Green to Go Initiative in Durham (a reprise)

Our friend Jill has posted an excellent post on the need to severely reduce plastic use to combat the overflow of plastic in the oceans and landfills. A link is provided below. Here is a neat local initiative in Durham, NC that I came across and wrote about three years ago. These are the kinds of initiatives that need expansion to other places.

Many sports fans know that Durham is the proud home to Duke University or the site of the cult sports and life lesson movie “Bull Durham” with Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon. Some may know that Durham is one of the three cities that surround the Research Triangle Park which houses many global firms’ headquarters, marketing or research departments. But, it is now getting some good press for a grassroots initiative called “Green to Go.”

What is “Green to Go?” In short, it is a building partnership with 25 local restaurants to replace Styrofoam or plastic to-go or leftover containers with a reusable and durable plastic one. The idea is instead of throwing away a one-time product, it can be replaced by one that can be used for a 1,000 times. With islands of plastic in the ocean and spilling out of landfills, this is a much needed innovation.

How does it work? It requires a $25 membership, but let’s you check out a spill-proof container with your first order from one of the 25 participating restaurants. You simply return the cleaned container on your next order to any of the 25 participants and get a newly sanitized one. This is how the food inspectors are kept happy.

On the website link provided below, they have 507 subscribers and 1,522 measured uses of the containers. But, this is a replicable idea that will likely catch on with more notoriety. The website includes the PBS Newshour piece that I first became aware of their efforts. Please let others know about this and check it our for yourself.

STOP! | Filosofa’s Word (jilldennison.com)

Democrats keep missing a key message

As an Independent and former Republican and Democrat voter, I wish I could have the opportunity to have detailed conversations with MAGA folks. Whether folks like Bernie or not, he is going to take his message to the MAGA world. Some may not like progressive policies, but Bernie tends to speak the truth. To me Democrats have tended to be lousy marketers missing out on a key, data centric message.

Since 1921, there have been thirteen Republican White Houses and going on thirteen Democrat White Houses. Under which White Houses have the most jobs been created? The answer is the Democrat White Houses and it is not even close. I recognize presidents get too much credit and too much blame for the economy, but the data reveals over 2x the number of jobs created in those periods under Democrats. Other measures show the economy and capital markets do better under Democrat White Houses as well.

What is interesting is my anecdotal evidence shows even Democrats think it is the opposite. Democrats should be more aggressive with that message. The former president inherited an economy that was 91 months into consecutive growth with 2 million plus jobs added for six straight years. To the former president’s credit it continued, got a little better for a little while with the sugar rush of the tax cut and then returned to pre-tax cut levels, before the botched handling of COVID-19 by the former president sank it

What still amazes me about the incompetent COVID-19 handling, is the ball was sitting on the tee for the former president to do what he craves, be presidential. But, he whiffed. He proceeded to play up a hoax, endangered his own MAGA followers by holding public events, and then continued to naysay it where many of his followers refuse to consider masks or vaccines. All occurring after he confided in Bob Woodward that he knew of the dangers. And, this is the person some want to return to the White House?

So, Democrats need to seize the message. They are the party of jobs and here is the data. If they don’t, Republicans will paint them with whatever message sells. And, if Democrats don’t believe me, in 2012 Republicans were told in memo form to use the term “failed stimulus” when speaking of Obama’s stimulus package. Even Democrats believed this, but what is funny, the stimulus did not fail. Per six econometric firms included the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus package was accretive to the economy.

What would happen if…

The Mamas and the Papas sang the lamentation “Monday, Monday.” It is the least favorite day of the week, poor Monday. People do not want to go back to work and the snooze delay on the alarm gets a workout. So, let’s brighten this Monday by asking a few what if questions. What would happen if…

  • All the money used to house, protect, garden, compensate and communicate for royal families with no power was instead used to provide scholarships or housing to people in need. Queen Elizabeth, you have been grand, but your role is not really that needed to run the country and being a ceremonial mascot (as my Political Science professor termed it) is an expense we do not need.
  • Legislators, presidents and other elected officials had term limits. OK, will give you senators and presidents two terms, three for Congress members. And, no lobbying immediately following your tenures. If donors knew there is a time limit on their investment, they may be less inclined to fund candidates. With limited time, the candidates may devote more time to doing their jobs – right now two Senator terms counting twelve years amounts to less than eight years of work given the estimated fund raising time.
  • Fact checkers at a press conference are armed with super-soaker water guns and each time the politician lied more than a little, he or she would get soaked. By the end of one of the former president’s press conferences, he would have one wet suit.
  • Politicians who name call or label folks are sent to a corner to sit in time-out. Ted, go back in your corner. Not that one, that one is reserved for Donald. When you can debate without name calling, we will let you back into the discussion Of course, we may need more corners to rooms.
  • Politicians should be like pro golfers and wear their funders’ logos on their shirts and visors. In fact, they should shed the suits, as that gives the appearance of more gravitas than many deserve by their words and actions. We will then see that said politician is funded by these six organizations. And, none of the euphemistic PAC labelling – tell us who really supports you. NRA, Exxon Mobil, Dupont….

