Workers within industries that prop up fossil fuels said they could no longer ignore the climate crisis and they quit

In an article written by Anna First-Arai in The Guardian called “They once worked for big oil’s enablers. Now they refuse to be complicit,” fossil-fuel related workers are now voting with their feet. Here are the first few paragraphs with a link to the article below.

“More than a century ago, fossil fuel firms hardly needed help maintaining their image. Coal-powered trains, oil-burning power plants and gas-heated houses were likened to patriotism and social progress. But over time, especially as industry scientists began uncovering the direct link between the burning of fossil fuels and the climate crisis, America’s petroleum giants turned to the public relations industry they had helped create to persuade consumers to remain loyal.

PR campaigns that frame oil and gas as essential to solving the climate crisis have become the industry survival strategy. But over the past decade, the spinmasters behind these campaigns and the executives in industries that prop up fossil fuels have woken up to the role their work plays in contributing to climate breakdown.

Waves of employees have co-signed letters and quit en masse in response to their firms’ complicity in obfuscating climate crimes and rolling out aggressive greenwashing schemes. And the resignations are picking up pace. Just this week in a bombshell public resignation, Caroline Dennett, a consultant for Shell, parted ways with the company, citing its “double talk on climate”. She urged others to do the same.” 

This is article is worth the read. Maybe these kinds of resignations will get the attention of fossil fuel management. Shareholders have been more active voting to require management to be forthcoming on climate change plans and actions, but this will give them more ammunition to demand such action. A good question at a future shareholder meeting is “Help me understand why your employees are leaving en masse over your failure to address climate change?”

I have shared numerous articles about the positive movements forward on renewable energy and the need for more action. But, when a company’s own employees start walking out the door, that speaks volumes. I hope management is listening.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/27/big-oil-public-relations-defectors-climate-crisis

Refill stations for cleaning products in a Switzerland store reduces plastic waste

My youngest son made me aware of this neat initiative going on Switzerland with a supermarket called Migros. Migros’ aim is zero waste. In order to save plastic and rely on the reuse of materials, customers can refill their laundry, dishware and cleaning products themselves using the packaging more than a few times. The store noted “If you refill a bottle at least three times, the reusable bottle is already more environmentally friendly than the refill packaging. Migros hope to extend this service to other products and store.”

Per a press release, “Migros takes great pride in her investment in sustainability. The refill stations are just one example of many how we aim to reduce packaging and waste. At the moment, we are considering expanding the refill stations for cleaning products to more supermarkets throughout Switzerland. The first two refill stations were a huge success. Our clients appreciate this service very much. The numbers are a proof of this: our sales goals for six months were already reached after 2,5 weeks. Apart from the refill stations for cleaning products we are also offering refill stations for long lasting bioproducts such as rice, nuts or pasta. At the moment we are in the process of expanding these refill stations in Migros supermarkets across the country. 

Furthermore, in order to reduce packaging and waste we engage in several different project such as offering a reusable bag for fruits and vegetables, called «veggie bag». We offer reusable trays for restaurant and take away food. The mineral water of our own label « Aproz » comes in 100% recycled PET-bottles and in central Switzerland we have started a plastic waste collection system with our own plastic collection bag: You can buy such a bag in our supermarkets, collect your plastic at home and bring your plastic waste to a Migros supermarket near you. We transport the plastic to a recycling factory and with the produced regranulate, we aim to produce recycled packaging for our own label products.”

This is a terrific idea. I also like the idea of reusable restaurant take out trays. There is an initiative in Durham, North Carolina where twenty-five restaurants participate in a reusable tray program, where you exchange your cleaned tray for the new take-out order in an even more cleaned tray. If we can do things like this and reduce buying plastic water bottles, we can try to stymie this wastage in our landfills and oceans.

Wednesday wanderings – lawns, pollen, owls and Les Miz

These old bones need to finish mowing the grass before heading out on my walk about. Many moons ago, I bought a battery powered lawn mower, where I charge the battery before I mow. Either the grass is getting taller or the battery is getting older (this is electric mower #2) as the battery died before I finished. It is not unlike its owner who tires more easily.

