It's the Environment, Stupid.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Greenlight Magazine - Summer issue

The summer issue of Greenlight Magazine is now available.

Includes tips and info on all the favorite summer topics - barbecueing, bug spray, gas saving tips for travel, gardening, getaways, decks, recipes - all with an eco-friendly flair. (You can read the current issue online.)

Check it out. The info is more accessible than some green mags and Green Light keeps it brief. I kind of like it. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

E-mail the 2008 candidates

Environmental Action is beginnging lobbying efforts early with their latest e-mail campaign to potential 2008 presidential candidates.

Today, we are launching an effort to get all of the potential 2008 presidential candidates to join us in signing the Declaration of Energy Independence. This way the public will know which candidates are serious and which ones are just offering up lip service.

The Declaration of Energy Independence calls for immediate steps to reduce our dependence on oil by 50 percent by 2030 and to end our dependence by 2050.

Your email will be sent to Gen. Wesley Clark, John Edwards, Mark Warner, Gov. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bill Richardson, Gov. Tom Vilsack, Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bill Frist, Sen. John McCain, Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Russ Feingold, and Sen. Evan Bayh.

While I'm not sure whether or not this will get candidates beyond lip service to the issue, it'll definitely get it on their radar as an issue to deal with on the campaign trail. Send your e-mail today.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Combatting suburban sprawl

An editorial in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer commented on the latest scorecard for the Pacific Northwest.

The Cascadia Scorecard for 2006, is put together by a Seattle based environmental organization, the Sightline Institute. According to their website, "The Scorecard highlights steps toward a region where people are healthier, more satisfied with their lives, and surrounded by thriving nature." Aspects of this include: Sprawl and health, wildlife, economy, energy, population, and pollution. The results indicate that living in compact urban areas is healthier, and trends are moving towards more walkable communities which are more efficient and less reliant on energy/fossil fuels.

The editorial encourages the U.S. to continue in this direction, following our better rated Canadian counterparts, "
Americans deserve healthy lives as much as their Canadian neighbors. Better planning of cities (not to mention a more rational system of health care) would help walk us in that direction."

This topic falls in line with one of the final presentations I attended at the World Urban Forum, on energy and transportation (which was probably the best one of the week). The consensus of the speakers was to create communities within urban areas that are walkable, and that we should (re)design/plan areas with people in mind, not cars. Doing this will make our urban-suburban areas more vibrant and livable (not to mention, reduce traffic.)

Friday, June 23, 2006

En route

I'm en route at the moment - so I'll do some WUF3 wrap-up comments in the next few days. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Green Drinks - Vancouver

I attended the Vancouver Green Drinks Wednesday night. I met one of the organizers Sunday who tipped me off to the gathering at a nearby brewhouse and thought it'd be cool to check out. Which it was. (Although I still have yet to attend a NYC green drinks).

I met some great Canadians and learned a bit about Candadian government and what's really going on in Vancouver and BC (you know, the stuff that they don't highlight at the WUF). There was also a guy (seemed like a regular green-drinker) handing out a Vegetarian Directory for the greater Vancouver area.

The pamplet is put together by Earthsave Canada "a non-profit, educational organization promoting awareness of the health, environmental, and ethical consequences of our food choices. We advocate the move towards a plant-based diet for better health, environmental sustainability, and compassion toward non-human animals." While I couldn't find it on their website, if you live in the greater Vancouver area and want one, I'm sure Dave would be happy to send one to you.

I hadn't thought about finding out about green drinks in other cities before - but it's definitely a fun way to spend an evening if you happen to be travelling and find yourself in another locale with green leanings.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Environment Roundtable - not designed for observation

At the World Urban Forum 3, there are several Roundtable Discussions - specific meetings with invited organizations and dignitaries who are supposed to form new partnerships and develop new programs and ideas. Not all of these sessions are open to the public, so I was excited to see that the Environment Roundtable was open to observers.

The Environment Roundtable was led by Amelia Clarke of Sierra Club Canada (well, as of 4:00pm pacific time the meeting is still going on). Clarke prefaced the meeting with: this meeting is about turning ideas into action, we did not design it to be observed.

