New Year’s Revolutions

Okay. I am not one for New Year’s Resolutions. I like to do what I call, New Years Revolutions. I have a little list of things I would like to accomplish this year:

1) Be more of an advocate for the environment. I grew up free-diving the reefs of the Caribbean. I remember an over-abundance of life. While scuba-diving in Mauritius, there was an impressive quantity of fish, but the coral and the reef itself was suffering. So much of it was dead or dying. I feel like I do not do enough for this beautiful home that we live on. So I vow to do more this year.

2) Along the same lines, my last meal containing an animal was 1/8/14. I am going to become a vegetarian. I also want to be more aware of my food footprint in general. The more I read and the more I see the conditions of this Earth, the more I realize I need to curb my carbon footprint. Meat is one of the largest carbon bombs. I cannot be an advocate for the environment and climate change and continue to eat meat.

3) Do more of the things that I enjoy. I love rock-climbing, but certain things have kept me from it. I need to do more of it, no matter what. And this goes for other things as well. I let certain things take over my life or get in the way of things I want to do or enjoy. I will not let that happen this year.

4) I want to read more books. While I was on vacation I read 4 books. I read when I am at home I don’t read as much. This kind of goes along with #3. I love to read, but at home, TV and other things distract me from it. Books are such a great source to get information from. They can transport you to different lands. I want to go on more journeys and to educate myself more.

5) I want to watch less television. I am not sure how much I watch compare to others. I like to watch the news and some shows. But I want to watch less. In an effort to watch less, I have already disconnected my cable and am cable-free.

6) I am going to abide by the 7 Deadly Sins of Speaking: Don’t gossip. Avoid judgment. Ditch the negativity. Quit complaining. Stop making excuses. Don’t exaggerate. Ditch the dogma. And follow the 4 Rules of Good Speaking: Be honest. Be authentic. Have integrity. Operate from a place of love.

7) I want to list things I am THANKFUL for every day. And let people whom I am thankful for know that I am thankful for them. I am reminded of one of my favorite poems: “I tell [God] I have begun to learn what/ Heaven is about. She wants to hear./ It is, I say, being thankful for eternity.” When I express gratitude, I feel so much better. And I know that spreads. Gratitude is something that is not expressed enough in this day and age.

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Thanks to Climate Change, This Might be the End of Breakfast as We Know It

Thanks to human-induced climate change, we are digging our own graves by endangering our food system. Sure everyone is aware that there is a drought going on in California jeopardizing certain crops and industries. Yes, everyone is also aware that there is a crisis going on with honey bees and that they account for 1 out of 3 bites of food that we take, but are people personally taking account for their actions? Nope. They’re still buying Round-Up at Home Depot. They are still planting invasive species and decorative species that starve bees rather than help them. They are still watering their lawns and carelessly using water.

Besides the global bee crisis and drought, there are some staples in our food system that are close to collapse – with or without bees. Due to climate change, there seems to be a rise in disease and fungus. Breakfast will never be the same. How would our mornings be without that latte? Or a cup of orange juice? Or that bowl of oatmeal without slices of banana?

Coffee
A new study came out recently from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in England that 70 percent Arabica beans could be nonexistent in 36-66 years. With a warming climate also comes disease and pests and mountainsides that are now becoming too warm for the beans to flourish. When the plants are exposed to warmer temperatures the beans grow and mature too fast resulting in foul, bitter tasting coffee. The warmer temps also allow pests like berry borer beetles and diseases like leaf rust fungus to thrive. The study showed a very high risk of extinction of the world’s 2nd favorite warm beverage (after tea, which is not in as much danger as coffee, yet). Sadly, the study leans towards the conservative side because it did not take into account extensive deforestation in the highland forests of Ethiopia and South Sudan, so it could be a whole lot worse.

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Citrus
This 2013-2014 citrus season has been Florida’s worst season in 29 years. This is due to a disease called greening which infected the entire state’s population of citrus. It impedes the trees’ ability to hang onto its fruit and the harvest falls before it can mature. This has affected grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, and tangelos. The price for citrus has already risen domestically. In addition to the fungus, there is also an introduced little Asian pest that is eating away at citrus in California (besides the drought) that is not helping our lemons and limes. Environments that were previously uninhabitable to pests are becoming more inhabitable as they become warmer.

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Banana
There is a serious threat attacking bananas all over the world that has yet to reach the banana crop in Latin America, the world’s largest exporter of bananas, but really, it’s only a matter of time. There’s this fungus called Panama disease that rots the shallow and fragile roots of the banana trees. It was found in Asia in the 1990s and recently it has been decimating the banana crop in Mozambique. Some scientists already believe that the fungus has already spread to Latin America, which provides us with 70% of the world’s bananas. Should the fungus continue to spread, and should we find no cure, economies and countries collapse and we will lose the beloved banana.

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We need to start taking account for our actions and educating ourselves about the threats to our food system. This is only a fraction of the food that is suffering at our hands. While larger issues of climate change may seem far away and not affect us directly, like melting icebergs in Antarctica, our morning breakfast is in our kitchens every day. Perhaps more people will be willing to make little changes in their daily lives to make big change in the long run.

$1 Billion on Climate Resilience? What about Prevention?

              Last week President Obama came out with a plant to spend $1 Billion on climate resilience. I am still a little unclear what this plan entails, but the whole fact that this plan is based on RESILIENCE instead of PREVENTION is a clear sign that we have gone over the cliff of trying to solve the climate issue and now we are going to continue to mess up our climate and learn to live with it. While some folks may see this move by Obama as a bold move towards the climate issue, I see it as an act of defeat. Obama is going to continue to promote fracking. Obama is going to continue to drill for oil domestically. Obama is going to approve the Keystone Pipeline. In an attempt to placate the environmentalists, he has put forth this huge amount towards climate change – but it is going to the WRONG place.

              With any addiction, you do not want to feed the addiction or give anyone who is addicted that the substance they’re addicted to is okay. We are addicted to fossil fuels. This addiction has cost us our climate, our environment, our water, and our health. I don’t have to list all the ways we are being affected – but it is costing us. Wouldn’t it make more sense to try to PREVENT these things from happening rather than these proven detrimental things to continue to happen? Couldn’t this $1billion go towards renewable energy or carbon reduction? How about MAKING money by taxing these dirty industries that are costing us rather than giving them subsidies?

              Let’s put this in another perspective. Climate change could very likely cause the next apocalypse. What’s amazing is that we are doing this to ourselves. Willingly. But that’s beside the point. Let’s replace “climate change apocalypse” with “zombie apocalypse.” Then this “$1 Billion Climate Resilience Fund” becomes the “$1 Billion Zombie Resilience Fund.” Obama is budgeting to help communities to prepare for zombies and to fund research and technology to protect against them. Sounds ridiculous right? Well so does the fact that we are knowingly causing our own demise and doing squat about it.

              We have the technology and resources out there to bring climate change to a grinding halt. It is not going to happen overnight, but it we can slow it down and do something about it. New technology is being born every day. There are children out there that are winning science fairs that have created tech that can clean oceans of plastic. We have light bulbs that last longer and use less energy. New renewable tech is out every day. Better, more fuel efficient cars are being made every day. We, as the people, need to create a demand for these products and for our world to be a better place. We cannot let these dirty industries and fuels win. If we do, we move beyond the brink.
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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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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.