So, today I will tidy up the remainder (usually I get about 75 minutes of mowing per charge). Mowing with an electric mower is healthier for me and better for the environment. I don’t have to breathe in the gas fumes, nor does it drown out my hearing. All of my power tools are battery operated now, as a result.

Speaking of being outside, this is supposed to be a more severe pollen season. My hometown is a city of trees, so we rank in the top ten in pollen in the US. Yippee. It used to not bother me as much, but with the creeping northward heat due to climate change, the warmer seasons are longer, and pollen is more severe. Hence, my daily routine includes a Cetrizine pill (generic Zirtec) and squirt of the generic Flonase up each nostril (I highly recommend).

Pollen brings other challenges as well. Over twenty years ago, we built a pool. It was a great decision, as it is good for relaxation and exercise, and we got to meet our kids’ friends. Yet, EVERYTHING gets into the pool, pollen included. So, cleaning the skimmer baskets is an event during the spring, with that stuff coated on the liner I put on the baskets.

Plus, when the pollen is in there, I cannot see if we have any guests in the pool such as brown snake (not poisonous), frog or deceased vole. There is nothing like pulling out a skimmer basket with a small snake in it to get the heart pumping. Fortunately, copper heads do not care for the water as much.

I think the voles are trying to run away from the hawks and owls we get on occasion. Right now, we have three owls in the neighborhood trees, two together and one separate. It must be a love triangle, with a younger male pining for the committed female. Off the subject, but when we went to see Les Miserables for the first time, a good buddy had read up on the wonderful and multi-part story from the playbill and told us all, “Basically, it is a love triangle.” We still laugh about that today.

So, let’s head out for a walk about after the lawn is taking care of. I will look for the odd-man out owl and see if we can find him a new love interest. As his mother tried to tell him, “there are many owls in the trees.” Maybe he can find him one named Cosette or Eponine.

Merchants of Doubt – those who lie for a living (a reprise)

I wrote the following post in 2015 and it still resonates today. Especially when an invasion is occurring of another country, where fossil fuel is a backdrop to the reason and producing more fossil fuel in the states is being pursued as a panacea, rather driving harder to use less of it.

I have written before about the public relations efforts of the fossil fuel industry to convince people everything they do is perfectly safe. The efforts also play on our minds and hearts that they create jobs and safer communities, at the same time they are stealing our lunch money. One in particular post plays off the five D’s of public relations – deny, discredit, disinform, diffuse and defray. A new documentary is out which highlights these efforts called “Merchants of Doubt” written by Robert Kenner and Kim Roberts and directed by Kenner.

The story focuses on those who mask science, use science out of context and in many cases distort the truth to tell consumers the products they are buying are not harmful. The public relations consultants use these folks to present an alternate truth which is fed hook, line and sinker to politicians funded by these industries. The documentary begins with the smoking industry to convey the message smoking is not addictive. The PR merchants had a unified campaign which led to several CEOs of the companies lying in front of Congress in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary.

But, they did not stop there, as if you can sell cigarettes are safe, you can sell just about anything. They helped sell folks that the flame retardants in fabric would save lives using a scientific study taken out of context as evidence. When the scientist who led the study found out about this years later, he said that is not what the study found. The flame retardants actually caused cancer in owners of the sofas, caused cancers in the firemen and women who were putting out the fires while not really retarding flames. Yet, the industry staved off regulation, until it was discovered the industry was funding what appeared to be supportive charity to kids, but was really a PR sales engine to obfuscate the truth. There is another documentary on this subject called “Toxic Hotseat.”

Yet, the two biggest campaigns have unfolded in the last few years dating primarily back to the time of “An Inconvenient Truth” about global warming. The PR folks started with a campaign that “global warming is hoax,” and were (and are) so successful about it, Congress has had people to testify on these subject. And, the current Environmental Committee chair, Senator James Inhofe, is a denier who recently brought a snowball into the chambers to reiterate global warming is a hoax. Anytime you see one of these bumper stickers or hear the new party line of “I am not a scientist” to offer contradictory opinion, remember these merchants of doubt. The answer to this statement, by the way, is “neither am I , but I can read.”

