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Climate Criminals and Garbage Muncher

“We know the shit is gonna hit the fan; we just don’t know how much shit and how big of a fan we’re gonna need  to deal with it.” -Marvin Bloom from Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat?

Regularly I provide you with links to just three articles about Climate Change and Climate Action. From hundreds of articles that Prescott Allen Hazelton, one of my team members, sends me,  I pick the ones that help me best understand the problems we face, and articles that give me hope.

In this edition a clever invention that helps clean up trash in the water and harsh words for Climate Criminals in Australia. But first a piece about extinction. Such an awful word. A sad word when I think of wildlife. A terrifying word when I think of the human race.  With extinction, the bigger they are the faster they fall. That is what some researchers are saying about the the mass extinction that we have been witnessing. The winners will be all those little guys–insects, rodents, bacteria. The losers? Elephants and other large mammals

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Stanford biologist warns of early stages of Earth’s 6th mass extinction event by Bjorn Carey for Stanford.edu News. 

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Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.

And while previous extinctions have been driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity, a situation that the lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford, designates an era of “Anthropocene defaunation.”

Across vertebrates, 16 to 33 percent of all species are estimated to be globally threatened or endangered. Large animals – described as megafauna and including elephants, rhinoceroses, polar bears and countless other species worldwide – face the highest rate of decline, a trend that matches previous extinction events.

Larger animals tend to have lower population growth rates and produce fewer offspring. They need larger habitat areas to maintain viable populations. Their size and meat mass make them easier and more attractive hunting targets for humans.

Read the whole article here.

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‘Climate Criminality’: Australia OKs Biggest Coal Mine by Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams.
Environmental groups slam decision that will ‘dump on’ Great Barrier Reef, fuel climate crisis

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In a decision criticized as “climate criminality,” Australia’s federal government announced Monday that it has given the OK to the country’s biggest coal mine.

The announcement comes less than three months after the state of Queensland gave its approval to the project.

“With this decision,” wrote Ben Pearson, head of programs for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, “the political system failed to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the global climate and our national interest.”

“Off the back of repealing effective action on climate change,” stated Australian Greens environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters, referring to the scrapping of the carbon tax, “the Abbott Government has ticked off on a proposal for Australia’s biggest coal mine to cook the planet and turn our Reef into a super highway for coal ships.”

Read the whole article here.

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Solar-Powered Water Wheel Can Clean 50,000 Pounds of Baltimore’s Trash Per Day by Brandon Baker at Billmoyers.com

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A large wheel has been strolling the Baltimore Inner Harbor this summer, doing its best to clean the trash that has littered a city landmark and tourist attraction.

It’s called the Inner Harbor Water Wheel, and though it moves slowly, it has the capability to collect 50,000 pounds of trash. The timing for John Kellett’s solar-powered creation is crucial — hands and crab nets simply can’t keep up with the growing amount of wrappers, cigarette butts, bottles and other debris carried from storm drains into the harbor.

“It looks sort of like a cross between a spaceship and a covered wagon and an old mill,” Kellett told NPR. “It’s pretty unique in its look, but it’s also doing a really good job getting this trash out of the water.”

Read the whole article here and check out the cool video of the Inner Harbor Water Wheel.

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Check out previous editions of Prescott’s Climate Links. And Let us know what you are interested in understanding better. Where do you find hope?

(photos come from articles listed)

Creative and Clever Approaches to Climate Change

It is one thing to be alarmed about Climate Change, but what does one do with all that alarm? As we gain a deeper understanding of how absolutely dire the climate crisis has become, it is essential to see that many people are working overtime to develop creative, clever, and substantial responses to Global Warming. In this issue of Prescott’s Climate Links, we focus on solutions including one you can do on your very own.

Three Climate Solution Stories

hacking-climate-bwHacking the Climate: The Search for Solutions to the World’s Greatest Challenge by John Harte at Grist.

