Wednesday, December 3, 2008
According to Miller...
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) produces a consensus report of climate and other scientists actively working on climate change that summarizes the known research and the certainty levels of the scientists on various effects. Policy-makers use this document to better understand the science and what policies should be enacted to prevent or mitigate for future damage.
The IPCC report shows what could happen in the future based on their linear models of climate change and predictions based on societal behavior (i.e. we stop emissions immediately, we don't do anything, we emit less, etc). Bad things for the climate are predicted if we don't change our behavior soon based on IPCC models of the climate.
However, IPCC is a consensus opinion, meaning that they have to use the best understood models and find an agreement between many different scientists. Therefore, the consensus opinion is more conservative than many IPCC scientists would prefer. It also uses linear models, which are easier to calculate, but don't always reflect the way the natural world works. Things like feedback cycles are not incorporated into the IPCC's predictions.
Feedback cycles to worry about that weren't addressed by IPCC models:
2) Glacial melt feedback loops
3) Methane traps
Permafrost - In Siberia, Canada, and Alaska, portions of the ground are permanently frozen year-round. The ground in many of these places is made of peat, which has a high organic content. The peat was never allowed to decompose because it was frozen, thereby trapping carbon dioxide in the frozen ground.
As it gets warmer, the ground melts and the peat begins to decompose. This process releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which raises the temperature a little. This causes more permafrost to melt, which releases more carbon dioxide, which raises the temperature a little more...this is a positive feedback cycle.
Glacial melt - Arctic sea ice is ice that floats on the water near the poles. It is connected to land in some way, and prevents the glaciers from traveling into the water. As the sea ice melts, the glaciers are not held back from the oceans. This will expose the glaciers to warmer temperatures and cause the ice to melt. This will cause sea level to rise and will encourage more glacial movement.
Methane Traps - This one isn't likely to occur in the near future, but may happen someday. Methane is stored frozen at the bottom of the ocean, and the gas is 20x as effective as an atmospheric blanket as carbon dioxide. The ocean warms first at the surface, and eventually (over, say 1000 years) the heat could cycle through to the bottom. If parts of the ocean warm enough to release methane gas, this will raise the temperature of the Earth. When that happens, the oceans will warm more, more methane gas will be released, and the temperature of Earth will rise further...
That's Dan Miller's "REALLY" Inconvenient Truth.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Written by Claudia Duranceau, Senior Research Recycling Engineer at Ford, the article points out that 52% of paper and 45% of aluminum cans are recycled. Fairly decent, right? Though I agree we could do better. However, she sais that more than 95% of cars, trucks, vans, etc., are recycled at the end of their lives. Personally I found this amazing. We have incentives for paper and can recycling in place, and still our vehicles are much more likely to be recycled.
Value of the product is no doubt the culprit. Duranceau sais that 84% of a car's material, by weight, can be recycled, and that FORD is designing the newer vehicles to be easier to take apart, increasing the chances of recycling individual parts. FORD is also a part of the Vehicle Recycling Partnership, who's goal is to increase vehicle recycling in an environmentally friendly way.
Finally, the article showed a Ford Taurus, and what it was composed of. 65% steel, 20% plastics, 5% aluminum, 5% other metals, and 5% gas, fluid, etc. Though they didn't break down which of these were recyclable, one can assume most of the metals, and some of the plastics, could be recycled.
Certainly an interesting read!
Monday, November 3, 2008
Read Article Here
An interesting perspective...what are the effects of ecosystems with salamanders, frogs, and other sensitive organisms like in areas not protected by the park service? What don't we know about the critters in our backyard?
It's amazing how these small organisms, along with other critters like bugs, larvae, and plants, are capable of measuring the health of an entire watershed or region.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
READ IT HERE!
Monday, October 13, 2008
Some talks focused on understanding the impacts of the current climate changes on regions with endangered species, and what we have to do to protect these animals from the future threat of a changing habitat. One specifically talked about our work on preserving coral reefs considering that, as we emit more carbon dioxide, the oceans will become more acidic. Many marine ecosystems will be impacted by this change, and we have to consider this in addition to things like overfishing and pollution.
Other talks were focused on understanding past crises in the fossil record and what we can learn from the species that survived or went extinct during those times. In many ways, geologists are actively trying to understand and help mitigate the problems caused by our changing planet.
Some example talks from GSA
It's exciting to be a geologist today. Applications for a lot of our research can be found in working toward mitigating biodiversity loss, assessing climate change implications, and planning for a better future. So, the next time you meet a child who's really interested in dinosaurs, rocks, or other fossils, encourage him or her, because geology is shaping our future!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Read it here!
Friday, September 19, 2008
Let's clarify a few things first:
What is a podcar or PRT? is a form of
- A podcar or personal rapid transit (PRT) is a form of public transportation with individual cars that ride on a guided rail. They operate on electricity and function similar to an elevator or a driverless taxi. Individuals wait at a station until a podcar arrives, climb in (up to 5 people can ride according to panels held at Podcar: Ithaca), and press a button indicating where you would like to travel. Without repeated stops to pick up others, like a subway or bus, the podcar would take you directly to your destination. In this way, the podcar system is much more personal than other forms of mass transit where you must share a space with at least 50 other people you may or may not know.
Who came to this conference?
- This conference was attended by people from all over the world. I met people from the Netherlands and Sweden who were already implementing the podcar system and praising its successes. I also attended a panel that was moderated by someone very familiar with current automobile design, who talked about the difficulties of getting Americans and other cultures to embrace any form of mass transit system.