The other is on how safe fracking is. The PR campaign has been equally robust on the safety of fracking and the significant number of jobs it creates. Yet, like the climate change deniers, this message is starting to break down with actual data piling up to the contrary. No process this hard and expensive is perfectly safe, yet that is what we are constantly told in commercials. Even if it were safe, it is only as safe as its worst operator and there are a lot of them. However, with the air and water pollution being caused by fracking, with the environmental degradation, with the earthquakes that have been proven to be causal with water disposal and correlated with the process itself and with the sheer volume of water used that cannot be reused, this is one Return on Investment that has been miscalculated.  The costs, especially the healthcare costs, are vastly understated.

Please understand why these merchants get paid a lot. They are very good at what they do. And, it is easier with the new information age, as everyone can have their own version of truth. It is critical for us consumers and citizens to question data sources, news sources and politicians. Trace the money. Who owns what and who funds what? Why should we get rid of all regulations? Do you stand to benefit from that change? We must be more skeptical of information as often it is opinion or advertisement conveyed as news. Some online sources look like news, but they are written by people to close to the action or in on the action. It makes it hard to get at the real truth. But, we have to.

Companies make money selling us things. They want our money. The will try to get it legitimately, they will distort the message and some will outright lie. The hard truth is climate change is here and causing problems already. We are late, but can still make a difference. A good truth is solar energy is one of the fastest growing employers in the country as the cost to produce continues to fall. Fracking will occur, but it is not as safe as it is portrayed and we need to move away from it primarily because of the vast use of water and the impact on our health. Chemicals are over used to grow things. The greatest threat to our civilization may be anti-bacterial resistant bugs that move beyond our bodies ability to withstand them.

These are real truths. So, do me a favor. If you hear the disclaimer, “I am not a scientist,” the next phrase should be taken with a grain of salt as it is like untrue. If anyone tells you something is “perfectly safe,” do not believe them. The only thing perfectly safe is the assurance you will die at some point. If anything sounds too good to be true, question it. And, look for cited and peer-reviewed data sources conveyed by people who have a track record of good journalism. A news organization that has been proven wrong on over half of their news stories by Politifacts would not qualify as a source of good journalism.

http://www.salon.com/2015/03/06/merchants_of_doubt_meet_the_sleazy_spin_doctors_who_will_stop_at_nothing_to_obscure_the_truth/

Save money and energy

Our friend Amanda from Australia posted a recent piece called “Changing the Material World” (see link below) written by Megan Tennant on taking strides we can do to save the environment and help do a small part in fighting climate change. I recognize fully we must do far more, so these steps are not panaceas, nor should be they be considered as such. We need to advocate for so much more and tell folks to stop listening to folks who have a vested interest in getting you to use more fossil fuel powered energy or buy more wasteful product.

The purpose of this post is to simply say, if you take steps to save on energy consumption and lessen product waste, you can also save money. And, to be frank, saving money has been at the heart of some of the major initiatives to combat climate change as the cost of some renewables is on par or better than some fossil fuel energy sources. For example, Walmart, IKEA, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. have all led the way with renewable energy sources as it was both good for the environment, but made their cost models look better.

Here are a few ideas, but I welcome more suggestions. These won’t solve the problem, but the additive impact will help some and get people more motivated.

  • Turn all chargers off at night for phones, laptops, – you will save on energy cost and defer product degradation with it being on at all times.
  • Turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer when asleep – it is easier in the winter to throw on an extra blanket, but harder in the summer, as many folks like a cool room to sleep in, but still pays dividends. It also helps to do this during the day.
  • Walk more, use more mass transit – these save on petrol and energy to charge electric cars and avoid the concern that most car accidents happen within one mile of your home, while helping with your health. Plus, grabbing one or two tote bags as you walk to the store limits your grocery purchases, which saves by itself.
  • Be zealous with eating leftovers – this will save a large chunk in your food budget and will reduce land fill methane. I will usually eat leftovers longer than my wife, but she will do her part, usually for one (or maybe two) extra meal.
  • Buy fewer plastic items and use filtered water pitchers – we have an ocean of plastic that rivals Texas and may eventually rival the size of Australia. Getting people to buy water may be one of the greatest marketing successes ever.
  • Buy ugly produce, as it will go to waste – there are some websites that promote less pristine looking food that got passed over. Ugly food is cheaper and if we can keep good food out of landfills it will reduce methane.
  • Be careful but many expiration dates are “best by” dates not “throw away” dates – this is easier said on non-perishables, but it is not uncommon for all of these dates to be set early for you to buy more product.
  • Eat less meat, as livestock eat carbon absorbing grass and produce methane – other foods are much cheaper, plus less meat will help you live healthier and longer if replaced with other proteins.
  • Use rain barrels, compost heaps, and gray water sources to repurpose waste. An increasing number of buildings are reusing rain fall to provide water inside.
  • Print fewer items and do two-sided printing – this will save money and carbon eating trees.

