Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Most Efficient Way to Help the Planet



What can you — just one concerned person — do about global warming?

It may feel like a more urgent problem these days, with proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and each year warmer than the previous one.

You could drive a few miles fewer a year. Reduce your speed. Turn down your thermostat in winter. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. Reduce your meat consumption. Any one of those actions would help.

But none would come close to doing as much as driving a fuel-efficient vehicle. If vehicles averaged 31 miles per gallon, according to our research, the United States could reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 5 percent.

Improving fuel economy carries particular salience after the Drumpf administration announced this month that it would re-examine the progressively more stringent Obama-era fuel economy standards for vehicles in model years 2022 to 2025.


If every American household drove a vehicle getting 56 miles per gallon, it would reduce U.S. emissions by 10 percent.

The American new-vehicle fleet now averages less than half that. It is expected to average 36 m.p.g. in 2025 if Obama administration standards remain in place, according to the Environmental Protection Agency...


(nyt, continues)

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Seasons Aren't What They Used to Be



CreditJooHee Yoon

SEWANEE, Tenn. — Sexual energies were loosed early this year in Tennessee, then quashed. In February, spring peepers made my ears ring as I walked through wetlands east of Nashville’s honky-tonks. These frogs were a month ahead of their normal schedule.

But what is normal in a year when the calendar says spring starts Monday, yet the season started weeks earlier for plants and animals? When New York was clipped by a snowstorm last Tuesday, the streets had already been dusted with pollen from early-blooming red maples.

Spring has been particularly hasty and irregular this year, but this is no anomaly. In the latter half of the 20th century, the spring emergence of leaves, frogs, birds and flowers advanced in the Northern Hemisphere by 2.8 days per decade. I’m nearly 50, so springtime has moved, on average, a full two weeks since I was born. And you? We now experience climate change not only through the abstractions of science, but also through lived experience.

Early spring felt good; early spring felt dreadful. Now, whiplash as we slam into a snowbank. This is the motion sickness of climate change: The world lurches, and our bodies know that all is not well. What we experienced as spring, a predictable appearance of buds and birds, is passing away. Our children will live in uncharted, unnamed seasons.

In the forests here in Tennessee, instead of tracking foxes in winter snow, I spent February being startled by precocious bloodroot and other wildflowers piercing the leaf litter. Phoebes sallied after sun-warmed flying queen ants and spring azure butterflies. Japanese quince bloomed in garden hedges before January was over, multiflora rose broke bud on Valentine’s Day, and Mardi Gras came with Bradford pears in bloom. Then, in March: snow. A month after frogs sang through 70-degree evenings, freezes in the teens brought silence... (David George Haskell, continues)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

People’s Climate March

Bill McKibben-
I don’t know if you’re like me, but there are days when the sound of Mr. Trump’s voice just makes me want to curl up in a fetal position.

The losses we’ve suffered just in the past week, as the new EPA head started gutting water and air protections, makes me think of the earlier generations of activists who worked so hard to get these laws enacted. Tuesday night I wanted to shout at the TV when, instead of mentioning climate change, he boasted about approving new pipelines.

But then I remind myself that, given the situation, we’re off to a pretty good start fighting his efforts. The Women’s Marches and the airport protests were remarkable moments, and they put a dent in his momentum. We’ll need much more of this kind of resistance.

Specifically, for those of us focused on the climate questions that will define the future of our planet, we need to be fixing on the end of April. On April 22, Earth Day, scientists will march, and I hope the rest of us will be engaging our community: we’ve got to keep explaining to all our neighbors that climate change is the furthest thing from a hoax.

Then on April 29, which falls on about the hundredth day of the new administration, we need to gather in Washington DC and across the country for the People’s Climate March.

When we did this in New York in 2014 it helped propel the plane towards the Paris climate accords. This time we need—powerfully—to make clear that we haven’t gone away, and that we will not let the U.S. retreat.