Okay, now on to the meat of the issue. In the parts of the conference that I attended, I heard about using Second Life, an interactive virtual world, to understand the technical aspects of building a podcar in a given city, and also using it to address the concerns of the citizenry affected by the new podcar system. As a geologist, this was really interesting to me, because the computer programmer giving the talk said she uploaded ACTUAL TOPOGRAPHIC DATA from the US Geological Survey to recreate the terrain of the town, and then used digital images like those from GoogleEarth for landuse data. The recreation of the town depicted was amazing, and showed architects the best way to build the potential podcar. Adding a podcar element to the virtual town, the computer programmer could then take the program to a town hall meeting and address concerns of visual pollution, how the podcar system would work, where it would run, etc., etc., with actual images that townspeople could relate to.
I also attended a panel that was full of creativity. Concerns of whether to call the system podcar (to relate to current cars) or PRT (negative connotations of mass transit) were discussed, as well as the status symbol of owning a car both here and abroad. Ideas were tossed around about personalizing the inside of podcars with something similar to an ipod that would automatically reset radio dials, greet you, and possibly even change the color of the outside of the podcar! I told you, some of these ideas were very creative.
Where do I stand? I think it's a neat idea, and I'm excited that we, as Americans, are beginning to look into alternatives. Plus, they look a little like roller coasters, and I love thrill rides. Is this the right idea for Ithaca? Perhaps it would be a cost effective solution for getting college students up and down the hill without running large buses up and down repeatedly, and would clear up congestion around the Commons. I do think that it is something that large cities without subways in place already may wish to look into, and podcar is a pretty cool, futuristic name! If podcars did come to Ithaca, I'd certainly go for a ride!
for more information on cost/etc of podcars, I found this blog. You can be your own judge. Happy trails!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Canadian arctic sheds ice chunk
Please feel free to comment or ask questions if there's anything you don't understand about the article. Happy Monday from PRI!!
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Why not make decorative knit or crocheted bags for my loved ones? I can make them now, relatively quickly, and use them instead of wrapping paper to wrap their holiday gift. I could also fill them with homemade holiday baked goods that cut down on packaging and manufacturing needs, all while saving money in order to travel to them for a visit.
You can make this a group activity, learning tricks and sharing stories, by finding a knitting or crocheting group here in Ithaca, or wherever you're traveling. Try attending a Knitting, etc. (in the Triphammer Mall) Knitter's Happy Hour, the first Friday of every month from 5-7p.m. If anyone knows of other knitting groups here in the Ithaca area, please feel free to comment or open up your group to invite others here, and tell me what you're doing to promote creative sustainability this holiday season.
Finally, I'll close with links to a couple patterns I found for cute decorative bags. These aren't the ones you pack binoculars in for your father or uncle, but hopefully they'll spark some ideas!
The Amelia Bag
All Occasion Tote Bag (perfect for the grocery store or bakery)
Friday, August 29, 2008
As far as greening goes, I’m a little late to the game when it comes to my friends, but admittedly, I have some pretty green friends. But since I must be ahead of some people, I thought I’d share with you our very small and manageable changes made so far.
My approach to greening up our house is the same as my approach to our diet. Years ago when the mid-twenties metabolism slow-down hit, I realized that I couldn’t continue to eat anything and everything I wanted if I wanted to look good and live past 40. So I started extremely slowly and just changed one thing at a time and picked a new thing every few months. Five years later, I’m still making extremely slow changes to slowly become more aware of what I eat and make changes that I can handle and even enjoy.
You can’t force life changes. If something is going to stick, you not only have to want to do it but it has to be slow enough to become a part of your thinking and your routine. So I haven’t read any books on greening yet because I know I would be overwhelmed with information and possibilities. I’m starting with the basic steps to give us a foundation before we move forward into more complicated matters.
I do feel lucky though because both B & I grew up with parents who loved nature and taught us to preserve the Earth far before it became vogue to do so. That was a wonderful gift that they gave us and it makes the whole process much more intuitive.
Reusable Grocery Bags – As I’ve mentioned before we got our bags from 1 Bag at a Time. I think my brother said it best when he said that he loved the bags so much, he would use them even if it weren’t green. The bags are huge, extremely sturdy, so much easier to carry (and therefore don’t hurt my back), and eliminate that horrible part of your closet with the hundreds of plastic bags. I really can’t say enough wonderful things about this switch. The key is to keep them in your car, otherwise the whole system fails. We bought 10 of them and even with the fullest cart we’ve ever had (top and bottom), I think we’ve used 8 at the most because of how much they hold. I’ve bought them for people for presents and will continue to do so because they’re just so great. If you’re going to do one thing, do this.
No Paper Towels – I told you before what happened when we went to Nasvhville and saw that neither Feather Nester nor Ouiser used paper towels. At the time it was so revolutionary, and when we finally did it (accidentally), we didn’t even notice!! It was perfect timing because we simultaneously ran out and then B’s mom gave me an amazing gift basket for my bridal shower filled with tons of hand towels. The key is the hand towels!
Since we had run out and suddenly had all of these wonderful kitchen towels, I figured we could just give it a go and see what it was like without them. This is my system – I use one hand towel a day for all things paper towel related and after dinner I use the towel to clean the counters and the stove, then I toss it in the laundry. Believe it or not, I’ve actually had a much cleaner kitchen since implementing this system because I know that that’s the final towel step.