Please offer some of your ideas. None of the above is rocket science, but understand that some of these suggestions are an effort to run counter to companies wanting you to spend more. No matter the product, they have marketing and sales people whose jobs are to get you to buy more. Altruism is not universal, so we must guard our energy use and money. As my wife and I have told and still tell our now adult children, people want your money.

And, again, this does not replace advocating for a conversion to better energy sources to reduce carbon and methane emissions and greater planting of trees, nurturing of coastal mangroves, and production of kelp farms, et al, which are natural carbon eaters. We are past time to take greater action. If we don’t, we are creating a different future for our children, their children and ourselves.

Rachel Carson, a no longer silent but forceful hero (a reprise)

The following piece was posted about three years ago, but I felt it needed a reprise. Women reading this again will fully appreciate a woman speaking up in a man’s world where her gender was used to squelch her arguments. I also reworded the title, as calling her silent is not correct. She was a calm, but informed scientist who backed up her comments with data.

It is hard to go against the grain. It is especially hard when you are a 5’4″ woman in a man’s scientific world that boldly said we can tame nature. Yet, when Rachel Carson wrote her provocative book “Silent Spring” in 1962, she rocked the world of the chemical industry. PBS’ “American Experience” has an excellent episode on Carson.

While her book was fiercely discredited by various “throw something against the wall” attacks by the chemical industry, it helped define how we need to proceed with more precaution. It laid bare the hubris of those who felt they could control nature.

It also started a grassroots environmental movement. Within ten years, the toxic chemical DDT would be banned and the Environmental Protection Agency would be created. Her testimony to Congress abetted these efforts. The Cuyahoga river in Cleveland catching fire also was a clarion call. Yet, she would not live to see them. She had cancer when she was being interviewed and testifying to Congress dying in 1964.

“Silent Spring” was her fourth best seller. The first was her “The Sea Around Us” published ten years earlier. Her first topic called upon her marine biology degree and work at the National Wildlife and Fisheries Department. Her first published book in 1941 called “Under the Sea Wind” was re-released after the second one’s success and sold well. Her “The Edge of the Sea” published in 1955 also was a best seller.

Her voice came at a time when “more chemicals” was the answer to any question. She was troubled that our arrogance was getting ahead of our wisdom. Her voice gained footing when it became apparent some fishermen had radiation poisoning from drifted winds from a hydrogen bomb test. But, she had been concerned about the unbridled use of pestiides for years.

A few chapters of “Silent Spring” were printed in The New Yorker and caused such an uproar that a Science Commission was set-up even before the book was released. President Kennedy made reference to Carson in a Q/A with reporters. She understood the use of pesticides is necessary – her main thrust is we need more testing before they are used. The chemical industry went after her and said she was undermining progress. She was called a communist and her data was more anecdotal. And, the fact she was a woman unnerved industry scientists, who felt she was infringing on their turf.

The book was a runaway best seller. It was highlighted in 70 newspapers. When she answered her critics, only then did they realize the power of her calm and informed voice. They were unable to silence her, though they gamely tried to stop a CBS Special Report featuring an interview with Carson. While two sponsors were pressured to drop out, CBS held their ground. For every question answered, there were 100 more raised.

The CBS Special Report was seen by as many as 15 million people. Carson was quite believable.  It was so impactful, a Congressional Committee was set-up the next day. A few months later, the earlier established Kennedy commission verified her findings as vindication.

As she told Congress we must measure the hidden costs against the potential gains. Shouldn’t we do that with every issue? And, for that she was vilified. However, her most telling testimony is our children have been born into this chemical age and we don’t know the full impact on their lives. As one historian noted in the “American Experience” documentary, she caused a “paradigm shift.” Thank you Ms. Carson.

