Go science!

My niece coined a marvelous phrase in response to her finding out my three children also attended the March for Science on Earth Day. She said, “Go science!”

I applaud her enthusiasm as it is needed to countervent the poor stewardship of scientific responsibility being conducted out of the White House. Truth be told, while I have many concerns for the future, my greatest concern under this President has always been backtracking on climate change interventions and environmental progress. With appointments of Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA and Rick Perry as head of Energy, we do not have leaders that hold the environment as a key priority. And, with the deletion of science data and links from federal websites and proposed reduced funding on scientific research, we are punting on our prominent global role in scientific thought.

I still am having a hard time ascertaining what “make America great means.” But, one thing is for certain, dumbing down America is not the path to keep up us competitive and the world safe. With NASA and NOAA, we hold significant roles in climate change data and planning. With our passing the tipping point on renewable energy, we hold an important place in the movement to cleaner energy.

When I hear folks like the President counter with jobs, we should let the data speak. Renewable energy jobs are growing at double digit rates. To compete in an ever advancing technology world which is cutting far more jobs than international investment, not investing in science and cutting Visas for talented students hinders future job growth around advancement since jobs are created around the initial innovation.

Ignoring or belittling science is not the answer for a robust and growing country. The President said yesterday that science should not be ideological and open to debate. He is right. Deleting data and papers does not sound very open to me, nor is squelching debate on folks that disagree with your position.

Random musings for a rainy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone. A beautifully sounding April shower is beating down on the outside deck. We have left the door open to feel the cool freshness of rain as it rinses the pollen out of the air.

A few random musings not all related to our Mother Earth.

Another musical genius has left and much too soon at age 57. To me, Prince was frozen in age as he was so youthful in his manner, appearance and style. Like David Bowie, he melded other musical influences into new styles of music. And, like Bowie and Glenn Frey, his body of work influences others still. He also was very clever with lyrics. One that has always struck me as unique in its simplicity is in Raspberry Beret, where he says “she walked in through the out door” to describe her joie de vivre. He will be missed.

I watched a most interesting documentary on “Vice” about the “Future of Energy.” It showed some exciting things occurring in renewables, but also depicted two other areas that will be key parts of our future. The first is improved grid storage where unused electricity can be saved for later usage when the sun goes down or wind does not blow. Elon Musk of Tesla and rocket ship fame, owns a solar energy company and battery storage company that continues to improve on personal and industrial grid storage, which may make utilities less needed.

The second is the terrific progress in nuclear fusion, not the fission which is used now. Fusion is safe, but the challenge has been creating a way to harness the extreme heat at fusion. It is being done on a small-scale in the UK and US, but France has a major plant being built which is ten years away, they think, from the fusion process giving out more energy than it takes in. So, the future is renewables, grid storage and nuclear fusion. Note, fossil fuels was not included in this mix as the supply wanes and environmental costs are more measured and pronounced.

As for Mother Nature, the two earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador remind us we are mere passengers on planet Earth. Terrorism and corruption are things we must deal with, but the larger concerns are treating our Earth better than we do and to better protect ourselves from calamities and the impact of our poor stewardship. We can do little to prevent major earthquakes, but we can do some things.

We can make sure buildings are subject to higher standards to withstand earthquakes, especially in earthquake prone areas. Also, while neither of these two quakes were impacted by this, we need to stop disposing of toxic fracking water beneath the earth, as this tactic has been proven to be causal of small earthquakes. Just check out the earthquake data in Oklahoma and other states where this process is used.

Ending on a positive note, the US Treasury has announced that an American hero named Harriet Tubman will be on the new $20 bill, replacing Andrew Jackson on the front. The courage and conviction she portrayed to help slaves escape and start the women’s movement are exemplary. Jackson will be moved to the reverse side of the bill.

Plus, other female leaders in our history Eleanor Roosevelt, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and Lucretia Mott as well as Martin Luther King will appear on the reverse side of the $5 and $10 bills. I recognize some have voiced criticism over these changes, but I for one welcome American heroes being recognized.

Let’s make today’s Earth Day one to remember, especially as the Paris Climate Accord is signed today by so many countries.

 

 

A Few Earth Day Observations

Today is a good day to reflect on what more we can do to protect our planet and make it a life-sustaining environment for eons to come. I would encourage you to spend a few minutes perusing my friend Z’s blog at www.playamart.wordpress.com and check out her Earth Day post of yesterday. She has captured in her photos and quotes a very meaningful journey on this Earth Day, as she often does with other topics of import. Below are a few odds and ends for your review as well.

It is all about water and air

These are our dearest resources. We must be vigilant on how we use and impact these resources. I have written recently about “water is the new oil.” We can not only avoid polluting our precious resource, we have to be very thoughtful about its overall supply. Do not let anyone tell you this is not a major issue.