The only flaw we found with no paper towels was when we were washing chicken or fish and needed to pat it dry (if you did that with the towel you couldn’t keep using it since it had touched raw meat), and when we cooked bacon and wanted to drain some of the grease off. To solve this I just took a t-shirt and cut it into four squares that I keep in a drawer – these are for the raw meat or grease.
At first B didn’t want to go without paper towels, but then he was the one who pointed out to me (with his engineering mind) that the waste involved was far greater that just the paper towels once you thought about the entire lengthy and wasteful manufacturing process, the gas, the packaging, the pollution, etc, etc.
Stop Washing Off the Dishes! – It occurred to me one day as I was loading the dishwasher that I was rinsing off every single dish before I put it in there. How dumb! While I realize that some dish washers require this step, ours doesn’t and it was a huge waste of water. It’s like that old joke about how you clean up your house before the maid comes over.
This step was one of those that came out of trying to be more aware. I think before you have any desire to settle in to a greener lifestyle to have to really pay attention to your current lifestyle and realize where the places are that you can cut back. I first realized this when I backpacked around
Sweet Nothings had a similar moment recently. She was telling me that it occurred to her one day how much water is wasted in the morning when you let the water run to warm up the shower. So the small change that she and her husband made was to capture some of the water in a bucket and use it to water the garden. I couldn’t do that because of my back, but I thought it was a good example of something that came out of looking around and seeing what you could do.
Less Zip Loc Bags – This one is still a work in progress since I haven’t purchased Pyrex containers, but I try to limit our usage and wash them whenever possible
Avoid Plastic When Possible – This is another example of a small change that doesn’t have to alter your life at all. For instance, I was recently in Bed,
Composting – I read last week in Time Magazine that food compost makes up a full 30% of our waste. As a result of this, some cities have implemented composting pick up the same way that they pick up your recycling. It’s a great idea because it saves the land fills, the citizens are paying less for garbage pick-up since there are less bags, and the city is able to make money off of the final product. Win – Win!
This one we haven’t actually implemented yet because we’re in the process of moving, but it just kills me to throw away so much food waste into a plastic bag where it can’t break down for years, when I could just put it into a composter in our back yard! Working at the museum allowed me to get into a long conversation with a Master Composter (yes, there really is such a thing) and learn how simple and easy it is. Also, there are so many other things that can be composted and actually increase the quality, such as tissues and newspapers. And unlike the common misconception, if done properly (no meat, no oil, etc.) it does not smell and does not attract animals.
Tire Pressure – This one is a new one that we were talking about and haven’t implemented yet, but since we frequently take weekend road trips, we are going to start checking the tire pressure (something we’ve never done once!) to make sure we’re getting the most out of our golden gas.
Front Loaders – Again, this is something we haven’t done yet, but we’ll need a washer and dryer once we move, so we’re saving up for them.
More Diligent Recycling – This was another small step. I realized that I was great at recycling if I was standing in the kitchen, but not so good if I was standing elsewhere. But most bathroom products (shampoos, medicine bottles, etc.) are recyclable, so I’ve started paying attention and walking them into the kitchen.
I think that’s about all for now. Nothing too revolutionary, but nothing that has felt annoying or uncomfortable either. And like I mentioned, I think the biggest change for me has been the internal awareness of how much we’re consuming and/or how much we’re throwing away. Overall it has lead to an intense desire to have less “stuff.” Luckily it’s the perfect time to be getting rid of stuff since the big garage sale is in two weeks!
If you’ve made very small and simple steps that I haven’t mentioned, please let me know – we’ll turn this into a Monday Poll. But like I said, it’s a long, slow process, so don’t give me anything too advanced yet J Looking forward to your ideas!!
Monday, August 25, 2008
Plus, you can design a character and watch her/him walk all over the screen! Great fun! Let us know what your ecological footprints are, and any resulting changes you may make in your lifestyle as a result.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
Watch the "remix" of Al Gore's historic speech below:
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC, July 14, 2008 (ENS) - Saying that Americans are worried about the high price of gasoline, President George W. Bush today removed the executive ban on offshore exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf, the OCS, that has stood since his father was in the Oval Office.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, the president blamed the Democratically-controlled Congress for rising gasoline prices that averaged more than $4.07 a gallon at the 4th of July holiday weekend. That is 13 cents more than last month and $1.09 higher than a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association.
"For years, my administration has been calling on Congress to expand domestic oil production," said President Bish. "Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal - and now Americans are paying at the pump. When members of Congress were home over the Fourth of July recess, they heard a clear message from their constituents: We need to take action now to expand domestic oil production."
President George W. Bush (Photo by Luke Sharrett courtesy The White House)
Congress banned most offshore drilling in 1981. Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, issued an executive order banning offshore drilling after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, today responded by blaming the president for pursuing the agenda of the major oil companies.
"Once again, the oilman in the White House is echoing the demands of Big Oil," said Pelosi.
"The Bush plan is a hoax. It will neither reduce gas prices nor increase energy independence," said Pelosi, who says the oil companies already have oil leases on nearly 68 million acres of public lands and coastal areas that they are not exploring.
"It's time to tell the oil industry, 'You already have millions of acres to drill. Use it or lose it,'" she said.
"If the President wants to bring down prices in the next two weeks, not the next two decades," Pelosi said, "he should free our oil by releasing a small portion of the more than 700 million barrels of oil we have put in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve."
Pelosi and members of her leadership team are working on legislation that maximizes production of areas that are already open to drilling.