Note, while Greta Thunberg is not a scientist, at least yet, she is one of the more informed people on the risks and problems associated with climate change inaction. Attempts to discredit her are not dissimilar to those that rained down on Rachel Carson. Thunberg is just a teenager, she is just a girl, she is only echoing what her parents told her, she is looking to make a name for herself, etc. Some jerks even said her being on the spectrum made her opinions less valid. None of these comments have fact or data behind them – they are name calling and labelling, which are short cuts when critics don’t have an argument.

Heroes like these two females speak up in the face of adversity. I have actually seen Thunberg live at a rally. There was a name calling heckler in the audience, but the seventeen-year old teen handled him with the aplomb of a seasoned politician, actually better than most politicians would have. He did not want her to speak, so she invited him backstage after the rally to answer any of his questions.

Lower-cost clean energy rises in NC

The following are a few excerpts from an editorial written in The Charlotte Observer on Sunday by columnist Ned Barnett. While the focus is on what North Carolina has done the past ten years, it shows what can happen with a focus on renewables and attracting business. It should be noted a lot of NC’s success is in part due to companies like Amazon, Facebook (now Meta), Google and IKEA setting up centers powered by renewable energy, which got the attention of legislators.

“A new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group gives North Carolina strong grades for renewable energy. In measures of growth since 2011, North Carolina ranks third nationally in solar power, 10th in energy efficiency, 17th in electric vehicle sales, 20th in battery storage of renewable energy and 26th in wind power. ‘It’s amazing the difference that a decade can make and how many people are choosing to embrace renewable energies like solar power,’ said Krista Early, an advocate with Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center.

That growth raises prospects that seemed hopelessly remote just a decade ago: widespread use of electric cars that could eliminate the volatile cost of gas and a power grid driven by renewable energy that will reduce utility bills. North Carolina’s move toward renewables will be accelerated by this year’s passage of a major energy bill, House Bill 951.

Steve Levitas, a vice president at Pine Gate Renewables in Asheville, one of the nation’s fastest growing renewable energy companies, said the new state law will have a big effect. ‘HB 951 is going to drive a dramatic transformation of the state energy sectors,’ he said. ‘It will drive retirement of (Duke Energy’s) coal fleet and will result in more renewables. That’s going to happen.’

The new federal infrastructure law and the possible passage of the Build Back Better bill will also expand the use of renewable energy. While renewables still produce a small fraction of electric power, Levitas said the rising use of solar and wind power will make renewable energy an increasingly cheaper option to fossil fuels. ‘People predicted a long time ago that if you created demand, that would drive down costs and that’s been proven to be true many times over,’ he said.”

Note, while the reference to renewables providing a small fraction of electric power may be true in NC, in places like Iowa, Texas, California, Oklahoma, et al, the percentages are not small fractions. Iowa gets over 40% of its electricity from wind energy while Texas is right at 20% on electricity from renewables, primarily wind energy.

Progress is being made, but we now need to hasten it as we have passed the tipping point. Yet, what business has started realizing the past several years, if they do not keep up, their ability to compete may be compromised. State legislatures must recognize this as well.

Read more at: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/article256092197.html#storylink=cpy

A Beautiful Mind has it Right – the Nash Equilibrium shows the power of working together

The following post was written seven years ago, but holds true even more so today with the recently passed infrastructure bill as well as the need to work together in our global economy on trade, environmental, and human rights issues.

One of my favorite Russell Crowe movies is “A Beautiful Mind” directed by Ron Howard about the schizophrenic Ph.D. in economics, John Nash. If you saw the movie, you know that Nash won the Nobel Prize in Economic Science for his theory which became known as “Nash Equilibrium” that was used in game theory, economic development and other areas. In short it was all about maximizing everyone’s gain. From Wikipedia, this example might help define what Nash’s theory was all about:

“Stated simply, Amy and Will are in Nash equilibrium if Amy is making the best decision she can, taking into account Will’s decision, and Will is making the best decision he can, taking into account Amy’s decision. Likewise, a group of players are in Nash equilibrium if each one is making the best decision that he or she can, taking into account the decisions of the others in the game.”