(excerpt) Today, around the world, governments as well as everyday people are taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the primary drivers of climate disruption. They’re finding the results of these actions go far beyond curbing global warming: They are also creating jobs, enhancing water quality, increasing crop yields, reducing waste, and improving health. These are the co-benefits of combatting climate change.

The public needs to know about these co-benefits. And so, with considerable input from journalism faculty at UC Berkeley, I led a follow-up graduate-level course, entitled “Early Solutions: Stories from the frontlines of the battle against climate change,” focused on the co-benefits of taking steps to deal with climate change.

The result is five stories, each exploring the various ways individuals and communities throughout the world are addressing climate change and, in return, enjoying the many co-benefits of their actions.

read more at Grist.org

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Whenever I hear about seed banks, like the powerful story of the seed bank during the Siege of Leningrad or the Svaldard Global Seed Vault in Norway,  I am almost moved to tears. Storing seed for me evokes both belief in the future and the foreboding that things can go terribly wrong. Similarly the following story Prescott shared with me caused me to tear up because of the challenges faced by these farmers and the hopeful strategy to survive.

Indigenous Seed Savers Gather in the Andes, Agree to Fight Climate Change with Biodiversity by Erin Sagen for Yes! Magazine

(excerpt) They came from as far as Bhutan and China, and from as near as the mountain itself. They discovered that their cultures were more similar than they had expected, and that one concern had been troubling all of them: Climate change was making it harder to grow food on the mountains that had sustained them for centuries. They were meeting to do something about it.

During a series of talks held between April 26 and May 2, the farmers forged a unique partnership entailing the exchange of indigenous crop varieties and farming methods, which they hope will protect agricultural biodiversity in the face of climate change. The exchange will begin with potatoes—a sturdy crop that thrives in the mountains of China, Bhutan, and Peru—and will enable the farmers to experiment together from a distance, so they can find the hardiest, most resilient varieties.

Read more here. image-1

 

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Finally a story that hits too close to home. I was a vegan for nearly 10 years, but since moving down to from Hartford, CT to Central Pennsylvania to be with the man I love, I have seen a expansion of my diet (and my waist). My husband, the fabulous writer, Glen Retief, is the slippery slope of omnivore living. We sit down to eat–I with my brown rice and veggies, he with a platter of animal products–when suddenly in his seductive South African accent he coos, You have to try to amazing cheese, and as I open my mouth to decline, he pops the hunk of cheese (or smoked trout or grilled lamb) in my mouth. Now that we have access to high quality, locally raised eggs and animals, I have feel off the vegan wagon.

Our diets do make a difference. A vegetable-based diet usually improves one’s health, contributes to a more peaceful world (with less killer of animals and maiming of meat packing industry workers), and aids the environment. These arguments still move me, and I am not completely happy with my current diet. To make me look at the issue deeper, here come Avatar director, James Cameron and his wife Amis, with a campaign to decrease animal products in our diets.

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James Cameron and wife to launch campaign advocating sustainable plant-only based diet by Jo Confino for the Guardian.

The couple initially quit eating meat and dairy for health reasons and Amis Cameron points to studies coming out of China from doctors and scientists that she says shows a strong connection between the consumption of animal products and major health problems such as heart disease and cancer.

As they delved further into the subject, they recognised that the meat and dairy industry is also the elephant in the room when it comes to climate change.

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Amis Cameron says momentum is starting to build around highlighting the issue and says she is heartened by recent studies in the UK showing the importance of reducing meat consumption. Last week the journal Climatic Change published a major study in the UK which found the dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat eaters were more than twice as high as for vegans.

Read more here

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If you read and enjoy this Prescott’s Climate Links series, please leave a message. Let us know what sort of stories move you and interest you. What do you want to hear more about? What do you want to learn about Global Warming? Check out previous editions of Prescott’s Climate Links.

photos (except Avatar poster) taken from articles above

Some good news about Renewable Energy around the world.

Every week Prescott Allen Hazelton, one of my team members who lives up in New England, sends me 20-50 links on climate change. I read through these and handpick just three. This time around I have selected articles about renewable energy. There is a race to develop new technologies and use existing ones so that we can meet our energy needs without burning greenhouse gases. Electricity is essential for most people in the world, well, except maybe my Amish neighbors.

I used to think that if we switched to wind and solar, our energy needs would be completely met by clean renewables, but I didn’t understand about intermittence–the need to fill in the gaps when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. Natural gas has been filling in some of these gaps, but we need to discover ways to store more energy and find alternative ways of addressing the alternative energy downtimes. (You can learn more here: Intermittent Energy Source)

Although wind and solar are not yet 100% clean sources because of the intermittency issue, they are still a whole like cleaner than burning coal, which is what has been the standard fuel source for many power stations globally. Everyday more and more alternative energy options are expanding. Here are three stories about renewable energy in the US, Denmark, Germany, India, and beyond.

Half of all New Energy Capacity in the US This Year is Renewable

According to the latest  Energy Infrastructure Update from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, solar and wind energy constituted more than half of the new generating capacity in the country for the first half of 2014.  Solar and wind energy combined for 1.83 gigawatts (GW) of the total 3.53 GW installed from January to June.

Global Warming: How will it affect women? Will technology save US?

Global Warming. Will technology save us? I know many of us hold onto a hope that some great invention will solve all of our climate woes. As you will see in our third link, addressing global warming will take more than just technology. But first, when I think of Global Warming, I don’t typically think of polar bears, bees, or sea coral–not that the threats they face are not real or urgent. I instead think of the people affected by climate change. I can’t help but think of myself and my husband and our friends and family in North America, Europe, and Southern Africa, and things we value that are at risk of being lost forever along with the feelings of fear over the uncertainty of it all.

I also think of other people–farmers, women in Subsaharan Africa, and poor and working class people in cities around the world who have always had to deal with more pollution in their communities than their richer neighbors.  Before we look at technology first let’s consider links to two stories that look at people disproportionately affected by climate change–poor communities in California cities and women in Jamaica.

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For the past 18 months the state of California has implemented a carbon cap-and-trade program collecting millions of dollars from companies who pollute. According to the original law, 25% of the revenue is suppose to go towards poorer communities adversely affected by pollution. Because of a budget shortfall last year, Governor Jerry Brown diverted that money (500 million dollars,) but at last these funds are going in the right place.

Under the new budget, about $230 million, or 26 percent, of the $872 million cap-and-trade money will go toward environmental justice efforts. That includes $75 million to weatherize low-income homes and $25 million for transit and intercity rail networks in poor communities. A program called Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities run by the state’s Strategic Growth Council will get $130 million to plan and build new housing and add amenities like public transit to existing neighborhoods.

Calif. Earmarks a Quarter of its Cap-and-Trade Riches for Environmental Justice by Amy Nordrum, Inside Climate News

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Throughout the developing world, women and girls are expected to face a harder time of it because of global warming. A recent series of papers out of Jamaica looks at some of the impacts of natural disasters and drought based on gender.

Apart from hurricanes, water shortages and droughts are also consequences of climate change which impact the poor and vulnerable within the society. Women and children in rural areas often find themselves having to go in search of water for domestic use.

“Women in general make up a large number of the vulnerable in communities that are highly dependent on local natural resources to survive,” said Tesi Scott.

Women said more vulnerable to climate change, Jamaica Observer

 

If you want to learn more about climate change and women, read the UN’s Women Watch page, Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change.

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I find that my mind repels the idea that Global Warming is as serious as scientists say it is. Who can grasp the magnitude of the crisis without denying it in part or negotiating its impacts away? “Well, I recycle,” we say trying comfort ourselves believing that if we each did our part, we will ultimately lick this current crisis. When we realize that our individual efforts do not even begin to come close enough to addressing the problem, we look to science and innovation for a cure, “Surely technology will save us.”

No doubt technology will play a large part in helping us to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We will need to develop all sorts of new technologies to capture carbon and create new energy sources that do not pollute. We are not there yet, and we need to dispossess ourselves of the notion that we can simply rely on technology to pull us out of the climate mess. Doug Struck of the Boston Globes recently wrote about a talk given by a Swiss scientist visiting the US.