That is enough for now. In my view, the world would be a better place if we did any of the above. It would be more fun and truthful, as well.

People want your money – be vigilant

Scams abound. At the dinner table when the kids were younger, we discussed with our teens that people want your money. So, you have to be vigilant and guard against them. Some want it by legitimate means – advertising to get your money for services rendered or products bought. Some want it through aggressive marketing to accelerate such purchases and some want to steal or trick it from you. The scams are the trickster part of the equation.

I had a new scam attempted on me this week which I will call the Electric Utility Scam. This scam was quite well organized with a sincere woman saying I owed money to the electric utility and they were on their way to cut off my power. I could stop them if I called Accounts/ Billing and gave me the number. I called and they asked for my last four digits on my phone and I asked what address they showed, which they correctly offered. He said I owed $500 and I said that was not possible, as my last bill showed a lesser amount due and it was not the due date. He then gave me to a supervisor who wanted me to go on my bank account and do a quick pay. I then said I do not believe you are the utility company and hung up. I called the number on my account statement and they confirmed it was a scam.

I don’t know why I went along for so long. I was skeptical from the outset, but the sincerity and the multiple people involved showed how organized it was. Yet, it was a fraud attempt. Other scams have been tried on me, my wife and my relatives. Here are a few to let others know they are indeed fraud attempts.

Grandparents Scam – This one bothers me the most as the scam preys upon the elderly by saying a grandchild has been in an automobile accident and cannot reach his parents. When the grandparent asks which one, the grandparent offers the name, which the caller seizes upon. The scam is to wire a sum such as $2,700 to an account. Usually the numbers are high, but not extreme.

Amazon Scam – This one is the most active as we have had about a half-dozen calls. An order on the account did not go through and they want us to provide credit card info to pay an odd sum like $739.45 to process the order. The first time we asked each other if we are expecting anything at all or for that amount. Since the answer was no, it must have been a scam. When other calls came in for similar odd amounts, we knew for sure.

IRS Scam – This one is scary sounding saying there is legal action being taken against you for taxes owed, but this is a scam. The IRS will send you a letter, not call you. And, they will try to resolve issues without legal action, before they ever move down that path.

Microsoft Scam – This one is a phone call saying your system has been compromised. The first time I got this one, it sounded legitimate, but when I was booting up my computer the guy asked me if this was the computer I do my banking with? I hung up. Then I realized Microsoft will not be calling me.

Insurance Scam – This one was not an effort to steal, but to sell. My mother was told her certain insurance company account had been compromised. My mother did not have such an account. This was an unscrupulous marketer trying to sell her a Medicare Advantage plan, which she already had with another provider. So, I called to cancel and told the representative how this happened. We also had to change my mother’s banking information as a result.

Bank Scam – This one often shows up on our mobile phones which is annoying. Someone representing our bank or someone else’s bank will send a text warning of a compromise on our account. It is not the bank especially when we don’t even bank with the entity being used. It is a fraud. Banks do send texts at your request, but they appear more legitimate and are for helpful reasons you checked off on – activity, overdrafts, etc.

Please share your experiences below with these and other scams. These do not even count the ID theft attempts, actual compromised credit information at various stores or services or ransomware attempts. People want your money. Be vigilant, even more so than I have been.

AARP – Climate Change and you (a good synopsis targeting older Americans)

It is not unusual for AARP to have a good article in its monthly news bulletin. Its June, 2021 edition has a piece called: “Climate Change and You – Extreme Weather Is Affecting Older Americans’ Wealth, Health and Daily Life. How to Prepare This Summer and Beyond.” The article is written by David Hochman, Sari Harrar, Laura Petrecca and Brian Barth, but let me emphasize the beauty of the piece is it is geared to inform an audience that this problem is here now and is not just a future thing.

One of the key takeaways is a map that indicates “What’s the climate risk where you live?” The risk varies, so some areas are more prone to wildfire risk or water stress risk. Others are more subject to increased hurricane risk or sea level rise risk. While still others have more extreme rainfall or extreme heat risk. Or, some will have multiple sets of these risks. I mention this as too often naysayers will focus on sea level rise as its only risk.