The reason I raise is this is that we can all benefit more if we work with each other rather than against. If we all try to win the game, whatever that is, we will actually end up in a collective lesser state. This is a key reason why collaboration is vital to the success of most endeavors, including and especially politics. But, let me use a real example of how a region can benefit more economically through collective partnering under Nash Equilibrium.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, we have a terrific new “transmodal distribution facility” that is near the airport. The facility is adjacent to and incorporates railroad train tracks in the distribution process. It is also very conveniently located to three interstates (I-85, I-77 and I-485) and a fourth four lane highway (US 321) which connects to I-40 about forty miles away. If you know your North Carolina geography, you will know that Charlotte is right on the border with South Carolina and several towns in SC are actually included in the Metro Charlotte area.

A key reason for its success is more than the rail, highway and air access. Charlotte is also a convenient driving distance from ports in Charleston, South Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina, Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. With the deepening of the Panama Canal set to be complete in 2015, bigger ships can sail from Asia-Pacific (China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, etc.). Yet, unless these ports are dredged to become deeper, the bigger ships cannot enter the harbors there and will sail past. Activity has begun in various stages, but here is where Nash Equilibrium should come to fruition.

The states of North and South Carolina (and Florida and Georgia) should work collectively along with business and the Federal government to deepen all ports noted above. We will all benefit more greatly if we invest together. This would be true on other economic investments where we should work less at cross purposes and compete as a region. I recognize there have been pockets of success where this has been done, but to me, with the significant cost of dredging these harbors and the stalemate in fighting in Washington where Congress is moving money around to fund a very limited transportation budget for infrastructure, this a keen example of why we must work together to benefit more.

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell have been promoting a bipartisan investment in our infrastructure, each representing the major political parties. LaHood said this is the best jobs program we could possibly have. And, as I have said before, borrowing money to invest in assets, is different from borrowing money for operations. This is where we need to spend our money as the collective return on investment is huge.

So, to the state legislatures and Congress, let’s get with it and work to invest in America’s ports and roads. As Rendell said, if we don’t deepen our ports, the ships will sail right by us to Canada. John Nash indeed had a beautiful mind. We should follow his direction to maximize our collective gain.

When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water – a revisit to an old post

The following post was written nine years ago. Since that time the global water crisis has annually been noted as the number one or two long term concern by the World Economic Forum. Plus, we have had crises like the one in Cape Town, South Africa where they came perilously close to running out of water and Flint, Michigan where a lead pipe system caused health issues for disenfranchised populations. Caution, this is a little longer than my current posts, which I have tried to shorten.

The title above is a quote from Benjamin Franklin which speaks volumes. Water is a very dear resource and we truly do not know its ultimate value until it is gone or our access to it is limited. I recently completed one of the best history books I have ever read “Water – the Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization” by Steven Solomon. Solomon has written for the New York Times, Business Week, The Economist, Forbes and Esquire among other places and is the author of “The Confidence Game,” so the book has an investigative storytelling bent which makes history come alive. Yet, it is not just a history book as he brings us to today’s times and provides us with cautions to heed as we move forward.

In short, the book shows the ability for great civilizations to rise, thrive and fall based on their ability to control water resources for drinking, farming, manufacturing, sewage and transportation. Through this we learn the vital role that bringing water into an area for use and then using it to sweep away sewage from that same area can have in enhancing or debilitating our lives. To paint an ugly picture, London in the mid-1800’s had a terrible period, as did other major cities, where cholera, dysentery and other diseases were prominent. The period was called “The Big Stink” as sewage was not be adequately washed away and was actually being dumped into the same drinking water sources. After years of postponement (sounds like our debt crisis) of dealing with it, the smell became so grotesque that Parliament had to act within 18 days to set in motion a plan to resolve it.

I use this example rather than others as it shows how basic the needs water fills and our inability to use it wisely can be truly catastrophic. Rome was known for its aqueducts and how it flourished with the baths it created. The baths which improved hygiene became so popular, they were the social meeting places where people of all strata kept themselves clean and healthy. It is not ironic that Rome flourished during this time and fell when many of these aqueducts were destroyed by invaders from the North.

