands is so polluted it has to be put into toxic sludge pits. But little is done to keep these sludge pits away from wildlife – moose, deer, and other animals come to drink from them. Birds come to try and land in them. Anything that comes near them dies. Not only that, they’re not well managed and the toxic waste seeps out into the Athabasca River. But, there is no environmental impact, so they say.

The reason there is no impact is because the oil is going to come no matter what. If it is not coming by pipeline, it will come by rail. Or trucks. And the jobs this pipeline they are promising it will create? A tiny amount of temporary jobs for a year. Permanent? 50. Just 50 permanent jobs. So what is the driving force here? Money. Canada has a 70billion profit to gain from the Tarsands. They will continue to turn a landmass the size of Florida to look like this:

ImageThey say that it will have no climate impact. But it will have an impact. This pipeline is going to be going through people’s homes, people’s farms, and people’s lands. It is going to have environmental impact. Why are we not building this pipeline through populous areas? Why not go down the west coast, or the east coast? Because we are once again giving the low-income people the short end of the stick. And no impact? There’s been more oil spills on land in this last year than ever before. Our government just chooses to keep them quiet. There were over 300 in North Dakota alone. How many in other states? Oh right, we have to stay quiet about that. Saying Keystone XL won’t impact the climate is like saying no single touchdown will impact who wins the Super Bowl. Doesn’t work.

CONTINUE THE FIGHT! There will be vigil with 350.org on Monday February 03, 2014 at 6:00 PM outside the White House

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Why I Drive a Prius

Recently I had the opportunity to drive something other than a hybrid for 3 weeks. A friend accidentally backed into my (parked) Toyota Prius and crunched the right bumper and some internal structures. When I was given a rental, there were no hybrids available, but they gave me a midsize sedan, which they assured me was the equivalent of a Prius. Well, maybe the Chrysler 200 is a midsize sedan, but it is a far cry from a Prius. It made me wonder why on earth, if it is (and it is, I looked it up) a midsize sedan, do people drive non-hybrid cars?

The rental company was nice enough to give me a car with ¼ of a tank, giving me the full experience of having to fuel up a non-hybrid car. Little did I know that I was going to have to fuel up this car more times than once. I was aghast when I received the receipt and saw that it was over $50. So THIS is what people talk about when they complain about high gas prices. I looked to see how many gallons and saw it was 5 more than what my Prius holds – so surely this will last me as long as the Prius, right? RIGHT?

Wrong. I had to fill it up twice more.  I just don’t get it. I drive long distances for a Prius driver, not just city. My Prius does great. I drive 17.1 miles one way to this one location. I get 57mpg on this trip, one way. I drive to Thanksgiving every year to North Carolina from New Jersey. I can make it the entire way on one tank of gas. My car is comfortable for these long trips – I even did it one year with four freshly broken ribs. I have ridden in other cars and I have to go into the chiropractor the next day after riding in them for 30minutes because they put me out of whack. Not so in the Prius.

Hybrid car skeptics remark what a smooth ride and how comfortable the hybrid is and think it’s a neat little car. This awe also extends to the backseat. I am tall gal – 5’10” – and I can comfortably sit in the back seat with both front seats all the way back. There’s plenty of space. I haul all sorts of junk in this car. I am an organic gardener and a horseback rider. I’ve hauled multiple saddles, hay bales, soil, plants, trees, and more in the back of this car. It has been able to fit things in it that some vehicles couldn’t. It’s moved me to 2 different abodes.

Snow. Did I mention I lived in Buffalo, NY for a spell? My first Prius did SO well in the snow that when we wanted to go do something, and it was snowing, we took the Prius. I’ve never had this car spin out on me or get out of control in the snow. I never had an issue with it in the time I lived in Buffalo. When I moved to Eastern NY state I made a trip up to the Catskills during a snowstorm. We were traveling with another friend who was in a Volvo. Guess who got stuck? That super-duper Swedish car. Not the Prius. In a freak October storm in New Jersey I made my way home and passed a van, a truck, and two cars that were stuck on the side of the road (on a hill) – Prius was chugging along like a champ. My conscious got the better of me when I saw a woman sobbing into her cellphone that had gone off the road so I stopped. I did get stuck then, but I did get UNstuck.

I can even attest to the Prius’ safety. Three weeks after I got my first Prius, a 2006, I was unfortunately t-boned by a Ford 350 on the driver’s side (not my fault). To this day I am surprised that the car was cleared to be repaired and not totaled since the frame, two doors and front fender all had to be repaired. I walked away with no scratch, no whiplash, no injuries, nothing. The car saved me. The same car saved me 7 years later – except this time the poor care sacrificed itself for my safety. This time I was traveling down a highway that had restaurants in the center median. A person two lanes over decided to cut across the lanes instead of going around to get into the restaurant just as I was coming (they stupidly had blinds up on BOTH of their driver’s side windows to shade their occupants from the sun) and I ran staight into them at 50mph as I had a fraction of a second to hit the brakes. Again, I miraculously walked away with absolutely no injuries, thanks to this car. I should add that all occupants of all vehicles were fine. When I received the news that the 2006 wasn’t going to make it, I did some research, tried out some other hybrids, but settled on – you guessed it, another Prius.

My 2006 and I had several adventures. It was used as a getaway car in a wedding, it climbed a mountain in the Catskills (it went on a “road” (if you can call it that) that the only other vehicle that went on it was a Tahoe), and many camping trips. In all those times I don’t think I have ever paid more than $30 for gas to fill the tank. The tank lasts me anywhere from 2 – 3 weeks. The tank from the other midsize sedan rental? It did not last me a week! What?! I had to put in gas two more times (I refused to fill the tank after the first time and just put in $25 at a time, which is what I pay about for filling my Prius).

