10 03 2013

A guest post by Derrick Jensen

Published in the March/April 2013 issue of Orion magazine

OCTOBER 2012 was the 323rd consecutive month for which the global temperature was above average. The odds of this happening randomly are literally astronomical: one in ten to the hundredth power. For comparison, there are ten to the eightieth power atoms in the known universe. So if all the atoms in the universe were white, except one was green, your odds of reaching blindly into a bag of all the atoms in the universe and picking out the green one would be greater than that of having 323 consecutive months of above-average temperatures were global warming not happening.

A sane person might think that in the face of this, and with life on earth at stake, the debate over whether global warming is happening would have ended. A sane person might think that in the face of melting glaciers and melting ice caps, we would be desperately discussing how to stop it. A sane person might think that after Hurricane Sandy ripped into New York City (the center of the universe, according to some), the denial would be over.

But this sane person would be wrong. In December of 2012, former head of the EPA and White House “Climate Czar” Carol Browner said, “A majority in our House of Representatives appears to not even think the problem is real. It’s sort of stunning to me because I’ve never seen the breadth of scientific consensus on an environmental issue like there is on this.” The next speaker at the event, a conference about the Clean Air Act, was Joe Barton, chairman emeritus of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce who currently sits on the Environment and the Economy subcommittee. As if to prove her point, he stated that atmospheric carbon can’t be dangerous because it’s “a necessity of life.” In fact, he noted, he was exhaling carbon as he spoke! Q.E.D. Besides, he said, greenhouses are good things: “There’s a reason that you build things called greenhouses, and that’s to help things grow.”

It would be easy enough to laugh at his stupidity if he weren’t in a position of power and using that position to help kill what remains of the planet. It would be easy enough to just label his denial “stunning” and move on. But his denial is part of a larger pattern, and articulating patterns is the first step toward changing them….

Reprinted with permission.  You can read the rest of this article here.

music:  Jennifer Berezan, “The Whole World Is Burning

Eliza Gilkyson w/John Doe, “Chimes of Freedom


9 02 2013

CORRECTION:  The opening power point presentation was given by Dodd Galbreath, not “Dodd Lockwood.”  My bad!

On Thursday night, I went to the Sierra Club’s “peoples’ hearing” on TVA’s proposal to spend a billion dollars on scrubbers for the stacks of its Gallatin, Tennessee, coal plant.  The meeting, along with a couple of other recent news items, was a pleasant, uplifting surprise.  All too often, public meetings and the news alike leave me with a hollow feeling closely associated with how it feels to be heading down a roller coaster curve that I know, just know, is going to make me toss my lunch.  But not this time.

First, the facts of the matter, to the best of this admittedly biased reporter’s ability to state them.  TVA’s Gallatin coal plant, just upriver (and usually upwind) from Nashville, is over fifty years old.  It consumes 9 to 12,000 tons of coal a day to supply electricity to 300,000 homes  (that’s 80 pounds of coal per home per day), and emits about 750,000 tons of CO2 per year to do that–that’s two and a half tons of CO2 per household, anda total of about 23,500 tons of sulfur dioxide, as well as large quantities of mercury, lead and other heavy metals and radioactive elements.  The EPA has ruled that all coal plants must install scrubbers to remove the sulfur dioxide, etc., or close down.  The  “coal ash” that results from the scrubbing process will, apparently, be stored in large piles and containment ponds on the banks of the Cumberland River, just like the piles and ponds next to the Clinch River near Kingston Tennessee.   (Remember what happened there?) and at every other coal-fired power plant in the country, because nobody’s figured out any safe use for all this highly toxic material.  (oops, sorry, I’m editorializing! ….well, that  IS the fact of the matter.)   Because these ponds and piles are going to take up a lot of room, TVA will have to close down The Cumberland River Aquatic Center, which specializes in growing endangered mussel species (essential for restoring stream health) as well as gar and sturgeon.  TVA has been strongly resistant to any kind of public input into their decision to do all this. Read the rest of this entry »


12 03 2010

It’s been a rough winter for public perception of climate change, with record snowfalls slamming the mid-Atlantic U.S., Europe, and central Asia.  On the political front, there has been a vast hullabaloo over “Climategate,” our dear President did everything he could to sink the Copenhagen negotiations but spin it like he saved them, Congress is trying to keep the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide, and even some radicals, watching the corporate sector do what comes (un)naturally and attempt to position themselves to take advantage of climate change, have joined with the right in dismissing the whole thing as a neoliberal plot.

But nature doesn’t care what we deny, spin, or, for the most part, legislate.  Nature just does what she does, influenced by our actions, but not by our words or thoughts.  One of pur actions has been to dig and suck billions of tons of buried carbon out of the coal and oil deposits where it was sequestered, and burn it, releasing billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it is changing the rates at which our planet reflects or absorbs solar radiation, aka, heat.  Another of our actions has been to strip the trees from vast portions of the planet’s land masses, lessening the planet’s ability to reabsorb the carbon dioxide we have turned loose.   The oceans, on the other hand, have kept on absorbing carbon dioxide, which has had the effect of making them more acidic and less oxygenated, threatening to obliterate the oceanic web of life which produces most of the oxygen that makes lifeforms like us possible on this planet.