One measure under discussion would expedite completion of new oil and natural gas pipelines in Alaska. Another would direct the Bureau of Land Management to hold annual instead of biannual lease sales for the National Petroleum Reserve. Other provisions would prevent Alaskan oil from being sold outside the United States, and further restrict speculation in oil markets. The bill is expected to come before the House this week.
The OCS contains an estimated 86 billion barrels of oil and more than 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, today repeated his support for allowing more drilling, but he emphasized that the states should decide whether or not to open coastal areas to oil and gas exploration.
The presumptive Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, opposes lifting the ban.
The National Association of Manufacturers, NAM, today praised President Bush for lifting the executive ban on offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf.
“We are encouraged by the actions of the president and urge Congress to show equal resolve by moving forward in a quick, positive, and bi-partisan manner to lift its ban on offshore exploration,” said Jay Timmons, NAM executive vice president.
“This country is facing an energy crisis,” Timmons said. “It is imperative that every opportunity to reduce the cost of energy be taken."
“Providing access to these domestic energy resources will send a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. is serious about easing the burden faced by American consumers and manufacturers,” Timmons said.
President Bush called on Congress to pass legislation repealing the congressional ban, and facilitating "responsible offshore exploration" that allows states "to have a say in what happens off their shores, provides a way for the federal government and states to share new leasing revenues, and ensure the environment is protected."
Bush also called for Congress "to tap into the extraordinary potential of oil shale, which could provide Americans with domestic oil supplies that are equal to more than a century's worth of current oil imports."
But the shale proposal is not likely to generate much support across the country. Late last month, the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Miami adopted a resolution aimed at avoiding the use of high carbon fuels such as tar sands, liquid coal, and oil shale. Production of useable oil and gas from these sources requires large amounts of water and energy and emits large amounts of greenhouse gases.
Bush also called on Congress to permit exploration in currently restricted areas of northern Alaska, "which could produce roughly the equivalent of two decades of imported oil from Saudi Arabia."
And the president repeated his demand for Congress to expand and enhance U.S. refining capacity, "so that America will no longer have to import millions of barrels of fully-refined gasoline from abroad."
While some governors, such as Florida Governor Charlie Crist favor offshore drilling, many governors are opposed.
Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California said last month at the climate change conference in Florida, "Politicians have been throwing around all kinds of ideas in response to the skyrocketing energy prices, from the rethinking of nuclear power to pushing biofuels and more renewables and ending the ban on offshore drilling. But anyone who tells you this would bring down gas prices any time soon is blowing smoke."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The experiment on which the study is based is one of the longest-running studies of climate change impacts on natural vegetation and may yield new insights into the effects of global warming on plant ecosystems.
"Contemporary wisdom suggests that climate changes cause plants to move or die," says Jason Fridley, study co-author and assistant professor of biology in The College of Arts and Sciences at SU. "However, our study suggests that if the changes in climate occur slowly enough, some plants have the ability to respond, adapt and thrive in their existing location."
The new findings resulted from the analysis of 13 years of data collected at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory (BCCIL) in the United Kingdom by Emeritus Professor J. Philip Grime and colleagues at the University of Sheffield. Established in 1989, BCCIL is a field laboratory of grasslands consisting largely of slow-growing herbs and sub-shrubs, many of which are more than 100 years old. As many as 50 different species of plants per square meter survive the region's hostile conditions by growing in shallow soil and in the nooks and crannies of limestone outcrops. The data analysis was supported by a grant Fridley obtained from the National Science Foundation.
The 13-year experiment at BCCIL involved subjecting 30 small grassland plots to microclimate manipulation. For example, some plots received 20 percent more water than normal during the summer, while other plots were covered with rain shelters in the summer to simulate drought conditions; heating cables were placed under some plots to simulate winter warming. The grasses in all of the plots were cut to simulate annual sheep grazing. A similar experiment was concurrently conducted on grasslands in Southern England for the first five years.
Data collected from the northern and southern sites was the subject of a study published by Grime and colleagues in Science (2000). In the 2000 study, the vegetation in the southern plots was substantially altered by the climate changes, while the Buxton vegetation in the north was virtually unaffected. The southern experiment was dismantled, but Grime continued the experiment on the Buxton plots.
"Based on the results of the five-year experiment, we suspected there was something unique happening in the northern grasslands that enabled the plants to resist simulated climate changes," Fridley says. "We formed two hypotheses -- the plants will eventually be affected, but it will take longer due to chronic nutrient shortage; or the grasslands won't change regardless of how long we manipulate the environment. All of our analysis suggested that the grassland ecosystem is stable, despite the climate manipulations."
The new results have yielded more questions than answers; foremost is why are some plants resistant to climate change, while others die, become extinct or migrate to other places? The answers may lie in the nature and behavior of the individual plants within a species.
"Individual plants may die or contract," Fridley says, "but perhaps they are replaced by those of the same species that are more adapted to the environmental changes. The closer we look, the more complex the systems become. There is actually a lot going on, but we may be missing it because we are looking at a broad spectrum of species instead of what is happening at the level of the individual plants within a species."
Adapted from materials provided by Syracuse University.
Monday, June 23, 2008
By James Howard Kunstler
Sunday, May 25, 2008; B03
Everywhere I go these days, talking about the global energy predicament on the college lecture circuit or at environmental conferences, I hear an increasingly shrill cry for "solutions." This is just another symptom of the delusional thinking that now grips the nation, especially among the educated and well-intentioned.