“Technology will bring us a long way. But we will need also a change in our lifestyle,” he said. “It’s a grim message, but a true message. Science and technology is useful, but if you want to save the earth, you need also to work on the other side, on reducing our energy use.”

No magic bullet for climate change, Swiss scientist says by Doug Struck, Boston Globe

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If you want to get involved with a group of people working hard to change the way we use energy through a market-driven approach that will curb consumption and encourage alternatives to greenhouse gases, check out the Citizens Climate Lobby.

A Wall Street Investor Repents and an Australian Sewer Giving Back

For years I endured unnecessary and harmful gay conversion therapy in hopes that I would at last one day be 100% heterosexual and masculine the way the world around me demanded. The gay to straight “ex-gay” leaders at the time repeated the mantra, Change is Possible! While I was distracted attempting to change my sexuality, right under my nose the planet changed, the atmosphere grew toxic, and the temperature continued to rise. Today I am happily gay and genuinely alarmed about Global Warming. But as Prescott reveals in the links he sent me this past week, all sorts of changes are happening all around us–yes the planet we live on but also our fellow earthlings and how we respond and adapt.

As always, from the many articles Prescott forwarded to me, I have selected just three Climate Change links. Let’s begin with a story of change:

Some like Tom Steyer, a long time Wall Street investor, are waking up to the crisis upon us all and making big changes in their lives. Steyer used to invest in fossil fuels, but through a recent editorial in Politico, he set the record straight and explains how he left his investment job to take on Global Warming action as his life’s work.

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Let me be clear—climate change is bigger than any one person. I believe it is truly the most pressing issue we face, and one that if not addressed will have profound consequences for our kids. As a very senior and very conservative investor friend told me, “You never put the entire enterprise at risk. That’s bad business.” And yet, that’s what our society appears to be doing.

How Climate Change Changed Me by Tom Steyer

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The one issue I have with Steyer’s piece is that he falls back on a common belief often among liberals that, “If we each just do our part, we will beat this thing.” Change the car you drive and those lightbulbs and don’t forget to recycle. That feel-good, we-can-do-it message is a form of climate change denial. All those individual changes are good, don’t get me wrong, but we need to come to the place where we understand and accept the science. Global Warming has been ignored so long and has proceeded so far that our individual actions at home and on the road will make little difference. We need to act on larger scales. We need governments and businesses to change the way they operate. Prescott gives a good example from a town in Austria. Each citizen immediately has a lower carbon footprint because of this one big move by their town.

Vast amounts of hot water from household appliances, businesses and factories gurgle down the drain every day, wasting not only H2O but also another precious resource: heat energy. Not, however, in the Austrian town of Amstetten, where a pilot project by the local utility company is “recycling” this energy from a place where normally few dare to tread — the sewer.

Austrian town ‘recycles’ heat from unlikely source — its sewers

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If you want to learn about how cities in Sweden have been so successful in getting energy from burning their trash (without polluting) that they have a garbage shortage, read Sweden imports waste from European neighbors to fuel waste-to-energy program.

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While Alaska recovers from record flooding, the drought in the Southwest of the United States worsens. Ian James wrote a moving, informative, and thorough piece about alarming water shortages hitting the Southwest.

The biggest reservoir in the United States is dropping 1 foot each week. Lake Mead’s rapidly sinking water level is set to reach an all-time low in July, driven down by a 14-year drought that scientists say is one of the most severe to hit the Colorado River in more than 1,200 years.

The water behind Hoover Dam supplies vast areas of farmland and about 25 million people in three states, and this critical reservoir stands just 40 percent full.

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Some researchers say climate change in the Southwest is also essentially “water change” because the biggest, most difficult adjustments may be forced upon the region by worsening water scarcity.

Vanishing Water–An Already Strained Water Supply, Threatened by Climate Change 

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Check out previous editions of Prescott’s Climate Links and feel free to leave your comments below.