2nd Green Revolution - Part 5

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.

Climate, Corruption and Connectivity

Arlynn Aquino EU/ECHO, Leyte, Philippiones, November 2013

The devastation in the Philippines is shocking.

Like Katrina, Typhoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda to Filipinos) was a storm of epic proportions. Like Katrina, the storm made landfall at the peak of its power. And like Katrina, much of its damage will be caused by inadequate preparation and human action.

Human action has been a popular topic this week — Haiyan struck as UN delegates were making their way to Poland for the 19th round of climate change discussions.

The Philippine delegate to the conference, a member of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, has said he will fast throughout the 12-day meeting or “until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”

Previous discussions at the UN have not been markedly successful.

So the timing of the typhoon could be, ironically and sadly, pretty good — but it would be a hard way to win progress on international climate change agreements. Early, unreliable estimates projected that some 10,000 people had been killed in the typhoon. The current death toll stands at almost 2,000.

Haiyan was the strongest storm ever recorded to have hit land (not to be confused with the strongest storm ever recorded). And yes, climate change is real and does contribute to more extreme weather events. Yes, we need the UN to agree to stop letting ourselves spend half a trillion a year subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, among other low-lying fruits of carbon change.

But the reason aid can’t get to many of the affected areas is not climate change.

For decades, the Philippines has been plagued by corruption. This relatively prosperous nation has not been able to maintain its roadways. The area hardest hit by Haiyan already had a spotty power supply and limited accessibility.

As populations increase, pushing into more and more insecure areas, it won’t matter if we stop climate change in its tracks or even reverse it. Storms will continue to come. We need to encourage not just the halt of pollution, but investment infrastructure, from roads to housing to microgrids that can keep people safe.

As relief efforts continue in Tacloban, the devastation worsens. Walls have collapsed on people looking for food. Drinking water is scarce — and the threat of disease is real. (We have seen cholera outbreaks in disaster areas before.)

I hope that this disaster spurs some action — in Poland, the Philippines, and the rest of the world. (You can donate directly to the Red Cross here), and I hope the action comes with the realization that we don’t have one problem to solve here.

Is there a right way to change the world?

just changing the cityWhat is the best way to impact climate change? A precocious young student asked this question at a sustainability town hall that I recently attended. The student wanted to know, should he focus on behavior change or the hard sciences? How could he make a difference, make an impact and help improve the planet? The obvious answer is do what you love, what fits. The not so obvious answer is, do what you love, what fits, but know exactly what others are doing.

Laverstoke Park Farm – Producers of Organic Food and Beer

Laverstoke.Stock(Note: Revolutionary Spirits will continue its follow up on the Great American Beer Festival in the next column, currently scheduled for November 23.)

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Laverstoke Park Farms is an organic/biodynamic (an interesting topic in its own right) farm in Hampshire, England, that was started by Jody Scheckter(company picture left), a former race driver, as a way to “produce the best-tasting, healthiest food without compromise for himself and his family.”  He soon realized this meant eating a lot of the same thing, especially when a cow was slaughtered.  So, he began making the products available to the public.  Mr. Scheckter explains “We want to sell our food regionally and “from the field to the fork.” And currently, Laverstoke Park Farm does just that, selling what it produces, including cheeses, meats, vegetables, and ice cream (the best in the world, according to Mr. Scheckter). Where possible, they also create what they can on site, including their animal feed, fertilizer, etc.  They even have a five acre compost site.

Daylight Saving Time

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We all experienced the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) this past week, for most people it means getting an extra hour of sleep.  As a parent, it does not mean this at all.  It means your kid wakes up at their normal wake up time and you are wishing for that extra hour of sleep.  Whether it is spring forward or fall back, both time changes are rough for parents.  Which got me thinking, why do we even do this?  My husband kept telling me because it saves energy, which I know is what we are told, but it didn’t add up to me.  I didn’t understand how it was saving energy for commercial businesses since most places have their lights on no matter what time of day.  I could see how it could save residential homes, but as an entire nation it didn’t seem like it would be much.  I went on the hunt to find out how much energy it is actually saving us each year and the reason parents have to deal with these dreaded changes.

Turns out, it actually doesn’t save us energy.  The short story is because of air conditioning, there are no savings in energy.  There is a longer version too.  Increased air conditioning usage over time has really impacted the energy savings of DST.  There is also the factor of increased oil and gas consumption during DST.  Since the days last until later in the evening, people are more likely to go out to an activity.  This often means driving to that activity which increases our consumption of gas and energy.  This is versus staying at home in the winter when it gets dark at 5pm.  While the days naturally get shorter in the winter and longer in the summer, DST enhances this factor in the summer.

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