So to recap, the Prius:

  •  is great on gas (we all knew this – this is what the Prius is known for)
  • is safe (I’ve been t-boned by a giant truck and run headfirst into another car at highspeed. I have not been rear-ended, but I am not going to seek that one out)
  •  is roomy – both for humans, dogs, and cargo
  • can go off-road (I will admit – I have used & abused my Prius. But aren’t you glad I have? And it is up to the challenge! Everyone thinks this is a pansy-ass car but it has got bite)

Now – I am well aware there’s all these trepidations about the Prius not being as hardy as a regular car. Let me reiterate: I am not easy on my cars. If anything can survive me, they can survive you. As long as you stay up to date on maintenance, your car will be good to you. I never have had a single issue with my either of my Prii at all. The only times they’ve been in the shop was for routine maintenance.

So again, I ask, if you are shopping for a midsize sedan, why get anything other than a hybrid?

ImageMy 2006 Prius (RIP)

Divest from Fossil Fuels – What Can You Do

Fossil: fos·sil (fŏs′əl)n.

1. One, such as a rigid theory, that is outdated or antiquated.
2. A word or morpheme that is used only in certain restricted contexts, as kempt in unkempt, but is otherwise obsolete.
3. Belonging to the past; antiquated.

              Fossil fuels. Why are we still using them? Their very name implies something that should be a thing of the past, yet we are still using this archaic form of energy. I don’t have to list all the things wrong with oil, coal or natural gas. This has been well documented. Nor do I have to sing the glories of the various wonderful alternative energies available to us out there – solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and more. The technology is there. We as a people just have to demand it.
              Which is what the fossil fuel divestment campaign is doing. Yesterday the New York Times had an article about some of the nation’s foundations making a commitment to divest from dirty energy. Collectively these foundations are depriving $1.8billion of investments away from fossil fuels. Just let that sink in a little. That’s a good chunk of money that will be denied to companies that have been a big part of the climate cha
              Of course not all of us are in the position to put the heat on fossil fuel companies in similar ways that that these foundations have. We don’t have investments to deny, we can’t stop buying fuel for our cars (but we can take mass-transit, or buy fuel efficient vehicles!). So I am sure you are asking – what can I do to divest from fossil fuels? You can stand in solidarity with the 17 foundations that are divesting.
              The Schmidt Family Foundation, one of the foundations that is divesting, was co-founded by Google’s executive chairman, Eric E. Schmidt. So if you’re in the market for a new cellphone or laptop – buy a Google product. Love ice cream? Great! Feel free all the ice cream you want – but just make sure it is Ben & Jerry’s who have also made the commitment to divest.

              We are all in this fight for our planet together. We need to stand in solidarity. It might sometimes seem like there can’t be much we can do as one person. Keep in mind that the divestment campaign initially started in South Africa and it helped end apartheid. If we continue to spread the movement we can do the same with climate change. Fossil fuels are a thing of the past. We need to starve the companies out and bring in a new era of clean energy.

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Year of Climate Progress

Dear Obama,

One cannot say they are fighting climate change when they are producing more oil and natural gas in their own nation than ever before. One cannot say they are moving forward on climate when they are opening our national parks for oil exploitation, drilling for gas in people’s backyards, and when we are still behind on renewable energy. Look at other developed countries – heck, look at undeveloped countries, Kenya just announced they will be 50% solar by 2016 – they are miles ahead of us. And we’re supposed to be the #1 country in the world? Not even close.

I had several issues with the climate portion of your speech. I do appreciate that you did state that climate change is a fact (doubtless to piss off several conservatives) – however it is also a fact that you are doing little to combat it. In fact, with you drilling away for oil more than ever before you are exacerbating the situation. Speaking of oil, there was no mention of the Keystone Pipeline. But given your dedication to the oil industry, I imagine you plan is to approve it. Especially since part of it is already flowing. Never mind all of the various pipeline leaks and oil spills (if there’s 300 in North Dakota unreported, how many are there in other parts of the country?) that hint that this is not a safe nor clean fuel option.

However the most disappointing part of your speech was the blatant promotion of hydraulic fracturing. Water is already an invaluable resource on this planet that is taken for granted. There are currently people in California whose livelihoods are being threatened due to lack of water. But we are using water, mixing it with hundreds of dangerous chemicals, and poisoning it to further abuse our environment and waterways. It takes 1-8 million gallons of water to complete each fracking job. Couldn’t this water be used for better means? Couldn’t it be used to grow our food in California? Water people in undeveloped countries?

Sure, you have made some advances in the climate fight. You have imposed some limits on carbon emissions, which has helped (however there are other countries that have done better in that department, we are not #1 as you stated in your speech). Also it is true that solar power was the 2nd largest source of new power in 2013 – but it is sandwiched between natural gas (dwarfed by natural gas is more like it) and coal. Coal? Can I ask why we are still opening coal power plants at all? This is such an archaic form of energy that is dangerous and dirty. Didn’t you say too at some point that you were shutting down coal, not investing in it?

I have voted for you twice. The first time I voted for you because I thought you were the symbol of hope and that you were going to change things. I campaigned hard for you. The second time I voted for you because ‘you were better than that other guy’ (way better), but I was much less enthused with my vote. There is nothing holding you back now to make a real difference. I really wish I could go back to the man I saw at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and bring him out. I don’t think that man would have approved of hydraulic fracturing. I don’t think that man would be waffling on the Keystone Pipeline. That man had a vision.