Then, specifically addressing the smattering of people observing, "this meeting was not designed to be observed." Thanks. Got it. With that out of the way (and a comment from Clarke about how loud the microphones were) the roundtable got underway.

Participants went around the table to introduce themselves - there was a large number of organizations from Canada represented, plus organizations from around the world focused on natural resource management, youth, food security, health, education (and a few others.) Each was instructed to specify which small group area they wanted to participate in: Community/capacity building, youth/education, energy/resources, safe environment, building/housing, food. After the introductions, the participants were to go around and talk to others in the group to get an idea of what the different organziations were doing and to see who they would like to work with. (Later they would break into small groups to discuss future partnerships and projects within the specified areas.)

At this point, Ms. Clarke said to the observers, "This is where it will get boring for you." Poor assumption on her part. While I do hope they develop some great partnerships and programs for the future and turn them into real action, I'd love it if next time they'd design it to be observed, because I don't think there's anything boring about learning more about the process of how plans are formed and put into action.

Cities - integrated long term planning

Have you heard of Jeremy Harris? he's the former mayor of Honolulu, Hawaii. I hadn't until I saw him speak yesterday as aprt of a panel called "How to Integrate Environmental Aspects in City Long Term Strategic Planning." After his dynamic power point presentation, I'm surprised I hadn't heard about him before (or Honolulu for that matter - they've got some cool things going on.)

Harris is a self-proclaimed politician who gets it. Not only does he "get" the need for cities to be looked at as systems, and that investing in the environment makes perfect economic sense, he gets that politicians are politicians and city planning, budgeting and actions are as much based on political whim and special interest as they are on a grand master plan. I was sold on nealy all of what Harris said (with the exception of some of the sweeping declarations in his presentation that cities need to be built for high density and mixed use - it's easier said than done to make sure this is successful; plus there was something he glossed over in mentioning public transportation that included a reliance on hydrogen).

Also speaking were Osman Asmal of South Africa, who talked about how South Africa is approaching energy solutions and climate change based on how those issues affect people's every day lives (and it's working.); and there was a representative from Hyderabad, India who spoke of a very successful public/private partnership in solid waste management.

This particular presentation was sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP, prounounced u-nep - and to think I've been calling it U-N-E-P for all this time), in conjunction with ICLEI, a city entwork organization, and The Cities Alliance. The Cities Alliance shared a bit of their CDS, city development strategy with the crowd.

The CDS includes what seems like a lot of common sense stuff, but apparently is fairly new in the city planning world. Elements of the strategy include, long term planning with short term goals; integrated resource use, changes in production and consumption; consideration for lcoal conditions (I could continue but this internet connection is slow, and the line behind me is long).

The session was very encouraging, especially seeing that there are organizations that are aiming to help cities with long term integrated planning solutions (Harris is also a professor for a certification course in Stockholm, Sweden for mayors and city officials on the things he talked about.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Check out, a website where everything having to do with urban sustainability is at your fingertips in an Amazon-like searchable form. According to the info sheet: "Gusse is an online place where the world can collectively discuss, review and apply the best ideas for sustainable cities." (pronounced gus-ee) was launched by the University of British Columbia to continue the dialogue of the World Urban Forum 3 after the conference ends on Friday. The site is still in its initial phase, and as one representative at the WUF told me, it's being held together by tape. But on an initial look it seems promising.

The UBC creators have been in contact with the Canadian government about getting behind the site, and are currently looking for members to be on an advisory board to monitor some of the content. They also want to get regional partners involved to highlight different areas of the globe.

If you have a chance, check it out and let them know what you think. (There's a survey you can take on the site, or you can e-mail them.) It'd be great to see this site gain momentum and some quality content that can help the world better achieve sustainable solutions to urban problems.

Kristianstad - a fossil fuel free municipality

Yesterday I attended a presentation about waste to energy - one of the presenters was Lennart Erfors of Kristianstad, Sweden.

Kristianstad, Sweden is a fossil fuel free municipality. With a fairly prominent agriculture sector and 75,000 inhabitants, biogas has worked out well for this community to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Sweden's waste management/environmental policy, adopted in the 1990's has been very successful in the country. Underlying part of the policy is the idea of reuse, recycle, recover - and what's left goes to landfill. Sweden also seems to have set the right incentives to have gotten a good percentage of their population to participate in these efforts.

What's great about biogas in Kristianstad is that it usus waste products to produce fuel/energy - organic wastes such as manure from the ag sector, and food wastes from the food industry and municipal households. Biogas is produced at three separate locations - at the landfill and waste water treatment facilities (methane capture to fuel) and at a biogas plant in a nearby municipality. Part of its use is to fuel all 22 city buses (and 3 school buses).

Afterwards I asked Erfors if this biogas thing was scalable or transferable to other (larger) areas. It seemed to be a perfect fit for his municipality being a mainly ag area with a small number of inhabitants, but I wondered if it could also be as effective in a larger city context. His answer was more than just a yes - he told me that just last week California had signed an agreement with Sweden to look into implementing biogas facilities in the state.

(This is cross-posted at Green Ground Zero.)

Monday, June 19, 2006

WUF - the real world perspective

I must say, that while the sessions I attended today were extremely interesting, more interesting have been the people I've talked to while in line or on the shuttle bus from UBC to the WUF convention site.

This evening on the ride back to UBC I happened to sit in an empty seat next to a gentleman from the Nigerian administration. I asked him what he hoped to learn or take away from the conference and one thing he mentioned was how his administration might better implement the MDGs in his country.

The MDGs are the United Nation's most recent cause - the Millennium Development Goals. There are 8, the most prominent one being eradicating poverty. Part of this effort includes the reduction of slums. The problem with this goal is that many governments around the world tackle it in part by forced evictions - making people move from their "illegal" settlements, and not always asking nicely.

When I asked about other challenges they faced, he said that part of the problem was implementing policy, and educating the public about the policies (and education in general). When I asked if funding/financing was part of the problem, he said that while Nigeria has a lot of petroleum money, funds have a tendency to be mismanaged. What I realized in talking to him was that many of these issues are not specific to his country, but they are issues facing many countries.

My questions were rooted in things I had learned from reading countless "should do" and "needs to do" official papers and reports put out by the United Nations and The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Over and over again, the point that is repeated in these types of documents is that good governance is key in policy implementation, governments need to manage their funds better and put priorities on spending for social needs (and needs of MDGs) - but in the short conversation I had with this man from Nigeria I was able to glean some of the realities that make the "should" and the "need to" not all that easy to accomplish. The papers do create a potential vision or goal to achieve, but things are often easier said (or written about) than done. However, when I asked him if he was positive or hopeful about the future of his country, without hesitating he answered, "yes."

Another "should" that is often mentioned in these reports is community level participation, or a bottom up participatory process. On the ride to the forum this morning, I spoke with a young man from Senegal who works with an NGO in urban agriculture. (This is of course after he scolded me for not being able to speak French, and good-naturedly making me admit that I refused to learn it.) When I asked about community participation in his work he told me it was very complex issue. One problem he talked about was who was represented from the community. Do you work with the community leaders? Do you work with the elders, or the men, or the women or the youth? Is everyone represented? While the notion of community involvment is important, there are additional factors that include representation, pride and ownership that also must be considered in order for a project to be successful and sustainable. Later he shared with me his wish to go on to get his PhD (in an anglophone country).

So, as much as I discount all of the "shoulds" out there, one that I'll definitely act on is that we should, as a global community, learn from one another. Collective knowledge and action can only help us all in the long term. That is, in part, what I think this World Urban Forum is trying to accomplish.

WUF3 - Vancouver, BC

Well, I made it to Vancouver, BC to the World Urban Forum 3. This year's theme is urban sustainability.

I arrived yesterday and checked into my lovely $40 (CAD) room at the University of British Columbia, and then headed over to the conference center in downtown Vancouver where the event is being held.

The event kicked off Sunday with an opening reception (check out official WUF pictures here). That gave me a little time to wander around the Exposition - the area of the conference where booths upon booths are set up featuring governmental and NGO projects and glossy brochures. I picked up an armload of 'em. It was like I had hit the jackpot - I was completely overwhelmed by all of the information from these organizations and governments boasting sustainable communities, livable cities, transportation, housing, green building - and on, and on, and on.