I say this because I detect in this strident plea the desperate wish to keep our "Happy Motoring" utopia running by means other than oil and its byproducts. But the truth is that no combination of solar, wind and nuclear power, ethanol, biodiesel, tar sands and used French-fry oil will allow us to power Wal-Mart, Disney World and the interstate highway system -- or even a fraction of these things -- in the future. We have to make other arrangements.
The public, and especially the mainstream media, misunderstands the "peak oil" story. It's not about running out of oil. It's about the instabilities that will shake the complex systems of daily life as soon as the global demand for oil exceeds the global supply. These systems can be listed concisely:
The way we produce food
The way we conduct commerce and trade
The way we travel
The way we occupy the land
The way we acquire and spend capital
And there are others: governance, health care, education and more.
As the world passes the all-time oil production high and watches as the price of a barrel of oil busts another record, as it did last week, these systems will run into trouble. Instability in one sector will bleed into another. Shocks to the oil markets will hurt trucking, which will slow commerce and food distribution, manufacturing and the tourist industry in a chain of cascading effects. Problems in finance will squeeze any enterprise that requires capital, including oil exploration and production, as well as government spending. These systems are all interrelated. They all face a crisis. What's more, the stress induced by the failure of these systems will only increase the wishful thinking across our nation.
And that's the worst part of our quandary: the American public's narrow focus on keeping all our cars running at any cost. Even the environmental community is hung up on this. The Rocky Mountain Institute has been pushing for the development of a "Hypercar" for years -- inadvertently promoting the idea that we really don't need to change.
Years ago, U.S. negotiators at a U.N. environmental conference told their interlocutors that the American lifestyle is "not up for negotiation." This stance is, unfortunately, related to two pernicious beliefs that have become common in the United States in recent decades. The first is the idea that when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. (Oprah Winfrey advanced this notion last year with her promotion of a pop book called "The Secret," which said, in effect, that if you wish hard enough for something, it will come to you.) One of the basic differences between a child and an adult is the ability to know the difference between wishing for things and actually making them happen through earnest effort.
The companion belief to "wishing upon a star" is the idea that one can get something for nothing. This derives from America's new favorite religion: not evangelical Christianity but the worship of unearned riches. (The holy shrine to this tragic belief is Las Vegas.) When you combine these two beliefs, the result is the notion that when you wish upon a star, you'll get something for nothing. This is what underlies our current fantasy, as well as our inability to respond intelligently to the energy crisis.
These beliefs also explain why the presidential campaign is devoid of meaningful discussion about our energy predicament and its implications. The idea that we can become "energy independent" and maintain our current lifestyle is absurd. So is the gas-tax holiday. (Which politician wants to tell voters on Labor Day that the holiday is over?) The pie-in-the-sky plan to turn grain into fuel came to grief, too, when we saw its disruptive effect on global grain prices and the food shortages around the world, even in the United States. In recent weeks, the rice and cooking-oil shelves in my upstate New York supermarket have been stripped clean.
So what are intelligent responses to our predicament? First, we'll have to dramatically reorganize the everyday activities of American life. We'll have to grow our food closer to home, in a manner that will require more human attention. In fact, agriculture needs to return to the center of economic life. We'll have to restore local economic networks -- the very networks that the big-box stores systematically destroyed -- made of fine-grained layers of wholesalers, middlemen and retailers.
We'll also have to occupy the landscape differently, in traditional towns, villages and small cities. Our giant metroplexes are not going to make it, and the successful places will be ones that encourage local farming.
Fixing the U.S. passenger railroad system is probably the one project we could undertake right away that would have the greatest impact on the country's oil consumption. The fact that we're not talking about it -- especially in the presidential campaign -- shows how confused we are. The airline industry is disintegrating under the enormous pressure of fuel costs. Airlines cannot fire any more employees and have already offloaded their pension obligations and outsourced their repairs. At least five small airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past two months. If we don't get the passenger trains running again, Americans will be going nowhere five years from now.
We don't have time to be crybabies about this. The talk on the presidential campaign trail about "hope" has its purpose. We cannot afford to remain befuddled and demoralized. But we must understand that hope is not something applied externally. Real hope resides within us. We generate it -- by proving that we are competent, earnest individuals who can discern between wishing and doing, who don't figure on getting something for nothing and who can be honest about the way the universe really works.
James Howard Kunstler is the author, most recently, of "World Made by Hand," a novel about America's post-oil future.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Saturday, June 7th at Noon
Frank DiSalvo is the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science and Director of the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future (CCSF). CCSF is a new center to bring Cornell faculty, staff, students, others together to address challenges in energy, environment, and economic development. He is also Co-director of the Cornell Fuel Cell Institute, a member of the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee of the Department of Energy, and a member of the National Academy of Science.
DiSalvo's lecture is entitled "The Climate/Energy Debate. This lecture is included with admission to the Museum of the Earth. For more information about Museum of the Earth please visit us on the web at www.museumoftheearth.org.
And the channel is using celebrities — including rapper Ludacris, rocker Tommy Lee and Entourage star Adrian Grenier — to soft-pedal its mission and win over casual "armchair environmentalists."
The target audience: college students, baby boomers and new parents who have demonstrated an interest in improving the planet by changing their ways of living.
"It used to be that green was granola and left," says Discovery Networks CEO David Zaslav. But with interest in environmentalism broadening beyond the hard-core planet-in-peril preachers, Discovery is eyeing a mainstream audience for its brand of advocacy.
"We're not going to be 'The ice is melting,' " he says; the audience already gets that message. "We want to engage people in a fun way and in the spirit of what we can all do together."
Though other cable channels offer programming blocks, this is the first fully "green" channel. And in a rare move for a start-up, Planet Green plans a nearly all-original lineup of 14 personality-driven series this summer, three of which will air five days a week.
"The voices from Hollywood will help audiences find the network faster," says channel chief Eileen O'Neill. She says other experts will add a dose of credibility.
That means such shows as Battleground Earth, which pits Ludacris against Tommy Lee — neither of whom is known for his green thumb — in a series of challenges such as solar-powered racing and bamboo home-building.
"That sounds a little out of my element as far as hard labor is concerned," says Ludacris, who says his main environmental contribution so far has been keeping lights turned off and "putting my computer on sleep." But, he says, "I'm willing to do what I need to do to educate America. There's little things I know about, but I feel like there are other things I can learn."
And Grenier, whose Entourage HBO alter-ego is a party-hearty movie star, will produce and appear in The Green Life, which aims "to inspire on an emotional level" his own brand of environmentalism, including refurbishing a Spanish-style home with an ozonated pool and recycled shower water.
"We're attempting to avoid the more boring parts of what this show could be," he says. "We're not a bricks-and-mortar type show. The main focus is how to be creative when you're trying to do things you want to do anyway."
Told that Lee already has dubbed him "Luda the Polluta," Ludacris (aka Chris Bridges) came up with his own nickname for his soon-to-be nemesis (the show begins filming April 16): "Toxic Tommy."
"I was definitely not down to do another reality show, because we have too many of those, and they're stupid," Lee says. "But we're doing something for our kids. (Environmentalism) is a serious sort of subject, but you got to make it fun or you freak people out."
Planet Green replaces Discovery Home, an unsuccessful spinoff channel, and will be available in 50 million of the nation's 110 million TV homes June 4. It's part of the company's retooling that also has transformed Discovery Times into Investigation Discovery, and next year turns Discovery Health into the Oprah Winfrey Network.
In 10-year-old Discovery Home, "they've got a network on their hands that clearly is not working," says SNL Kagan analyst Derek Baine. "If they don't do something to get the image up and deliver viewers, they are in danger of having operators drop the channel (or) move it to a higher (digital) tier."
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Thursday, May 29, 2008
Large Methane Release Could Cause Abrupt Climate Change As Happened 635 Million Years Ago
ScienceDaily (May 29, 2008) — An abrupt release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, about 635 million years ago from ice sheets that then extended to Earth's low latitudes caused a dramatic shift in climate, triggering a series of events that resulted in global warming and effectively ended the last "snowball" ice age, a UC Riverside-led study reports.
The researchers posit that the methane was released gradually at first and then in abundance from clathrates -- methane ice that forms and stabilizes beneath ice sheets under specific temperatures and pressures. When the ice sheets became unstable, they collapsed, releasing pressure on the clathrates which began to degas.
"Our findings document an abrupt and catastrophic means of global warming that abruptly led from a very cold, seemingly stable climate state to a very warm also stable climate state with no pause in between," said Martin Kennedy, a professor of geology in the Department of Earth Sciences, who led the research team.
"This tells us about the mechanism, which exists, but is dormant today, as well as the rate of change," he added. "What we now need to know is the sensitivity of the trigger: how much forcing does it take to move from one stable state to the other, and are we approaching something like that today with current carbon dioxide warming."
Study results appear in the May 29 issue of Nature.
According to the study, methane clathrate destabilization acted as a runaway feedback to increased warming, and was the tipping point that ended the last snowball Earth. (The snowball Earth hypothesis posits that the Earth was covered from pole to pole in a thick sheet of ice for millions of years at a time.)
"Once methane was released at low latitudes from destabilization in front of ice sheets, warming caused other clathrates to destabilize because clathrates are held in a temperature-pressure balance of a few degrees," Kennedy said. "But not all the Earth's methane has been released as yet. These same methane clathrates are present today in the Arctic permafrost as well as below sea level at the continental margins of the ocean, and remain dormant until triggered by warming.
"This is a major concern because it's possible that only a little warming can unleash this trapped methane. Unzippering the methane reservoir could potentially warm the Earth tens of degrees, and the mechanism could be geologically very rapid. Such a violent, zipper-like opening of the clathrates could have triggered a catastrophic climate and biogeochemical reorganization of the ocean and atmosphere around 635 million years ago."
Today, the Earth's permafrost extends from the poles to approximately 60 degrees latitude. But during the last snowball Earth, which lasted from 790 to 635 million years ago, conditions were cold enough to allow clathrates to extend all the way to the equator.
According to Kennedy, the abruptness of the glacial termination, changes in ancient ocean-chemistry, and unusual chemical deposits in the oceans that occurred during the snowball Earth ice age have been a curiosity and a challenge to climate scientists for many decades.
"The geologic deposits of this period are quite different from what we find in subsequent deglaciation," he said. "Moreover, they immediately precede the first appearance of animals on earth, suggesting some kind of environmental link. Our methane hypothesis is capable also of accounting for this odd geological, geochemical and paleooceanographic record."
Also called marsh gas, methane is a colorless, odorless gas. As a greenhouse gas, it is about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and has largely been held responsible for a warming event that occurred about 55 million years ago, when average global temperatures rose by 4-8 degrees Celsius.