It will be a solemn day—we’ve just come through the hottest year ever measured on this planet, after all. But it will also be a joyful and rousing one: we’ll be celebrating the launch of a new drive to make our nation run on a 100% renewable energy economy that works for all. We know Trump won’t support it, but we’re getting on with the job at hand: demonstrating the political will for climate justice so that every other politician sprints as far ahead as possible.

Here’s the place to sign up: 350.org/PCM2017. But we need you doing more than signing up and showing up. We need you, as always, organizing: getting others to come, filling buses, creating art, suggesting themes.

We need each other, really. That’s what a movement is.
Bill 

Monday, February 13, 2017

DRUMPF’S PIPELINE AND AMERICA’S SHAME

Bill McKibben:

The Drumpf Administration is breaking with tradition on so many fronts—renting out the family hotel to foreign diplomats, say, or imposing travel restrictions on the adherents of disfavored religions—that it seems noteworthy when it exhibits some continuity with American custom. And so let us focus for a moment, before the President’s next disorienting tweet, on yesterday’s news that construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline will be restarted, a development that fits in perfectly with one of this country’s oldest cultural practices, going back to the days of Plymouth Rock: repressing Native Americans.

Just to rehash the story briefly, this pipeline had originally been set to carry its freight of crude oil under the Missouri River, north of Bismarck. But the predominantly white citizens of that town objected, pointing out that a spill could foul their drinking water. So the pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, remapped the crossing for just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This piece of blatant environmental racism elicited a remarkable reaction, eventually drawing representatives of more than two hundred Indian nations from around the continent to a great encampment at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers, near where the pipeline was set to go. They were joined, last summer and into the fall, by clergy groups, veterans groups, environmental groups—including 350.org, the climate-advocacy organization I co-founded—and private citizens, who felt that this was a chance to begin reversing four centuries of literally and figuratively dumping on Native Americans. And the protesters succeeded. Despite the German shepherds and pepper spray let loose by E.T.P.’s security guards, despite the fire hoses and rubber bullets employed by the various paramilitary police forces that assembled, they kept a nonviolent discipline that eventually persuaded the Obama Administration to agree to further study of the plan.

More remarkably, it was the U.S. Army that took the lead—the same agency that had massacred and harassed Native Americans since its founding. On December 4th, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, announced that the easement required for E.T.P. to dig beneath the Missouri would not be granted. Instead, the Army Corps of Engineers would prepare an environmental-impact statement, a lengthy process that effectively put the pipeline on hold. “It’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said at the time. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.” So the Corps set about organizing public hearings and taking testimony; until Tuesday afternoon, we were in the middle of that period, with signatures coming in by the hundred thousand. But at three o’clock yesterday, acting on the President’s suggestion that the environmental review be “expedited,” the Army reverted to ancient form, shutting down the public-comment process and issuing the permits that E.T.P. needs to begin digging again. Suddenly there was not “more work to do.” Somehow, in the eighteen days since Donald Drumpf had taken office, Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, had obtained “sufficient information” to grant the approval.

One feels for the Army brass. Had they continued to act responsibly and in line with their previous commitments, their careers likely would not have progressed. (Speer is apparently no Sally Yates, though those of us worried about the choleric Drumpf and his proximity to the nuclear-launch codes must hope that someone in the Pentagon is.) In any event, digging is scheduled to begin as early as this afternoon. There should, and will, be substantial protests. The first demonstrations began in major cities today, and the Standing Rock Sioux have asked Americans to descend on Washington, D.C., on March 10th. By that point, the pipeline may be all but finished, but the tribe and its attorneys at the environmental group Earthjustice have vowed to keep fighting it in the courts, even once it is carrying oil.