While at times it has felt a little bit like Disneyland with all of the line standing it has been worthwhile so far. There are some workshop type sessions this afternoon, so if the lines aren't too long to hop back on the computers later, I'll post more then...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Learning about coal

A colleague of mine directed me to this site: I was curious after recently finishing Jeff Goodell's book, Big Coal (read a review on Tree Hugger by Jeff Mcintire-Strasburg.)

At, there's a girl sitting in a chair who begins talking to you about the benefits of coal. Above her head is text, reiterating her remarks: 250-year supply of coal in America; Half of the cost of other fuels; Technology - pathway to emissions-free power plants. Each section of the site has a kid telling you about the benefits of the future of coal. The site's blog (postings attributed to no one) remark on coal in the news.

Who put this together? Amercians for Balanced Energy Choices, a purported non-partisan organization that is not without special interests. According to Source Watch (a project of the Center for Media and Democracy), "Formed in 2000 to develop astroturf support for coal-based electricity, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) promotes the interests of mining companies, coal transporters, and electricity producers...A domain name search reveals that ABEC's website is registered to the coal industry trade organization Center for Energy and Economic Development."

At the helm of the Center for Energy and Economic Development, "In 2006, David M. Ratcliffe, Chairman, President and CEO of Southern Company, serves as Chairman of CEED's Board of Directors. J. Brett Harvey, President and CEO of CONSOL Energy, Inc. serves as this year's Vice Chairman. The coal, rail, and utility industries share in the funding and leadership of CEED, along with other transportation companies, manufacturers and professional service firms that support those industries."

Learning about coal from is kind of like learning about nuclear power from The Nuclear Energy Institute - both present the future of global energy as rosy with no problems or negative drawbacks. While it's great to focus on the positve benefits of coal (or nuclear) you can't disregard the inevitable negatives that come along with it.

Google green tips

I was checking google maps to review my route up to Vancouver, and in the upper right corner was a little helpful google tip, "Green Tips for Summer Trips."

A quick click through was a little disappointing. It looks like a well intentioned sponsor opportunity gone awry. There's a few "green travel tips" that include "Search for 'environmentally friendly hotel' instead of just 'hotel,'" or "Search for 'bike rentals' or 'kayak rentals' in the city you're visiting to discover healthy outdoor vacation activities." Then there's maps and video tours of Vegas, LA, NY, Orlando and San Francisco - a google map with select locations with a video promo about the featured businesses.

Click on the link to "Share your green experiences" comes up with a few comments (6 comments, the most recent from June 11). There's a couple of helpful add-this-to-your-listings tips, in addtion to a what-kind-of-green-advice-is-this? comment.

I suppose this has some potential to become a viable forum for green travel tip sharing, but so far it is lacking in much substance for those looking to green up their summer.

Friday, June 16, 2006

UNEP battles environment vs. economy myth

In a Reuters report, via ENN, the new head of the United Nations Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said, "Environmental sustainability in the 21st century is not only the preserve of environmentalists, but of everybody who uses resources on this planet."

There's also an article about Steiner from the Financial Times via WBCSD, where he is quoted as saying, "'The current difficulty is that environmental issues are marginalised in economic decision-making,' he said. 'Economic issues that touch on the environment are pushed out of environmental conventions, and environmental issues are not really allowed to make an impact on economic and trade negotiations.'"

Of course it is only his first day on the job, and a lot of people say a lot of things on their first day, especially when they're holding press conferences about it. But if this guy follows through on his intent to debunk the myth that environmental degradation must happen in order for economic growth, I'll be his biggest fan.

My strong disagreement with the assumption in development/economic theory that economic growth must equal environmental degradation is one of the main reasons I started this blog. It was the topic of my research paper in an environmental economics class, and something I tried to bring up in my other development focused classes that had nothing to do with the environment. My friends were tired of listening to me rant on and on about how if only the old-school development people, city and country governments, (and our professors) would take into consideration the environment as a factor in more development programs, then we might be able to start working towards some form of sustainable development, a term that everyone talked about (and a term I also wrote a couple of papers on), which I feel is not approached in a comprehensive, effective way.

Granted I don't have any kind of extensive field experience, nor have I worked with the UN or the World Bank, or Jeffrey Sachs or Joseph Stiglitz, and there are much more complex systems at work in development programs than can be covered in a mere blog post/rant, but to treat the environment as a separate entity unrelated to economic or social factors is just plain stupid - which echoes my very first posting from way back in January 2006.