Another thing the oceans are absorbing is heat.  We see this most dramatically in the Arctic, where the likely date of an ice-free summer keeps getting advanced, and in the Antarctic, where vast ice shelves that have been in place for thousands of years are breaking loose, but the ocean is also warming up around the equator of the planet, and that’s where we get back to the link between global warming and the long, cold, winter from which we are finally emerging.

The planet is in the grip of an “El Nino event.”  This means that the Equatorial Pacific Ocean is much warmer than normal–in fact, its temperature is now at a near-record high level.  A warmer ocean evaporates more water than a cooler one, and this increase in atmospheric moisture results in…more precipitation when the moisture, or “clouds,” as we call it, makes landfall and starts to cool.  If the landmass underneath it is cool enough, the precipitation of this evaporated moisture descends in solid form and we call it “snow” or “ice.” If the landmass is warmer, then, of course, we call it “rain.”

I hope I’m not being too…umm… “elementary” for you!

And it doesn’t have to be super cold to result in snow.  Here in Nashville, although the winter was cold and snowy, temperatures barely dipped into single digits Farenheit, a point conveniently ignored by global warming deniers, most of whom are old enough to remember when temperatures here in middle Tennessee routinely went below zero during the winter, sometimes for extended periods.  And the Vancouver Winter Olympics were plagued by warmer than normal weather, the warmest winter in at least a hundred years, they said, but you won’t hear the deniers talking about that, either.

The essence here is that what we are in for is not some simple, linear warming trend, but rather a complex period of instability and unpredictability.  Many Americans, it seems, have a low tolerance for unpredictability and complexity, coupled with a strong tendency to believe they are entitled to a high comfort level, regardless of its effect on the environment.  The shortest relatively polite description of that attitude is stupid, greedy, and complacent.”  Living on this planet as it changes is going to call for increased resiliency, flexibility, and intelligence.  Stupidity, greed and complacency are a “three strikes, you’re out” combination….and I believe it’s Nature’s turn to bat…..

music:  Jennifer Berezan–land of the hungry ghost

Buffy St. Marie —America


27 03 2008

Everyone including their own Supreme Court.  It’s all about the short-term bottom line for these guys, it seems.  In its entirety, from the LA Times:

Bush’s EPA hurts the environment, again

In overruling the EPA, Bush again shows his disregard for the environment and the courts.
March 17, 2008
What do you do when the president behaves as if he is above science and the law? When it comes to environmental regulation, George W. Bush has repeatedly ignored both, and this country’s system of checks and balances has been powerless to stop him.

The latest outrage came last week when the Environmental Protection Agency released its new standard for ozone, the primary ingredient in smog. The administration lowered the standard that regions must meet to comply with clean-air rulesfrom 84 parts per billion to 75, which seems like progress until one considers that the EPA’s panel of independent scientists had recommended a standard no higher than 70 parts per billion. The higher limit set by the EPA won’t protect Americans from the damaging effects of ozone, which irritates the lungs, worsens asthma and kills susceptible populations.

Ignoring scientists is nothing new for Bush, but in this case he also ignored the U.S. Supreme Court. The EPA wanted to include a tougher secondary standard during growing seasons, designed to protect forests, crops and other plants from ozone, which retards plant growth and depletes soil moisture. Alarmed at the costs this would exact on polluters, the White House Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson saying the EPA couldn’t impose such limits without considering their economic effect. This is flatly untrue; a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court in 2001 held that the EPA did not have to consider the costs of its clean-air regulations, only their scientific basis. When the EPA still refused to back down, the White House sent a curt letter saying the agency had been overruled by the president: The secondary standard was out.

The administration, in fact, seems to be making a habit of defying the Supreme Court. On the same day the EPA was releasing its watered-down ozone standard, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) was posting a letter to Johnson questioning why the agency’s efforts to crack down on greenhouse gases had apparently “been effectively halted.” Last April, the court ruled that the EPA had to regulate carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming. Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which was already investigating the EPA’s inexplicable refusal to let California regulate greenhouse emissions from vehicles, now will also examine its refusal to crack down on CO2 nationwide.

We could go on listing the casual abuses of power, but why bother? Bush is immune to criticism, shrugs off every court ruling and is unswayed by scientific evidence. There is only one check on his power that he won’t be able to dodge — the end of his term. It’s vital that voters replace him with someone who will reverse his extraordinary attacks on public health and the environment as quickly as possible.


still more stories to watch

9 01 2008

i used to save these stories to files on my computer, then pull them out to write my stories, but i’ve decided to post the links, with comments, instead…probably shoulda done this months ago, but i’m slow to change sometimes….when i started writing these, i didn’t even put in links at all!

anyway, this one comes via, and it tells us how sincere the Bush junta’s reps were when they said after being booed in Bali that they’d go along with efforts to curb global warming:

EPA stonewalling Barbara Boxer’s investigation of its denial of a waiver for California and other states

some good news from the same source:

Community-Owned Wind Power Development Planned in North Dakota.

popular rebellion? A judge in Ohio has ruled that owners of CDOs have no right to foreclose and evict people from their homes…

just how fast is Greenland melting? And what will it mean to live in an era of rapidly rising sea level?

%d bloggers like this: