2nd Green Revolution - Part 5

How Natural Gas and Diplomacy Could Kill the Electric Car

Low prices disincentivize fuel-efficiency/ Flickr user Upupa4me

There are serious environmental issues with America’s new-found love affair with natural gas. You could argue that Pennsylvania is selling its clean water for a tax base, but I’m not going to bother with that now. Instead, we’re going to look at a more round-about mechanism by which natural gas could ruin things:

Oil prices.

Reframing the Debate: Colorado’s End-Run around Fire-Prone Frontierism

The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near in California began on Aug. 17, 2013 and is under investigation. The fire has consumed approximately 149, 780 acres and is 15% contained/U.S. Forest Service photo.

Society is in aggregate.

All of the things we do necessarily interact with each other’s activities. Sometimes, this works out really well, as when we send our kids to school and only one person (thanks, teachers!) has to speak at a 6-year-old level all day, while the rest of the grown-ups can, you know, farm and lawyer and politic and make widgets.

But our activities don’t always mesh. Sometimes, they compound, as when we each throw one piece of plastic out the window and create a floating island of plastic.  Alas, the childhood aphorism “leave things better than you found them” seems counter to human nature.

Thanksgiving and A Reminder About Food Waste

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 Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday.  It may be because I love good food and cooking it, or it could be because I get to enjoy that good food with friends that care just as much as I do about food.  We start planning Thanksgiving well before November because having a massive feast (and leftovers) of food is awesome.

I will say I look forward to it so much because none of us make casseroles – a dish that consists of dumping a few cans into a pan and baking it.  We all labor over our dishes and put thought into what ingredients go into those dishes.  We also look forward to leftovers just as much as the main meal, which is good since most Thanksgiving dinners result in many leftovers.

For our feast this year we decided to forgo the turkey since the side dishes are really the best part of the meal and the turkey is the biggest source of leftovers and waste.  It is also hard to find a sustainably sourced turkey.  If you do buy a turkey and have lots of leftovers that you don’t know what to do with here are a couple of ideas:  Chili, sandwiches, tetrazzini, or just freeze it for later use.  Also don’t forget to keep the carcass for making broth.

I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving, but please remember not to waste the leftover foods.  We already have an issue with food waste in this country, but this holiday really highlights that issue.  Please remember the many people that went into growing and harvesting that food.  Also please remember the many people that are not having a meal that is abundant with food.  If you have too many leftovers and don’t know what to do with them google a recipe, freeze it for later use, or just plan ahead of time for how many people will be there versus how much food to serve.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A transportation system that meets the needs of older adults

where to Advocates for sustainability are more often than not advocates for public transportation. (And we like our bikes, too.) I know that I would like for our cities and towns to have robust alternative transportation systems, and many cities are moving that way, installing light rails and street cars and building city-wide bus systems. But, at the same time, we have to make sure that we are building a transportation system that meets varied needs. That is, are we building a transportation system that is able to meet the needs of its aging population?

Brewery Ommegang – A Steward of Upstate

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Brewery Ommegang started in 1997 through a collaboration between Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield, owners of Vanberg & DeWulf the legendary beer import company, as well as a couple of other family owned Belgian breweries, including Duvel Moortgat (Ommegang’s current owner). Sitting on the site of a former hop farm near Cooperstown, New York, Ommegang was one of the first breweries specializing in Belgian beers in the U.S.  It has grown rapidly over the past 16 years, and currently produces about 35,000 barrels annually (Sam Adams, for instance, produces about 2.5 million barrels).  Ommegang has become a fan favorite among beer aficionados throughout the U.S., including the creators of the HBO series Game of Thrones, who have worked with Ommegang on “Thrones” inspired brews (the latest, Take the Black Stout, is brewed with licorice root and star anise).  Along the way, Ommegang has also made a point of embracing its community, most recently by speaking out against the negative effects fracking to the Upstate New York water supply.  Ommegang is also working to bring back the once-booming hop industry to the state.

New Sport Stadiums

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I don’t know if I have stated this before but I am a football fan.  Even though I enjoy watching the sport, it doesn’t mean I am gung ho about everything they promote.  Such as commercials, excess consumption, and the constant battle for the newest and biggest stadium.  I still remember when the Dallas Cowboys opened their new stadium in 2009 and all the hype about it.  I really didn’t understand the hype or the massive screen in the middle of the field, but some people were excited about it.  It just seems so wasteful to build a new stadium.  I don’t understand how that is easier and more cost effective than just updating an old stadium.  Because what happens to the old one?  It is usually demolished and the space turned into something else.  How is that sustainable to just demolish an entire stadium?  But there isn’t much sustainable about the sport in general to be fair.  I feel they should at least try to be sustainable where they can be, maybe that is asking too much.