This is why I think Steiner is on to something when he suggests that, "environmental protection is a condition for economies to survive and thrive in the long term. 'We have to get environmental concerns into the mainstream of economics ... to include what we are consuming and destroying.'"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Biofuels - what's in it for the farmers?

Seattle-PI columnist Bill Virgin wrote about the pros and cons of bio diesel today.

Washington State legislation recently passed requring 2% of gasoline sold must be ethanol or biodiesel by late 2008. Virgin asks questions that aren't normally asked when the biodiesel topic comes up, specifically what are the ramifications on farmers?

His conclusion: "In all the enthusiasm over biofuels as a way to cut oil prices and imports, too little attention has been paid to the financial incentives that will encourage farmers in Washington to participate. It's mostly been about what's in it for motorists. For the industry to achieve any significant size, people will have to start asking what's in it for the farmers."

Read the full column here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Carbon Neutral

Yesterday was a travel day for me. Flew from NYC to Seattle via LAX. Next week I'll be attending the World Urban Forum in Vancouver, BC (driving up to BC via my car).

With all this carbon heavy travel I seem to be logging lately, it made me wonder if I should go carbon neutral. Part of my reluctance though is I'm not completely sold on the carbon offset thing. To me it seems as though it's just a way to assuage the guilty conscience of the enviro and socially aware, and is planting a tree really going to reduce CO2 as much as reducing emissions at the source? (Although, I suppose it is better than doing nothing at all.)

Then I got to thinking - how the heck do you even purchase these personal carbon credits? What's the going rate? Google 'buy carbon offset' or 'purchase carbon offset' and it comes back with info on what a carbon offset is, and advertised links on organizations or companies that have purchased carbon offsets. has a table which lists a handful of organizations and associated carbon prices in US dollars/CO2 metric ton ranging from $5 to $30. Scroll down and it also lists some of the offset programs offered, such as tree planting/reforestation certificates or renewable energy credits. In reading a few of the descriptions for some of these programs, it really seems like a small scale Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as laid out in the Kyoto Protocol. The rich may continue to pollute as long as they give money to fund a small renewable energy program in a small village or impoverished community in a "developing" country.

One is The Carbon Neutral Company in the UK. "[W]e select projects that soak up, reduce, or avoid carbon emissions. Examples are: Renewable energy projects which avoid the use of fossil fuels; Energy efficiency projects which reduce the use of fossil fuels; Sequestration projects which soak up or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere." Their criteria for these projects such as implementing technologies not already used locally, and making sure projects are monitored by a third party as laid out by their CarbonNeutral Protocol (accessible at their site as a pdf - which was slow to download on the connection I'm at today, but I'll check it out later.)

This is definitely something I'll need to look into further - if you have any tips let me know. I'm out of time right now, as I'm at a suburbia Seattle coffee shop (locally owned) and while I've got a day pass to their wireless service, my two hour parking spot is about to expire...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Think Coffee

Hey New Yorkers - you must go here. Think Coffee. It's in the vicinity of Washington Square, on 248 Mercer Street (between 3rd and 4th sts.)

What are you supposed to think about? Think fair trade, think organic, think shade grown.

And the thinking isn't limited to just coffee - chalk boards throughout the store tout other things to think about. Such as how all of their milk products are produced locally from regional farmers, and how 25% of their profits go to local charities.

I'm always on the lookout for Seattle-esque coffee places in NYC (a few of my criteria are: baristas who know what they're doing, no table service, pleasant atmosphere, and good coffee - the fairtrade, organic is an added bonus). I think I've found another to add to my list.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Enviro junk mail

I hate mass mailings, junk mail, direct ads - all that crap that comes in my mailbox which adds up to a bunch of wasted paper and goes directly into the recycle bin.

Today I open up my mail slot hoping for that little slip of paper that tells me my recent internet purchase has arrived, but instead I get an envelope that says, "Your signature on the enclosed petition can help reduce global warming pollution," and in the return address corner is the computer scanned signature of John McCain. (For what it's worth, in the lower right hand corner of the envelope is "Recycled 30% Post Consumer Paper.")