To use a more recent example, Teddy Roosevelt is probably the greatest water president in US history. Before his time, the greatest US water accomplishment was the building of the Erie Canal which reduced the cost of goods transport immensely connecting ports. Roosevelt had three major contributions – the building of the Panama Canal, the development of planned water rights and retrieval in the west to help irrigate dry areas for crops and sustenance, and the protection of water sheds via the vast number of parks he created. His inspiration and force of will also led to the building of the Hoover Dam which occurred later and whose success was copied many times over by his cousin, Franklin when he was in the White House.

It is arguable that these water initiatives by Teddy Roosevelt are key reasons the US is as powerful today. I recognize that downplays the roles of many others, but the US leveraged its access to both coasts through the building of the Panama Canal. Plus, it helped the can-do psyche of Americans after earlier attempts by France to build the canal failed. Successful major construction can be uplifting just as failures can be crushing as China saw with the huge failure of a major dam project completed just four years ago.

I wanted to provide a little varied context from the book, as we look at problems of today and the near and longer term future. I had incorrectly given credit for this quote to Jim Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy, but a key chapter title in the book is called “Water: The New Oil.” We have growing concerns in the US, especially in drier parts of the country, but even other areas which are not known for being dry. More on these later. While we have these concerns, we are still referenced as being more water rich than other places on the planet. What this book highlights is the insatiable desire for water in water poor countries is causing the misuse or  unplanned use of water at too fast a pace so that it cannot be replenished. What will bring the Middle East to its knees will be the ever worsening shortage of water. As rich a country as Saudi Arabia is through oil, it is water poor and will very soon be using up its water supply. Other countries are even in more dire straits in that region.

If you move into the African continent you can look to Ethiopia to where the Nile begins, but most of the water is used in Egypt. Issues have erupted around the sharing of water and will continue to be of concern. The building of the Aswan Dam was in some respects a success, but in others a failure as it was built in the wrong place. Much of the water created from the dam evaporates before it is used. The book points out to these kinds of issues as we plan ahead and we must. This issue becomes even more critical in water and economically poor countries. So, globally we need concerted planning on we should use our water resources. This problem will only become worse if we grow unfettered increasing the number of people on our planet and the impact of global warming continues to affect our supply.

Bringing the issue back to the US,  we are water rich, but could be better personal, industrial and governmental stewards of our water. Americans use far more water than others on the planet. We are seeing droughts and water fights between Georgia, Alabama and Florida and Texas has numerous places where the water table has dried up, e.g. The global warming impact will continue to hit the driest places on the planet the most and it is one of the factors there has been the onset of forest fires which we are seeing here and in Australia and Russia.

So, we need to act now to plan ahead with better water usage strategies and not wait for the “big stink” to occur using that as a metaphor for all water problems. And, we need to continue to offer and help other countries develop strategies and execute them at the regional and local levels. One of the ironies is in parts of rural India where the British water management back in the early 1900’s did not reach, they still maintain water councils who provide stewardship over water use. India has grown so rapidly in major cities, that the infrastructure needs updating, but these smaller water council areas continue to be judicious users of water because they had to be that way. We all need to be judicious.

So, what can we do? At the individual level, conservation is key. Three of the greatest water uses are in flushing toilets, washing clothes and washing dishes. If we each can strive for more the more energy-efficient wash cycles and lower water use toilets that could be an enormous savings. There are recycling examples for water where toilets can draw from shower water and rainwater collections can be used for watering plants. We Americans need to cut back on the lawn sprinklers as well as we abuse this privilege. We can do this through use, but also by planting more indigenous grasses and plants. I am also reminded of my Dad’s navy shower restrictions on ship – 25 seconds of water. You used five to wet your body. Then you soaped up and turned back on the spigot for the last twenty seconds of water to rinse off. I am not advocating navy shower limits per se, but we do not need to be like my children either and lounge around in the shower.

Yet, I think we need to be aware and advocate that we should address our problems. There are some very good things going on in our country that can be done elsewhere. Setting aside the Big Stink example, Orange County in CA has successfully reused sewage water as drinking water and for irrigation. As scary as this sounds, they use multiple filtering and cleaning techniques that have proven to work.  There is continued exploration of desalinization techniques with ocean water, but they tend to be very expensive and the issue of what to do with the salt is an issue. Plus, there are some neat things going on in industry to use recycled water for various uses.

On the flip side, we have continued to be poor stewards in other areas and have been slow to act in rectifying these issues. In “Living Downstream,” Dr. Sandra Steingraber has noted we continue to pollute our waters with petro-chemicals which wreak havoc. In Canada, they have outlawed ornamental pesticides for home use due to the air and water poisoning. And, one of the big reasons I am against fracking is, in addition to the toxic issues it causes for air and water, it uses an exorbitant amount of water, 2 – 5 million gallons per fracking well. Fracking did not cause the drought in Texas, but it sure is not helping it now. We need a strong EPA, not a weakened one.

Finally, this is a major issue that affects every resource issue, so it needs to be stated. I am going to ask everyone to set aside their religious beliefs for these next few statements. The earth cannot support the unfettered increase in population.  We are in the neighborhood of 8 million people. If we all consume as Rwandans do, the earth may be able to support 15 million. If we consume the way Americans do, the earth could only support less than 2 million. Please reread these two sentences. So, if we do not have planned birth control, we will run out of food and water. Even if you set aside global warming and its impact which is here and will get worse, we cannot support an unfettered increase in our population. So, when I hear how evil Planned Parenthood and its global partners around the world are by our more evangelical global citizens, my reaction is we desperately need family planning and birth control or we are sentencing ourselves and our children to die or to a much different kind of life. In my bible, God told us to be good stewards of the earth. We all need to step up to the plate now and heed his wishes or we will witness Benjamin Franklin’s caution noted above.

Friday Foibles and Follies

Happy Friday! With no clear cut subject in mind, let me wander through a few foibles and follies this Friday morning. In no particular order.

There is a long history that can support the following assertion, but when leaders lie, people tend to get harmed and too many die. Putin has lied about the dangers of COVID in Russia and people are suffering. Trump also lied about the COVID danger and more people have and still put themselves at risk. And, too many have died. Bolsonaro lies as much as the other two, coming up with National Enquirer type inanities, and people in Brazil are in danger. Leaders owe us the truth. Hold them accountable.

I left a message with two Democrat Congressional representatives, one of which is Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Please do something and pass the two bills. The infrastructure bill passed the Senate in July. It is well over due. As for the other bill, of course, it won’t have every thing people want in it. Get something done. I recognize fully Republicans are primarily motivated to do nothing except rationalize the untruths of the former president to keep his followers engaged. They would rather win a battle than have Americans actually benefit from a change. But, Democrats have lost their momentum and will suffer for their inability to do something. Again, get something done.

US Representative Liz Cheney, who has been ridiculed by her own Republican party for daring to tell the truth, has responded to Tucker Carlson, the talk show entertainer from Fox for pushing a documentary that the January 6 insurrection was a false flag operation meant to discredit Republicans. This is a bolder attempt by Carlson and other Trump sycophants to white wash what happened that day. Republicans are being discredited, but they have the former president and his cohorts to blame for instigating this insurrection. We can never let something like January 6 happen again and it highly offends me that some legislators want us to look the other way.

While Carlson is pushing this bogus narrative telling us not to look behind the curtain, The Rolling Stone (yes, that one) has done some excellent reporting that notes seven Republican members of Congress had a role in the insurrection. That is worse than those who stormed the place. I would like to remind people that Carlson’s employer, Fox News, said under oath in court that Carlson’s opinions should not be considered as news as he is not part of their news reporting team. Like Trump, Carlson’s opinions tend not to built on a foundation of truth. Believing them is truly a fool’s errand.

Finally, the current president is off to a climate change summit which is good. It is nice to see a president actually taking seriously the biggest threat, along with our water crisis, facing our planet. The former president announced to fanfare on June 1, 2017 that the US would leave the Paris Climate Change Accord. Ironically, the former president made this announcement the day after Exxon Mobil’s shareholders voted that management must inform shareholders of progress toward fighting climate change, the third fossil fuel company to vote that way in May, 2017. Biden is not perfect and has made some mistakes, but pushing for more climate change action is not one of them. The US government must help lead the way, matching what is happening at local and regional levels and in several industries.

That is all for now. Let’s help save our planet. Read multiple news sources to know the truth, use fewer plastics, eat less meat, drive less, and walk more. And, get vaccinated for COVID.