The bigger battle, however, may be in the tribunal of public opinion. The pipeline is a bad idea on many grounds, none of which is likely to sway Drumpf. (The fact that the oil it carries has the same carbon footprint as nearly thirty coal-fired power plants would perhaps seem a plus to him.) Tom Goldtooth, the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, recently noted that Drumpf has yet to meet with any Native American leaders since taking office, which is possibly for the best, given the casual racism that might ensue. But the protests at Standing Rock have reopened the question of how the rest of America, those of us not in the White House, will treat the continent’s original inhabitants. In this standoff, we have confronted our oldest and one of our most shameful stories. That shame will deepen now—which may, once Drumpf is gone, allow us to move closer to real reconciliation. At any rate, we owe a great debt to the protesters, who have acted with a dignity conspicuously lacking in the Oval Office. New Yorker


Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker staff writer, is the founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A BAD DAY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT,

WITH MANY MORE TO COME
By Bill McKibben January 24, 2017

On Tuesday, Donald Drumpf signed an executive order expediting approvals for the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, overturning perhaps the two biggest environmental victories of the Obama years.PHOTOGRAPH BY DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX

Tuesday began with news that the Drumpf Administration had imposed a comprehensive gag order on employees of the Environmental Protection Agency. According to a leaked memo, “no press releases,” “no blog messages,” and “no social media will be going out,” and “no new content can be placed on any website” until further notice—perhaps an attempt to camouflage the other big E.P.A. announcement, which was that the agency’s grants and contracts had been temporarily frozen, effectively halting its work. Then, at nine o’clock, the President had breakfast with a group of beaming auto executives. Drumpf told them that he was “to a large extent an environmentalist,” but apparently his long participation in that movement had persuaded him that “environmentalism is out of control.” The last time Detroit’s C.E.O.s came to the White House, in 2011, President Obama got them to agree, grudgingly, to increase average fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon, a pledge they now hope to recant. The day went on. Just before noon—surrounded by his increasingly familiar cast of white guys in suits—Drumpf signed an executive order expediting approvals for the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, thus overturning perhaps the two biggest environmental victories of the Obama years, both of which the advocacy organization I helped found, 350.org, fought for vigorously.

There is, in other words, a new day dawning, and we’re sure as hell not going to use any of that sunlight for energy. Instead, it’s clear that we’re about to witness the steady demolition, or attempted demolition, of the environmental protections that have been put in place over the past five decades. Another leaked memo, released on Monday and attributed to Myron Ebell, the veteran climate-change denier overseeing Drumpf’s E.P.A. transition team, made clear some of the Administration’s first priorities: stopping Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which uses the Clean Air Act to regulate power plants; revising the rules on development in crucial wetlands; and even such granular tasks as reining in efforts to halt the rampant pollution of Chesapeake Bay. The full list, I imagine, will stretch on and on. The nascent effort to prevent leakage from fracking wells, for instance, will likely be abandoned, meaning that we’ll continue to spew methane as well as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. At the Department of the Interior, they’re getting ready to start leasing coal from public lands again; at State, Rex Tillerson says he wants a “seat at the table” in international climate negotiations, but probably won’t push them forward. The drive to free up polluters is so strong and ingrained that it overrides even the usual Republican commitment to states’ rights: Scott Pruitt, who sued the E.P.A. fourteen times before being named to head it, ominously said at his confirmation hearing that he couldn’t promise California would continue to receive the waiver that allows it to set its own vehicle-emissions standards.

“You say you’re going to review it?” Senator Ed Markey, of Massachusetts, asked him.

“Yes, senator,” Pruitt said.

“When you say ‘review,’ I hear ‘undo,’ ” Markey said.

There’s not the slightest evidence that Americans want laxer environmental laws. A poll released last week showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans would prefer that the E.P.A.’s powers be preserved or strengthened. Solar power, meanwhile, polls somewhere in the neighborhood of ice cream among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike. But the survey that counts in the Drumpf Administration is of plutocrats, and, as Jane Mayer demonstrated in her book “Dark Money,” the moguls of the right-wing funding network, whose disciples are now in place across the Cabinet, hate environmental regulation with a passion. We know some of them—the Koch brothers, for instance. But there is a whole league of cartoonish villains, including John Menard, Jr., the richest man in Wisconsin, whose company was once charged with labelling arsenic-tainted mulch as “ideal for playgrounds.” Having paid hundreds of millions in fines, these people paid tens of millions in campaign contributions, and now their bill has come due.