World’s Most At-Risk Nation Turns to… Coal?

Some in Bangladesh have protested the increased dependence on coal/World Development Movement

The ongoing climate change talks in Poland have garnered headlines mostly for the lack of progress among nations trying to curb greenhouse gases

There is enough blame to go around.

The U.S. has a dismal record on change — it failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol back in the 90s. The Australian delegation was reportedly snacking in T-shirts (usually a positive activity, but maybe not appropriate for a UN conference) during the negotiations this week. And meanwhile, Poland is hosting coal industry leaders just down the road from the climate change summit and has put up a barrier for electricity from Germany — a renewables powerhouse.

Coal is a powerful industry in Poland. The U.S. and Australia are also beholden to powerful carbon-intensive industries. And despite the overwhelming evidence that climate change is creating problems around the globe (Hurricane Sandy, anyone? A bigger, badder Tornado Alley, perhaps?), these wealthy nations have much stronger infrastructure and resources to deal with the short-term effects of climate change. NPR even reported on how the National Weather Services text-message alert system saved lives in Illinois over the weekend. Hurricane Sandy was bad, but lower Manhattan was effectively evacuated.

The same can’t be said for less-developed areas, which is why recent news out of Bangladesh was striking.

According to environmental news site Monga Bay, Bangladesh is rapidly increasing its dependence on coal, even though the country is one of the world’s most at-risk nations for sea levels rising.

In 2010, the government released the Power System Master Plan, which for the first time put forward the goal of generating 50 percent of Bangladesh’s energy via coal power by 2030. Such a transition would be extreme: in 2010 coal power made up less than 1 percent of Bangladesh’s total energy output. But in less than 20 years the master plan reads that coal should be “the primary energy supply.”

This is sad news, indeed. Currently, Bangladesh generates 78 percent of its energy from natural gas, another 17 percent from oil, two percent from hydro, and only three percent from coal.

Bangladesh needs to improve its citizens’ access to electricity. Currently, 62 percent of Bangladeshis have access to electricity. But it also needs to improve its water and air quality. Increased coal use — the most carbon-intensive energy source — is not the way to go.

Ironically, Bangladesh was one of the G77 countries who walked out of the climate talks this week over frustration over wealthier countries intractability regarding who would pay for natural disasters.

I understand the frustration of countries that are paying for the pollution sins of others who developed earlier. I wrote last week about the dire situation in the Philippines and how important preparedness is in the face of extreme weather events.

But when these same countries pursue wrong-headed development, they not only make themselves less sympathetic, they themselves are contributing to the very problems we should be trying to curb.

 

Creating a culture and legal system that supports cycling

a place for the bikeThere has been much discussion lately about bicycle safety and etiquette. The New York Times recently ran a provocative op-ed that asked, “Is it okay to kill a cyclist?” The obvious answer is an unequivocal “no.” There are some shortcomings to the article beyond its suggesting that there could even be a different answer to that question. Yet the article does raise at least one good point: as more and more people choose to be cyclists, how can we ensure that our social and legal culture– and the road itself, the op-ed points out– catch up?

History and Humility: Guideposts to Sustainability

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As advocates of sustainability, we are sometimes drawn to the sheen of new big ideas. It is tempting to think that a fresh theory or product will transform an industry and solve the problems we find so pressing. Unfortunately, this is sometimes dangerous thinking. Without being cognizant of history, it is wont to repeat itself. What may look like a refreshing idea is really a retread of a past failure with shiny packaging. Related to cities, the more we ignore our urban histories, the more likely we are to repeat our failures.

What Is So Wrong With Being Used?

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It is the beginning of November and I am already done with Christmas shopping; early I know but I have my reasons.  The main reason being I am pregnant and my due date is very close to Christmas.  I wanted to make sure everything was done before December in case someone made an early arrival.  Another reason is shopping early gives me more time to find used options.  That is the main point I have, why don’t we give used gifts more often?

It seems our society is really into gift giving around the holidays but for some reason all these gifts are new.  Which means not only are we adding to our consumption but we are teaching our kids gift giving only counts when you go to a big store and buy something in lots of new packaging.  I don’t really understand what is so wrong about giving used gifts, especially when they are still in good, usable condition.

My top choice for gift giving is a really good book.  I don’t see anything wrong with giving a used book, but maybe that is because I prefer to be gifted a used book.  Amazon might not be the best company (they are dominating many book markets), but they do offer used options for books (and many other items), so it is nice to be able to have that choice.  Not only is it more cost effective, it doesn’t add to our ever increasing consumption.

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