When released into the ocean-atmosphere system, methane reacts with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and can cause marine dysoxia, which kills oxygen-using animals, and has been proposed as an explanation for major oceanic extinctions.
"One way to look at the present human influence on global warming is that we are conducting a global-scale experiment with Earth's climate system," Kennedy said. "We are witnessing an unprecedented rate of warming, with little or no knowledge of what instabilities lurk in the climate system and how they can influence life on Earth. But much the same experiment has already been conducted 635 million years ago, and the outcome is preserved in the geologic record. We see that strong forcing on the climate, not unlike the current carbon dioxide forcing, results in the activation of latent controls in the climate system that, once initiated, change the climate to a wholly different state."
As part of their research, Kennedy and his colleagues collected hundreds of marine sediment samples in South Australia for stable isotope analysis, an important tool used in climate reconstruction. At UCR, the researchers analyzed the samples and found the broadest range of oxygen isotopic variation ever reported from marine sediments that they attribute to melting waters in ice sheets as well as destabilization of clathrates by glacial meltwater.
Next in their research, Kennedy and his colleagues will work on estimating how much of the temperature change that occurred 635 million years ago was due solely to methane.
Kennedy, who directs the Global Climate and Environmental Change Graduate Program in UCR's Department of Earth Sciences, was joined in the study by UCR's David Mrofka; and Chris von der Borch of Flinders University, Australia. The study was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA Exobiology.
- Martin Kennedy, David Mrofka & Chris von der Borch. Snowball Earth termination by destabilization of equatorial permafrost methane clathrate. Nature, 453, 642-645 (29 May 2008) DOI: 10.1038/nature06961
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tell Congress to renew incentives for clean energy now.
If Congress lets these clean energy credits lapse, 116,000 jobs and $19 billion in investments for 2009 will be immediately at risk. The clean power industry has been a bright spot in our economy -- providing good jobs, relief from skyrocketing energy prices and solutions to the climate crisis. The industry is poised to make great leaps in scale. Inaction from Washington to slow this momentum would be a mistake -- and could lead investors back to the polluting fossil-fuel industries of the past.
Add your voice today. We'll deliver the petition to the leaders of Congress to demand a vote on our energy and economic future.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
A Lecture from Dr. Tom Lovejoy
Creator of the PBS series "Nature"
Friday, April 18, 2008
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Join Museum of the Earth as we kick off our Earth Day celebration with a reception and lecture from Dr. Tom Lovejoy.
Lovejoy is a nationally recognized environmental advocate and founder of the public television series “Nature.” He is currently President of the Heinz Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution dedicated to improving the scientific and economic foundation for environmental policy through multisectoral collaboration. Before assuming leadership at the Heinz Center, he was the World Bank’s Chief Biodiversity adviser and Lead Specialist for Environment for Latin America and the Caribbean and Senior adviser to the President of the United Nations Foundation. Dr. Lovejoy has been Assistant Secretary and Counselor to the Secretary at the Smithsonian Institution, Science adviser to the Secretary of the Interior, and Executive Vice President of the World Wildlife Fun-U.S. He also served on science and environmental councils or committees under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations.
The Lovejoy lecture and reception is free and open to the public.
Family Earth Day Celebration
Saturday, April 19, 2008
11:00 am – 3:00 pm
The Museum of the Earth is excited to host a series of fun filled activities for the whole family in celebration of Earth Day!
Botany through the Ages
11:30 and 1:30
How did plants change and evolve throughout
history and what kind of influences did they have on animal evolution?
What are the contributions of plants in the development of todays
Earth? Develop a better appreciation of plants as they discover how
important plants are to their existence.
Honda Hybrid Car Display
Check out one of the latest Honda Hybrids on display in the Plaza courtesy of Honda of Ithaca!
11:00 and 1:00
Earth story time at 11am and 1pm - Sit back, relax and enjoy stories of
the Earth for listeners of all ages.
Ongoing activities of crafts and so much more!
Earth Day Celebration made possible by Wegmans!
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
From the HuffingtonPost:
Former Vice President Al Gore is set to unveil a three-year, $300 million climate change campaign Wednesday, one of the most ambitious and costly public advocacy campaigns in U.S. history, the Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin reports:
The Alliance for Climate Protection's "we" campaign will employ online organizing and television advertisements on shows ranging from "American Idol" to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." It highlights the extent to which Americans' growing awareness of global warming has yet to translate into national policy changes, Gore said in an hour-long phone interview last week. He said the campaign, which Gore is helping to fund, was undertaken in large part because of his fear that U.S. lawmakers are unwilling to curb the human-generated emissions linked to climate change.
"This climate crisis is so interwoven with habits and patterns that are so entrenched, the elected officials in both parties are going to be timid about enacting the bold changes that are needed until there is a change in the public's sense of urgency in addressing this crisis," Gore said. "I've tried everything else I know to try. The way to solve this crisis is to change the way the public thinks about it."
Private contributors have already donated or committed half the money needed to fund the entire campaign, he said. While Gore declined to quantify his contribution to the effort, he has devoted all his proceeds from the Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," the best-selling companion book, his salary from the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and several international prizes, such as the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, which add up to more than a $2.7 million. Paramount Classics, the documentary's distributor, has pledged 5 percent of the film's profits to the group, and some of the money raised through the 2007 Live Earth concerts will help the campaign, along with Gore's proceeds from an upcoming book on climate change.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Petsch discovered certain bacteria which fed off of CO² deep below ice sheets. These bacteria are responsible for producing natural gas during the ice age and the progression of glaciers through Michigan. During the Ice Age there were also high levels of methane in the earth’s atmosphere. Throughout the draw back of the ice sheets there was an immense amount of natural gas in the atmosphere, which consists primarily of methane gas.