Against them stands reality, as a rogue employee of the National Park Servicereminded us on Tuesday afternoon, defying another gag order by tweeting out climate data from the official Badlands National Park account. The reason we have environmental regulations is because, when we didn’t, the air was filthy and the water sour. Cleaning up our skies and our streams has been an enormous success in every way, including economically: any attempt to tally things like lost work days or visits to the emergency room shows that curbing pollution has huge returns on investment. (Just ask the Chinese, who are desperately trying to cobble together their own system of environmental protections.) As in so many other cases, the returns on deregulation will go to a handful of very wealthy Americans, and the cost will be spread across society, falling particularly hard on those who live near the highways and on the flood plains. Reality gets plainer every day on a planet that just saw the hottest year ever recorded, where sea ice is at an all-time low, and where California’s epic drought has suddenly given way to epic flooding. History will judge the timing of Drumpf’s crusade with special harshness—it is, you might say, a last-gasp effort.


Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker staff writer, is the founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College.
More
==

Badlands

. was forced to take down their tweets about climate change, but don't worry we saved them - now let's help spread them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Facts

Andy Revkin (@Revkin)
In farewell address, Obama called on Americans to center on "a common baseline of facts". Worth trying grist.org/briefly/in-his… via @grist

Obama’s faith in the eventual solubility of things is closely related to his reverence for the Enlightenment, which he name-checked while speaking of another good that Drumpf threatens to destroy: the truth. Obama posited reason as the link between challenges as diverse as climate change and international terrorism, placing it as a counterpoint to fear, which might tempt our citizenry to shake off, or take “for granted,” the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution... (New Yorker, continues)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The overview effect

...It was always part of NASA’s mission to look inward, not just outward. The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which established the agency, claimed as its first objective “the expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space.” nasa’s early weather satellites were followed, in the seventies and eighties, by a slew of more advanced instruments, which supplied data on the ozone layer, crops and vegetation, and even insect infestations. They allowed scientists to recognize and measure the symptoms of climate change, and their decades’ worth of data helped the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conclude, in 2007, that global warming is “very likely” anthropogenic. According to a report released last month by nasa’s inspector general, the agency’s Earth Science Division helps commercial, government, and military organizations around the world locate areas at risk for storm-related flooding, predict malaria outbreaks, develop wildfire models, assess air quality, identify remote volcanoes whose toxic emissions contribute to acid rain, and determine the precise length of a day.

These seem like key functions of civilization as we know it...

...We seem to need to see the planet as a whole in order to think about it as such.

Generations of astronauts, after looking at Earth from space, have professed a profound new understanding of it. Edgar Mitchell, who, in 1971, became the sixth man to walk on the moon, said, “From out there . . . international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’ ” Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong’s crewmate on Apollo 11, expressed similar sentiments in his memoir, “Carrying the Fire,” which was published in the midst of the Cold War. Seeing our home planet from afar, he wrote, prompted an epiphany: “The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied.”

Mike Massimino, in his memoir, “Spaceman,” reports having spent almost a full day staring out a window of the Space Shuttle Columbia, watching sunrises and lightning storms (“like a form of communication, like a sequence, like the clouds are alien creatures speaking to each other in code”). On his second spacewalk, Massimino told me recently, he had a spare moment to “take in the view.” He recalls being struck not only by Earth’s incredible beauty—“We are living in a paradise”—but also by its fragility. From out there, he said, especially during night passes, “you can see the thinness of the atmosphere,” a bluish-green line. This sudden perception of Earth as a delicate, intricate system is so common among astronauts that the writer Frank White coined a term for it: the overview effect...

"NASA’S OVERLOOKED DUTY TO LOOK INWARD" continues