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Moving Tribute to the Great Auks

I am packing for 11 days in Iceland where I will see lots of wild life including puffins and arctic foxes. One animal I will not see is the great auk. I knew little about this bird unit I met Kay Cramer. I am reprinting an amazingly powerful piece shewrote for our local paper. Please feel free to share it.

Sunbury Daily Item 4/23/2017

Op-Ed by Kay Cramer

After all these years, I remember how I felt as a sixth-grader reading a library book. It told the story of the very last Great Auks. Black and white like penguins, and almost three feet tall, this flightless seabird nested in Iceland, Greenland and other north Atlantic islands. Back then most people did not believe an animal could ever go extinct, so no one set quotas or monitored the flock. I got to the last page of the book, and learned that on July 3, 1844, three hunters, sent to collect specimens for a merchant, strangled to death the very last mating pair. The pair were incubating an egg. One of the hunters crushed this egg with his boot, unaware his was the final act that led to the extinction of the Great Auk. I sat holding the book and cried. The story has stayed with me for life.

About 15 years ago, I read David Quammen’s book The Song of the Dodo. Turns out the many species, including the woolly mammoth, the giant sloth and the elephant bird, had gone extinct because of over-hunting and habitat loss. Hunters and the officials who oversee annual quotas today try to find a healthy balance when issuing hunting licenses, but in the past our ancestors, sometimes unknowingly,made dangerous mistakesleading to great harm.

While hunting animals out of existence is still a reality in parts of the world, here in the United States we face another responsibility in caring for life on earth. The writer Elizabeth Kolbert explains we are in the midst of a sixth extinction (the other five, including the one that caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs, were in prehistoric times). She warns that the continued fast pace of climate change is leading to a massive die-off in both plants and animals. Many will be lost in our lifetimes. In her book, The Sixth Extinction, she outlines how this process has already begun.

I feel pain when I contemplate a world without the birds, trees, plants and animals we love. It is even more painful to think they will not be here to awe and delight future generations.

Sometimes we are terrified and overwhelmed, thinking things have gone too far for us to make a difference.

And climate change has progressed very, very far. Discouraged people think, “Why change our consumption habits when they are just a drop in the bucket of carbon pollution?” But there is hope. Some changes make big differences.

The Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is a nonpartisan volunteer advocacy group that for the past 10 years has quietly reasoned with members of Congress to consider a carbon fee and dividend plan. Understanding that fossil fuel companies will likely pass this fee onto consumers, CCL volunteers suggest a monthly dividend check for households. This will help families cope with the rising energy costs as our communities move to cleaner, renewable energy. As the price of fossil fuel rises, businesses, government and households will use less. The air will be cleaner leading to significant decreases in respiratory diseases. We will begin the cleanup effort required to make the weather and atmosphere stable for all of us.

I have been encouraged by the formation of a Republican Climate Leadership Council headed by James Baker. They advocate for a carbon fee and dividend. Republican U.S. representatives from Pennsylvania have already shown leadership by joining the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. These include Pennsylvania Republican members of Congress, Ryan Costello, Patrick Meehan and Brian Fitzpatrick. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize that climate change is happening right now, that it is caused by human activities and that carbon pricing is an effective means to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change.

As a little girl, there was nothing I could do to save the Great Auks. But today we can call on our members of Congress, like Reps. Lou Barletta and Tom Marino, to get serious about addressing climate change to stop further extinctions. The cause is very urgent, and the goal — to preserve our world for future generations — is one of the highest and best actions we can take.

Optimism, Climate, and Tolstoy

The latest episode of Citizens’ Climate Radio is up!

As climate advocates, we come to this work with our own set of values. I speak with marketing researcher and volunteer climate advocate, Lesley Beatty about the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Core Values. CCL founder Marshall Saunders joins in the conversation with a burst of optimism.

Art House

Marshall Saunders sticks around to help with our Art House segment. He has a book recommendation to share, a novel written in 1899 by Leo Tolstoy. Marshall tells us why he thinks climate advocates should read Tolstoy’s Resurrection. South African author, Glen Retief reads excerpts from the novel.

Citizens’ Climate Radio Ep 12 Values with Marshall Saunders and Lesley Beatty

Who is the Most Creative of Them All? Engineers?!?

Dr. Hugh Sealy at climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany

For a long time I have been impressed with just how creative and artistic engineers can be. In my early 20s I met someone studying to be an electrical engineer. Along with his disciplined and detail oriented approach to his work, he also displayed an artsy side.

In my latest Citizens’ Climate Radio podcast episode I ask Dr. Hugh Sealy, an environmental engineer, about his creative side. As a problem solver, he is looking for solutions. Creativity is important to devise elegant solutions to complicated problems.

I aslo feature a 19 year old student, Adia Samba-Quee, from Springfield, MA. She is just beginning her journey as someone concerned about climate change. Her response? To use comedy and journalism.

For the Art House I get creative myself by imagining what a historian will have to say about us from the year 2167. Turns out the celebrities of our future will be engineers!

You can hear Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunesStitcher RadioPodbean, and now on Northern Spirit Radio. Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio.

Moving Beyond the Traditional Climate Talking Points

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade, PhD

Climate Stew crew member, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade wrote an Op-Ed that was published in the Lexington Herald Ledger. She recognizes that most people are not moved by the traditional talking points when it comes to climate change. She is undeterred. Her response is to consider new talking points about issues that drive the point home.

No matter how much I think the ethics of our faith should be extended to our neighbors within the other-than-human world and to generations of people we will never meet, that is simply not the reality. Humans, generally speaking, care most about their personal circumstances, immediate family and short-term impacts on their wallets.

So why should someone care about climate change? Are there any immediate impacts on our health, family or wallets? As a matter of fact, there are.

 She then goes on to outline these impacts. Read more here

Can US Conservatives and Progressive Agree on Climate Action?

The Elephant Podcast has an excellent episode produced by Barbara Lucas. She asks if we can find common ground between Conservatives and Progressives when it comes to climate solutions. In order to find out, Barbara speaks with many people on all sides.

The episode is insightful, revealing, and hopeful.

Conservatives, especially in America, are known for doubting the scientific basis of man-made climate change, and the need to do anything about it. But earlier this February something surprising happened – several elder Republican statesmen released a proposal for what they call a Conservative solution to climate change. The plan consists primarily of carbon tax – something that many progressives have long advocated for. But controversially for Democrats, the plan also calls for repealing more intricate climate regulations such as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

At this time when by all signs it seems like the divide between Republicans and Democrats is wider than ever, Radio producer Barbara Lucas takes a look at the plan, and asks, when it comes to climate change, can Conservatives and Progressives in the U.S. ever find common ground?