On the air side, we must guard against the emissions that come from the mining, collection, use and disposal of fossils fuels and petro-chemicals. For those who want to protect our kids from future debt problems, this will impact their health and the debt in far greater way, with the high cost of fixing problems and tending to those impacted mentally and physically.

Some skeptics will see the word “mentally” and say that is overblown. Yet, one of the key tenets of Dr. Sandra Steingraber’s books “Living Downstream” and “Raising Elijah” is most environmental models look at the impact of pollution on a 50-year-old man. The models need to look at the impact on children who are of lesser weight, closer to the ground, mouth breathe more, put hand to mouth more, and have developing brains. The data are showing the impact of various chemical pollutants heightens the propensity to certain mental and physical challenges such as autism and its various manifestations, asthma and other breathing disorders and more premature births which creates a vicious cycle for future health issues. Her data are very compelling and her voice needs to be heard.

Global warming will accelerate many bad things

In her books, Dr. Steingraber, who is an ecologist, biologist, and bladder cancer survivor, also notes that a problem we do not talk enough about in the discussion of global warming is its impact on the toxins that are in our air, water and environment. She says it is like a chemical crockpot. As the earth warms, so will these toxins and our ability to reduce them will be challenged. She highlights her bladder cancer as a bellweather cancer, as it is typically caused by environmental issues. She had other relatives nearby who also had bladder cancer – the key is she was adopted, so it was environmental not hereditary.

We are already seeing worse things in the global warming models than forecasted, so as one of the US’s political parties is fiddling, Rome is burning. Last year at this time, I read a report that showed hurricanes will more significantly impact the coastal regions with the higher sea levels. The analogy used is it is easier to dunk a basketball when the court is raised. This was before Hurricane Sandy which many scientists note was heightened by the raised sea levels. In addition to lives, livelihoods, and homes, the cost to fix is at least the $50 billion the federal government provided in January.

The other predictions in the model are heightened forest fire prevalence and intensity, worsened droughts in the drier areas along with more stalled weather systems. So some areas get way too much precipitation, while others get way too little. The human and economic cost of these worsening conditions is huge says Mercer Investment Consulting and major pension trust sponsors around the globe. This study done in 2011 talked of these increasing forest fires, worsening droughts, and intensifying hurricanes, which had already been occurring and are now more prevalent around the globe.

Already too much carbon in the air

People like to talk about global warming as a future event, yet as noted above, it is already impacting our lives. We have too much carbon in the air today and it will only get worse. China is firing up more coal plants and Beijing is coming closer to being an inhabitable city. If you do not believe this, then ask why it is getting harder for companies to get their ex pats to move and stay there.

There are solutions in addition to moving more quickly away from fossil fuels. We need to adopt older ways of grazing cattle that will let the grasslands flourish. We need to plant even more trees than we are doing now and stop taking them down at such an accelerated rate. And, we need to move more food growth and distribution closer to the sale and consumption of food. The greener areas will absorb more carbon at of the atmosphere and coupled with more renewable energy sources, will move us down the right path.

And it is not just humans

Finally, our ability to survive on this planet is not just in human hands. We are seeing the impact of global warming and environmental toxins on animals, fish and insects that matter to us. The honey bee population continues to fall and the culprit is most likely the pesticides sprayed on adjacent crops. These bees cross-pollinate a non-inconsequential percentage of our food and farmers and beekeepers are worried.

Our coral reefs are dying off in greater numbers. The Great Barrier Reef outside of Australia is shrinking for example. This is of vital importance due to the numbers of fish and other species that swim and grow there. And, species we do not eat are eaten by species we do. So, it is a major concern. And, closer to home the populations of cod are much smaller in Cape Cod, so the fishermen have to go further out to sea.  The US Fisheries Department has been tracking the impact of global warming on fish populations for over ten years, while the fiddlers still fiddle.

And, in the animal species, it is not just polar bears who are being impacted. The huge amount of fracking going on in our national parklands is impacting animals there. In Pennsylvania, small animals and birds are impacted by drinking the chemically laden water that cannot be kept out of the water supply. There is a domino effect that will impact us humans at some point, either directly, or through the animals, fish and insects we come in contact with.

Conserve and advocate

Now that I have scared the crap out of you, what can we do? Continue to conserve, compost and reuse. Do small things and big things. I wrote a post on last year’s Earth Day about conservation. But, also advocate. Change the conversation with others and leaders. Write them and be matter of fact. If someone starts a conversation about their doubts over global warming, say “that train has left the station, we need to talk about what to do about it.” If they insist, say “97% of scientists believe it to be so and only 26% of Republican Congresspeople. I choose to believe the 97% of scientists.” My advice is to not to debate the obvious, but discuss what to do about it. It will change the tenor of the conversation to be action-oriented.

And, that is precisely what is needed – action. We really do not have any time or resources to waste. Happy Earth Day.