I usually hand my junk mail to the clerks at my mailbox place, but the whole global warming thing peaked my interest. On the back of the envelope is the sender: Environmental Defense Action Fund. I suppose there are worse mailing lists my name could be sold to.

1) A one page, double sided letter from John McCain himself telling "Fellow Citizen" that he is co-authoring bipartisan legislation, the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stweardship and Innovation Act, to help fight global warming through market-based mechanisms. The letter tells me that I can make a difference by petitioning my senators to vote for the legislation, and to sign up to be part of the Global Warming Action Network (which, I'm assuming the other material in the envelope will tell me how to do.)

2) A two page double sided letter from Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Action Fund. This one asks "Friend of the Environment" to join the Global Warming Action Network (again, in bold type). It talks about polar bears and ice caps, then touts some of Environmental Defense's accomplishments, and reiterates much of what McCain's heartfelt letter already said, including the market based approach of the McCain Lieberman Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act. Then it tells me I can support by signing the enclosed petition, and encourages me to make a contribution.

3) A small, semi-glossy color insert with a picture of an environmental defense totebag filled with groceries, "When you join Environmental Defense Action Fund we'll send you this tote bag!" On the back it also reveals that I can get a FREE subscription of America's leading environmental newsletter. (because if the incentive to save the world isn't doing it for you, these two things should really entice you to act.)

4) Sticky return address labels with my name and address on it! Cool.

5) Standard business reply mail envelope (no postage necessary, but in a handwritten type font "Your first-class stamp will help us put more funds to work for the environment!")

6) A three-fold petition/contribution form. You can check a box to say you've signed the below petition, check a box to say you want to contribute, plus you can even check a box to opt out of receiving the free tote bag.

While I appreciate their efforts, and really hope these mailings get them some cash, I'll stick to petitioning my senators via e-mail through venues such as Environmental Action. Does this mean I'm not doing my part? Maybe - but form letters, tote bags, and address labels don't really move me to action - it really just makes me want to remove my self from their mailing list.

Friday, June 09, 2006

still no internet

This post is slightly off topic - but a gigantic reason for my infrequent blogging as of late....

I waited around on a glorious friday during the 4 hour window 8a-12p for the cable guy. 11:45 rolled around, and still no cable guy. After lots of phone calls to Time Warner, and calls to my roommate, I was assured the cable guy was on his way. Another hour passed. Still no cable guy. More phone calls. And finally someone shows up (6 hours of waiting later). The cable guy does his thing, got the modem hooked up and told me I had to call Time Warner in a few hours to set it up because there was some sort of modem queue. Okay fine. So a few hours and a load of laundry later, I call again - it turns out they need to schedule another 4 hour window to send someone back to my apt to check out the connection because something isn't working.

After all that waiting around (which gave me plenty of time to unpack and clean the apartment twice) I still don't have internet at home. Luckily I've caught a window of wireless availability which is magically allowing me to do more than just IM.

So I'll use this opportunity to let you know that I successfully put my bed together (the disassembled bed from IKEA I found on Craigslist that did not come with instructions) with a swiss army knife screw driver (guess I haven't needed a screwdriver so far in NY).

And on a trip to Target with my roommate I found these great sheet sets on sale made of BAMBOO. However, since they were on clearance the only size left was King. It did make me wonder if they were discontinuing the bamboo sheets, or if the things went so fast that they couldn't keep them in stock and wanted to get rid of the extra King sizes to make room for more. I searched the rest of the bedding aisles for more bamboo but all I found was some jersey knit, and 100% (non-organic) cotton.

I had better hit 'publish post' now before my internet window disappears....

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Darned environmentalists

When I read this article from Wednesday's NY Times: U.S. Science Panel Sees Big Problems if Indian Point Reactors are Closed my first reaction was - who funded that report?

Turns out it was Congress - $1 million to find out what happens if Indian Point (controversial nuclear power plant near NYC) is closed. The report is a boon to nuclear advocates as, "Closing the Indian Point nuclear reactors would make electricity more expensive, leave New York more vulnerable to natural gas shortages and add to pollution that causes global warming." Well, when you put it that way...

"The committee said that there were no insurmountable technical obstacles to closing the plant. But it asserted that electric demand was growing so fast in the region, and building power plants was so difficult, that simply meeting power needs during peak periods would be a challenge even if the reactors stayed in operation."

So, sounds like an easy solution right? We just leave the reactors on and we have no energy problem? Well, it would be an easy fix if it weren't for those darned environmentalists who are making things so difficult.

"The report said one alternative to Indian Point was something else that environmentalists do not like: ports for tankers carrying liquefied natural gas. In fact, natural gas, which now sells for more than double its price in the late 1990's, is the only fuel practical for large-scale plants in the New York City area, according to experts, because coal or new reactors are not politically acceptable."

Gosh, they make it sound like if it weren't for those pesky environmentalists, we wouldn't have an energy problem and everyone would live happily ever after. I'm sure they're right, because if environmentalists weren't constantly getting in the way there'd be tons of energy to go around. Plus, we might even have the added bonus of more air and water pollution and more garbage than we'd know what to deal with, not to mention plenty of nuclear waste for everyone.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Wheeling and dealing with the timber industry

The Seattle PI reports that the federal government has signed off on "habitat conservation" legislation for Washington state.

"The pact requires timber companies to fix forest roads that disgorge sand and muck in the rain, clouding streams. They also must leave larger buffers of trees alongside some streams important to salmon. And they must fix places where roads cross over streams so that long-blocked-off salmon spawning habitat is reopened.

In exchange, the federal government promised not to prosecute timber companies that are in compliance with the rules the state Forest Practices Board adopted to put the deal into effect. This approval doesn't prevent environmentalists from going to court to enforce the Endangered Species Act, but it makes proving a violation much more difficult....

[Terry Wililams, Tulalip tribal official] compared the deal to the federal government giving the timber industry 'a 50-year get-out-of-jail-free card, without taking all the impacts into consideration.'

Two reviews by panels of scientists -- one by the state, the other by two professional science societies -- also faulted the plan, with one calling the pact "ill-informed." Twenty-eight independent scientists also wrote to then-Gov. Gary Locke that as far as saving salmon go, the plan had 'a low probability of achieving its goals.'"

The rationale, the article goes on to say, is that going easy on timber land owners will deter the selling of land to developers, and developing the land is worse than cutting down forests.

Leaving a buffer of trees near streams doesn't seem to me to be an effective way of conserving habitat. Habitats involve ecosystems which will be disturbed and altered by large scale removal of forest land. The legislation is geared to save salmon, but it really seems like it's geared to save timber companies. If we want to protect timber companies, and the ecosystems needed for trees and salmon, we should mandate sustainable harvesting for the timber industry.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Well I'm about three days away from having my very own internet connection again....

Craigslist. An amazing thing really - just picked up an Ikea bed today (disassembled). Will attempt to put it together tonight (no instructions of course, but I was assured all of the pieces were there.)

The biggest pain in the rear so far in my attempt to purchase used things to furnish my room is the transporting of large items. To accommodate for my lack of vehicle (or lack of friends with vehicles) I've narrowed down my search on Craigslist to Park Slope in the furniture section. But it still doesn't help when one is looking for say, a mattress or a dresser. So the question then becomes, at what point does (in)convenience come into play? I might find a fabulous chair on Craigslist for a great price, but that price doesn't look so great any more when you've got to factor in how the heck you're going to get the darn thing back to the apartment. The Ikea bed I picked up today, since it was disassembled, fit into a car service sedan and was only a $6 ride away. Bargain. Of course there is Zipcar, or other carshare services, but I haven't signed up yet (my excuse? Because I still have a Washington State drivers license - that's one of three states where you have to fill out a special form in order to apply to Zipcar.)

So the moral of this story is - get a NY drivers license, or get more friends with SUVs.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Beyond Kyoto

The wireless pirating isn't going as planned - people are wising up to internet leeches like me and securing their connections (as they should). Just makes it hard to keep up with the blogging until the cable guys come on Friday.

In any case - the Kyoto Protocol has been in the news lately.

An AP story from June 3 "Globe Confronts Warming as Emissions Grow" (via the NYTimes) reports on the latest Kyoto Protocol update: Britain and Sweden are on track for emission reduction targets, everyone else isn't - well those Annex 1 countries who have ratified the protocol anyway. (If you haven't heard, the US is not one of those countries.)