By using the chemistry of water and rock samples from the shale Petsch is recreating an environment similar to that of the Ice Age. The water melted away from the glaciers and allowed for bacteria to thrive and consume the available carbon, therefore storing the natural gas they produced, underneath the shale.
75% of the gas stored was released into the atmosphere while retreating glaciers during the ice age as well as adding methane from other sources such as tropical wetlands. All of this concludes there were large emissions of methane throughout the atmosphere during this time period.
The bacteria provide us with the opportunity to create natural gas reservoirs, ultimately supplying us with another source of renewable energy.
These studies also are bringing scientist closer to discovering what aspects (particularly how methane) affects melting glaciers and global warming within our own environment.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Climate Change and Biodiversity: A Public Policy Imperative
Thomas Lovejoy will be our Keynote Speaker during our EarthDay Celebration on Friday, April 18th at the Museum of the Earth. Details to come at a later date!
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Friday, February 8, 2008
Bow River and Cascade Mountain, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
The Canadian state,
Approximately 12% of gas diminutions are going to be through conservation and energy efficiency. They also plan on advancing their technologies to be environment friendly using clean energy including incentives for expanding renewable energy sources are contributing another 18% to the overall 70%.
On the opposing side, this plan will not initiate until the year 2020.
Friday, February 1, 2008
Another Important part of this proposal is increasing the use of biofuels throughout
The European Commissions has said they would be willing to decrease greenhouse emission by 30% if other surrounding countries such as the
Friday, January 25, 2008
50 Tips to Help Climate Change
The Biggest threat to Climate change is the emission of CO² into the air. Here are some useful tips on how to reduce the release of CO² into the air, cutback on energy use, save money and help save our planet!
- Car Pool to School or Work or use Public Transportation.
- Bike or Walk instead of driving somewhere it helps the environment and is great exercise!
- Buy a Hybrid car when you’re looking for that next big purchase.
- Use bio-fuels in your car Bio-fuels are produced from crops such as oil seed rape or sugar beet, and burning them produces lower emissions of climate-changing gases.
- Make sure tires are fully inflated. Under-inflated car tires cause your car to have greater fuel consumption.
- Change your air filter regularly.
- Support your small town community by purchasing local and organic foods. This will cut down on energy, money and fuel used to transport products from around the world.
- Recycle aluminum, by recycling one aluminum drink can is enough energy to run your TV for 3 hours.
- Turn the thermostat down by just two degrees in the winter and up 2 degrees in the summer can save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year as well as money on your electric bill.
- Keep your heat off while no one is at home, or set a timer so it shuts off before you leave and right before you come home.
- Use thicker curtains to keep in heat and close them right before the sun sets.
- Turn your lights off when leaving a room!
- Use compact florescent light bulbs. They use less electricity and last much longer!
- Unplug cell phones and other chargers once electronic devices are fully charged.
- Keep fridge and freezer doors closed as often as possible. This can also help you to loose those extra pounds put on during the holidays.
- Pressure cookers and steamers use a lot less energy and also are very healthy method to use while cooking.
- Only use washing Machine and dish washer when there is a full load.
- Avoid using dryers as often as possible. During the summer hang the clothes out on a clothes line.
- Print Wisely! Think twice before clicking the print button while at the office or in class.
- Make sure all house hold appliances and office equipment is unplugged when not in use. Even if electrical equipment is switched off it still is using energy when plugged in.
- Use solar panels and other renewable energy sources.
- Teleconference instead of flying and paying for travel costs.
- Remember to recycle and try and use more recycled products such as recycled paper.
- Plant Trees
- Use Less Hot Water for heating water uses a lot of energy or switch to a tankless water heater. It can save you up to $390 in heating bills per year.
- Make sure water heater does not exceed 120 degrees and insulate it.
- Change your shower head to a low flow shower head.
- Avoid products with a lot of packaging for this will cut down on the amount of garbage you produce per year.
- Use energy star qualified products such as dishwasher, washing machine, dryer etc.
- Use a push mower when cutting the grass. This consumes no fossil fuels therefore it does not emit greenhouse gases.
- Make sure walls are insulated in your home. Making sure lofts and the upper floors of a house are insulated properly will keep the house much warmer during the winter.
- Switch to windows that are double- pane, this will also help keep the heat in during those cold winter months.
- Make sure doorways and windows are properly caulked and weatherproofed.
- Replace old electronics with new energy efficient ones.
- Buy large size/quantity products to avoid excess packaging.
- Use reusable grocery bags rather than continuously using the plastic bags at the store.
- An average American diet contributes about 1.5 tons of green house gasses per year. You can help reduce this by removing meat and dairy products from your diet one day a week.
- Don’t idle your car. You can also turn off your engine if you are waiting for more than 30 seconds to help cut down on the toxic fuel emissions from your car.
- Buy a fuel efficient car.
- Change your air conditioning filter as recommended.
- Heat your water using your stove rather than a microwave.
- Install low flow sink faucets in your bathrooms and kitchen areas.
- Drive less aggressively.
- Try and drive 10 miles less per week.
- Use reusable mugs for coffee instead of Styrofoam cups.
- Use washable dishes and silverware when having a party.
- Buy some vintage instead of new clothes from the mall.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Buy Carbon offsets for what you can’t reduce.