The article is organized into Risk and Opportunity subsections beneath larger categories, so let me follow their lead noting the risk and impact, leaving you to read the supporting information. They also note a few things we can do to help on the remedial road, but acknowledge we need to do much more on a larger scale, which is beyond the scope of this article.

Your Finances

Risk: Greater storm risk Impact: Rising home insurance rates

Risk: Chaotic farming conditions Impact: More expensive groceries

Opportunity: Climate mitigation Impact: More green investment

Your Home

Risk: Hotter temperatures Impact: A shifting retirement map

Risk: Chronic weather catastrophes Impact: Falling home values

Risk: More extreme weather Impact: More fortified houses

Your Health

Risk: Seasonal changes Impact: More allergies and bug bites

Risk: Hotter climate Impact: Heat- related ailments

Risk: Rising ozone levels Impact: Increased lung disease

Your Lifestyle

Risk: Changing seasonal climates Impact: Tougher gardening conditions

Risk: Hotter weather and rising sea levels Impact: Lost travel opportunities

Risk: Heat and your air quality Impact: Becoming housebound

Risk: Shifting seasonal climates Impact: Birding flies away

What can you do to help?

Park the car (walk more)

Unplug electricity vampires (chargers, appliances, dormant wi-fi cords, etc.)

Eat less meat

Protect your home for less energy use

Discourage ticks and mosquitoes

Take heat and ozone warnings seriously

This piece is not intended to address systemic things needed like increased use of renewable energy, restoration of carbon eating fauna such as mangroves, sequoias and kelp or carbon removal or absorption technologies, etc. But, it does introduce this important topic in a different way to a group of people that needs to be more aware of climate change. Climate change does not limit its risk to our children and grandchildren – it impacts us older earthlings today.

My remarks to the NC DOE on the Clean Power Plan (in 2016)

In 2016, the Republican led North Carolina Department of Energy permitted citizens to speak at a conference as they were suing the Obama administration to not develop a Clean Power Plan in response to the Paris Climate Change Accord. Some of this is dated, but is still appropriate as we have moved further down the path of renewables the production cost has become even more favorable and we have passed a tipping point.

Last month, I was given the opportunity to speak to representatives of the North Carolina’s Department of Energy and Natural Resources at a public hearing. Our state is included in law suit against the EPA having the authority to require the states to develop a Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions. In companion to this suit, our state leaders developed a poor attempt, in my view, at addressing the required plan.

Here are my remarks which had to be limited to three minutes.

My name is Keith Wilson. I am an Independent voter and NC taxpayer.

I am speaking to you as both a tree hugger and business person.

I am disappointed in our state’s position on the Clean Power Plan and advocate moving the ball further down the path of renewable energy than the plan is required to do.

I say this as per the 2015 Global Risks Report prepared by the World Economic Forum, the two greatest risks noted by member organizations over the next 10 years are:

(1) Global Water Crisis and

(2) Failure to act on climate change

The need to move to renewable energy is more than a climate change issue, it is a water issue. As noted by the excellent Charlotte Observer series last month, we have global, national and regional water crisis, which will only be made worse by climate change.

Water is the new oil.

In the Observer series, it noted that Duke Energy loses about 1%- 2% of water on a daily basis when creating power from the Catawba River using fossil fuel and nuclear energy. The water is lost through dissipated steam.

At a conference called “Our Water: An Uncertain Future” last month, the director of Duke’s Water Strategy noted that Duke Energy includes climate change impact in their water projection models. He noted that they expect to lose an additional 11% of reservoir water due to more evaporation from climate change.

Per Duke’s projections, the Catawba River cannot support the growth in the Metro Charlotte area without change.

The move from water intensive fossil fuel and nuclear energy to renewable energy is key, as solar and wind energy need not be water reliant to create power.

Man-influenced climate change will only make our water problem worse.

From a business standpoint, there are several reasons why the move to renewable energy is key.

The fossil fuel industry likes to tout jobs and impact on people in poverty as drawbacks to the move. These are shortsighted reasons, as solar and wind energy jobs are growing like gangbusters with double digit growth.  On the cost of energy being higher, that is also shortsighted as well and is using the wrong equation.

The cost of production of renewables continues to fall and wind energy is the most cost effective source in the UK and Germany, right now. But, that is not the right equation.

A total cost equation will look at the present value cost of production,

  • plus healthcare,
  • plus environmental degradation,
  • plus water loss,
  • plus litigation,
  • plus maintenance of coal ash sites.

When these total costs are compared, my guess is the result will easily favor renewable energy.

Further, companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are relocating power intensive data centers to NC due to our solar energy success and incentives. These companies are attracted to innovation.