"In Washington, the Bush administration says it will rely on industry's voluntary cutbacks and on government investment in clean-energy technologies to reduce emissions...The White House objects that Kyoto-style mandates would badly crimp the U.S. economy, and complains that China, India and other poorer but fast-growing economies are not regulated by Kyoto." (Are we STILL using the economy as an excuse for inaction?)

One of the biggest questions since the protocol went into effect in Feb 2005 has been, 'what happens beyond 2012?', which is the end of the first phase of the protocol, where the high-income countries are supposed to reduce their emission levels by a certain percentage.

Of course there are still a few years before 2012 - but considering the Kyoto Protocol was introduced in 1997 (an extension of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992) and didn't go into effect until February of 2005, I think we should get going on Kyoto part II.

For the next phase, I think diplomats and beaurocrats should give the thing some teeth. No more whining and crying about the economy vs. the environment. Reducing emissions is possible (albeit slow) - as has been shown by all the ratifying countries so far, and their economies are still functioning. The next phase should be tougher and should bring more countries on board (ie. US - which won't really have any excuse by then because China and India will also be poised for entry.) I also think the protocol should do more to address energy issues - not using coal, and relying more on natural gas and old school nuclear technologies won't be good for anyone in the long run. Plus the clean development mechanism needs to be evaluated (this is where annex I countries can gain credits and 'reduce' emissions in lower-income countries instead of their own). The process by which projects are approved should be evaluated for effectiveness, as should the projects themselves, as to whether or not they were beneficial (or rather, met emission reduction/energy needs) in the countries where they were implemented. Maybe credits can also be given to countries who legitimately support clean energy R&D or stiff penalties could be thrown in for not meeting targets.

As the years pass by the evidence of climate change will only become more apparent. Right now, there doesn't seem to be any urgency in the matter, with the exception of a few island nations that are slowly being evacuated due to rising waters. Talks are going on now as to what happens beyond Kyoto - but it is important for those talks to be followed up with action.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Are we still debating the science?

On my walk to the subway this morning I passed a woman and her high school age son. I slowed up in front of them when I overheard their conversation - they were discussing climate change. He was talking about how an increase in just a couple of degrees in the earth's temperature is a big deal. The mom countered with some quip about the government not believing it. The son remarked, "The federal government thinks a lot of things, it doesn't mean they're smart."

Later I see this ENN news headline: Scientists Say Warming Threatening Florida. Florida Gov Bush is apparently listening to experts and talking policy, kind of. The reported talks revolved around whether or not the ocean is actually warming, and whether or not tropical waters are warming, and whether or not this causes more hurricanes.

"There isn't scientific consensus that global temperature increases explain increased hurricane intensity, and there are some researchers who say there isn't a continuing long-term pattern of global warming at all."

Are we still having this conversation?! Someone should tell Jeb, "You're going to have more hurricanes, so do something about it to protect your state's interest. If nothing else you should do something in the interest of the sugar barons and other industries in your pocket."

The federal government can get as many scientists as they can on their side to help justify inaction, but that's not going to stop the hurricanes.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Gotta love moving - especially when you're stupid enough to do it by yourself and live in a 4th floor walk up. Which is my excuse for not blogging the past few days - the move was this morning, but I had to disconnect my internet earlier this week. I think I'm going through withdrawl.

Lessons learned from this move - all my worldly possessions (in NYC anyway) fit into a subaru outback. I generated about three bags full of garbage/recycleables (all put in the appropriate places.) I'm extremely out of shape.

I also have very little furniture. Well, none actually. My previous NYC apartments have all come furnished - but I've moved into a lovely two bedroom with a friend of mine and will need to get a few things. This is where someone else's trash becomes my treasure.

The Park Slope stoop sale is a great thing. Last weekend I picked up a table at a stoop sale for $5 (well, $15 - it started raining, and all my friends were awol so I called a car to cart it down the street for $10) - I will use it for my desk. Found a bookshelf for $2 at another stoop sale. Stay tuned as I continue to furnish my bedroom with reused goods. And I'll cross my fingers that someone living in my new apt building hasn't secured their wireless...