*************************************************************************************************

So, the tree hugger in me says you better be concerned about our water and what climate change will do to it.

The business person in me says, the better bet is on renewables.

Let me close that this is not just a progressive issue. Per a ClearPath survey of conservative voters, 75% favor a move down the path of renewable energy.

It is time our state and national leaders caught on to this desire. My strong recommendation is to approve the Clean Power Plan and stop wasting taxpayer money on the shortsighted EPA lawsuit.

Water is the real crisis facing us (a reprise)

The following post was written over three years ago, but the increasing prevalence of drought problems made worse by climate change make our water crisis one of greatest issues facing humans. When I used the term shortage in reference to the crisis in a recent comment, another commenter correctly pointed out this is not just a shortage it is an increasing problem with the decline in available water.*

One of the major problems is the current and growing global water crisis. For several years, the World Economic Forum has voted the global water crisis as the greatest risk facing our planet over the longer term, defined as ten years. But, this is not just a future problem, the city of Cape Town in South Africa is in severe water crisis and continues to ration pushing forward their Day Zero as long as they can

Per The Guardian in an article this week, the United Nations warns that water shortages “could affect 5 billion people by 2050 due to climate change, increased demand and polluted supplies, according to a UN report on the state of the world’s water. The comprehensive annual study warns of conflict and civilisational threats unless actions are taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs.

The World Water Development Report – released in drought-hit Brasília – says positive change is possible, particularly in the key agricultural sector, but only if there is a move towards nature-based solutions that rely more on soil and trees than steel and concrete.

‘For too long, the world has turned first to human-built, or ‘grey’, infrastructure to improve water management. In doing so, it has often brushed aside traditional and indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches,’ says Gilbert Houngbo, the chair of UN Water, in the preface of the 100-page assessment. ‘In the face of accelerated consumption, increasing environmental degradation and the multi-faceted impacts of climate change, we clearly need new ways of manage competing demands on our freshwater resources.’

Humans use about 4,600 cubic km of water every year, of which 70% goes to agriculture, 20% to industry and 10% to households, says the report, which was launched at the start of the triennial World Water Forum. Global demand has increased sixfold over the past 100 years and continues to grow at the rate of 1% each year.

This is already creating strains that will grow by 2050, when the world population is forecast to reach between 9.4 billion and 10.2 billion (up from 7.7 billion today), with two in every three people living in cities.

Demand for water is projected to rise fastest in developing countries. Meanwhile, climate change will put an added stress on supplies because it will make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier.

Drought and soil degradation are already the biggest risk of natural disaster, say the authors, and this trend is likely to worsen. ‘Droughts are arguably the greatest single threat from climate change,’ it notes. The challenge has been most apparent this year in Cape Town, where residents face severe restrictions as the result of a once-in-384-year drought. In Brasília, the host of the forum, close to 2m people have their taps turned off once in every five days due to a unusually protracted dry period.”

Here in the states, we exacerbate our drought and other water problems with bad piping and fracking, which waste or use huge amounts of water. But, with our vast agriculture, we need water to produce our and much of the world’s crops. We must manage it better. Two books are very illuminating. “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization” by Steven Solomon is a terrific look back and ahead. He is the coiner of the phrase “water is the new oil.” The other book is called “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn that details the struggles of these professions and two others with climate change and its impact on water and other things they do.

Folks, this is a major problem. We must address it now before we all have our own Day Zeroes. If this is not enough to raise concern, one of the financial experts who forewarned us of the pending financial crisis, has a new concern – water.

*Note: The climate change models make the water problem worse. For example, the city of Miami is “the at most risk” city in the world due to encroaching seas, which already are coming up through street drains. This is called “non-rainy day flooding.” What is less talked about is the Biscayne Aquifer which provides fresh water to the area is protected by porous limestone. As the sea water encroaches further inland, it will breach this aquifer. If that were not enough, Duke Energy produced a report on its concerns for the Catawba River providing sufficient drinking water to the metro Charlotte area as well as helping power two major power stations for the area with its growth expectations. Then this line caught my eye – it is predicted that the levels of evaporation of usable water will be increased by 11% (more evaporation) due to climate change.

Shore up the ACA – letter to the editor

My local newspaper ran my following letter to the editor Sunday. I have been preaching the message of improving the Affordable Care Act for seven years offering suggestions. I will link to one of those posts below. What I have never cared for is the naysaying, sabotaging and attempts to repeal it that have been a substitute for debate in the Republican party.

The legislation Republicans almost rammed through in 2017 was ill-conceived, poorly developed and punitive to multiple millions of Americans. These were the key reasons Senator John McCain saved the GOP from itself and voted it down before he died.

“Three times now the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act in the face of Republican attempts to rule it unconstitutional.

Per this retired actuary, benefits consultant and benefits manager, the ACA is not perfect and could use some improvements. But it is helping Americans, including provisions required in employer sponsored plans, which people tend to forget.

What has puzzled me for 10 years is that the law is somewhat based on Republican ideas, the latest being Romneycare in Massachusetts, which at least one Tea Party leader, S.C.. Sen. Jim DeMint, once supported.   

My strong advice to my former party, stop trying to screw Americans by killing the ACA and let’s find ways to shore up its deficiencies.”

Please stabilize the Affordable Care Act NOW to help Americans | musingsofanoldfart (wordpress.com)

The lies are like a loose string in a woven fabric

“Always tell the truth as you don’t have to remember as much,” said a voicemail greeting from an old friend. His greeting spoke volumes to me when I first heard it. He would alter his greeting at work on a daily basis offering adages or life lessons and this remains my favorite lesson of his.

To me, it is an important lesson as when people do not tell the truth, not only do they have to remember more stories, the lies are like loose strings in a woven fabric. They will eventually begin to unravel. This is especially true when people in leadership positions lie. Their lies are so visible, others have to adjoin their lies with the so-called leader’s. That leaves greater exposure as there are now more strings to unravel.

It truly saddens me how the truth has become more of a commodity these days. Politicians feel they can get away with exaggerations or even bald-faced lies. The know pseudo-news outlets that support their tribe or party will cover for them. To be frank, when someone knowingly covers for a lie, that is also lying.

All politicians lie, but by far the worst of the lot is the former president. But, that is truly not news, as an attorney who worked for him for years before he was elected said the former president “lies every day, even about things of no consequence.” Similar quotes can be found by more than a few people who worked for him over the years and in the White House.

Yet, too many believe this person. He did not win the election – he lost. It was not stolen from him – he lost. He lost because he got seven million fewer votes. He has been unable to prove election fraud losing well over sixty court cases, while winning one. That is a pretty miserable investment of money to pay attorneys for so little return. Some funders actually want their money back as they felt the former president cheated them by insinuating there was fraud.

Yet, these lies led to people dying on January 6 when he invited, incited and pointed protestors at the Capitol. Lies about the seriousness of COVID-19 led to more than deaths than needed and some people still believe it was all exaggerated or a hoax because of such. And, those folks who are still covering for those lies – such as in Texas where it was recently ruled illegal to use the Vaccine passports, reveal a how screwed up this former president has made things.

The truth matters. People rely on politicians to tell them the truth. We need to believe them, but when a president, governor or senator lies, it devalues our country. Being a sycophant to an untruthful person does not bode well for one’s reputation. And, these sycophants know they are lying, which bothers me as much as the lying itself.

Stop trying to keep your job and start doing your job

Too many legislators and elected incumbents focus on trying to keep their job rather than doing their job. As a result, things do not get done, as every issue becomes a wedge issue rather than one that needs to be solved. I have grown long past weary on this lack of leadership and stewardship.

In my career, I have consulted on and actually been a part of several mergers between organizations, both for-profit and non-profit entities. Effective mergers require due diligence, planning and diplomacy. It should not surprise people, but the majority of mergers fail to be as accretive to the cumulative value of the two separate entities as first envisioned. Some actually are dilutive to that combined value – in other words, they fail.

One of the reasons is people involved tend to focus on keeping their jobs or getting good money to leave. They get overly protective of the way their organization does things, even if they do not know why they do it that way. They worry about keeping their job and less about doing their job. One of my favorite examples is two incumbents in a merger zealously vied for the same job verbally undercutting the efforts of the other. The boss decided to hire neither one of them as both showed their true colors.

Politicians in Washington and other capitols around the world and country tend to do this. They are failing to do their jobs and work together to solve problems. If the other side has an idea, its veracity is less important than the fact it must be defeated as the other side raised it. The fact that neither side owns all of the good ideas and both sides own some bad ones should make a difference.

These people in leadership positions are supposed to solve problems, not bark like a a junkyard dog at the other side. We citizens must insist they work together. Name callers need to be criticized and asked what they do not like about the other side’s ideas. If you do not like something, tell us what you propose and avoid barking at the other side? That serves little purpose and it certainly is not governance or rebuttal argument.

We must tell people in leadership positions to stop trying to keep your job and start doing your job. You owe it to us to do so. If you cannot do this, then resign – it matters not what party you belong to. You could start by stop spending 1/3 of your time or more fundraising and use that time to do the people’s work.