Obama takes a big stand on climate change

U.S. EPA Releases Clean Power Plan Proposal
On June 2, the U.S. EPA released a proposed rule to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan proposal sets state-specific goals to be met by 2030 and provides guidelines for states to develop plans, building on the work states are already doing to reduce carbon pollution.  By 2030, the EPA expects to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 30% nationwide below 2005 levels.  In order to meet that target, this proposal allows states to work individually or in regional groups to meet their respective goals while including flexibility in compliance options.

The proposal includes a timeline for states to follow to meet their respective goals:

  • June 30, 2016:  All states submit initial or complete plans
  • June 20, 2017:  Deadline to submit individual state plans eligible for one-year extension, and progress report for multi-state plans
  • June 30, 2018:  Deadline to submit multi-state plans

The EPA is accepting public comment for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold four public hearings the week of July 28 in Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. To learn more or to submit a comment, click here.

Could Solar Roadways Pave The Way To A Clean Energy Future?

You have to watch this to believe it! Truly modern roadways, playlots, driveways, sidewalks, bike paths, and well, you name a surface that isn’t natural and this could be it in a clean energy fashion. These solar roadways would not only create enough energy for the US and then some, but also eliminate the need for snow removal and all of the toxins that go along with that, promote safe driving, create flexible play areas, replace and create jobs, and more.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTA3rnpgzU

Debating GMO Crops and Supporting Global Populations

I know that my take on organic & local farming varies slightly from that of many folks around MVCC. I also know that my take on genetically modified crops also varies. Here is a lecture from British journalist Mark Lynas who offers support for GMO crops. To me, this is a debate that is very important, because I have concern that the overly-simplistic GMO campaigns (many that were successful in Europe) do not allow for nuance and recognition that there are useful, valuable, and safe forms of GMO that will be necessary to stabilize the increasing world population.

Mark Lynas on his conversion to supporting GMOs – Oxford Lecture on Farming

Your state is polluting my state’s air- what are you gonna do about it?

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the EPA’s ability to force state governments to curb local emissions that pollute the air of neighboring states. Under review is the 2011 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). The CSPAR requires 28 states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that cross state lines and contribute to ozone and fine particle pollution in other states.

Supporters of the rule say it would avert the loss of nearly 2 million work and school days each year to respiratory illnesses. Business groups say the rule would cost $800 million in 2014 and be otherwise economically harmful.

In a nutshell: States are required to clean their air and keep it clean. But if pollution is coming from some other state, at what point is that state responsible to help clean the impacted state’s air? That’s the question the EPA is attempting to answer with this rule.

The full report can be found here. A quick briefing of the rule is here, plus a quick synopsis of why EPA and others are asking SCOTUS to a previous D.C. appeals court ruling that invalidated it. The wind blows in all directions.   There are also several articles about this, one in the Economist and another here. Both highlight cost perspectives compared to impact. It’s an interesting concept, one I hope to see get some footing and help mitigate air pollution in general.

Is it really THAT radical?

“It may well be true that capitalism is incapable of accommodating itself to the limits of the natural world. But that is not the same question as whether or not capitalism can solve the climate crisis,” writes Christian Parenti in his article A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis.

Parenti provides a comprehensive yet easy to understand overview of the state of our climate crisis as well as how capitalism and government influence may be the way to getting us out of it. But they can do nothing without, what he calls, radical reform.  I particularly like this piece because his idea of radical reform does not hail to the ideals that we all return to living off the land, eating grasses and raising our own foods.

No, he defines it as: reforms that achieve qualitative change in the balance of power between the classes. And suggests that the only way this will  happen is if we, the people, rise up and demand it. We do so by putting pressure on our government bodies as well as our business entities. The result is a shift in government behaviors which would naturally drive the costs of fossil fuels up and renewables down. I am not going into detail here because Parenti does a very fine job of explaining this in his article, which can be found in the Summer 2013 edition of Dissent Magazine or at  Resilience.org

Plenty of others are in agreement with many of the points Parenti makes, including the idea of charging for polluting (some call it a carbon tax). For example, Severin Borenstein, Bad Incentives For Green Choices, explains, “The near-unanimous view of economists is that the best way to deal with pollution externalities is by pricing them, generally through a pollution tax or cap and trade program. Yet, policy makers still prefer to reward “good” behavior rather than impose costs on bad behavior…”

What happens over the next seven years or so is pivotal. Some might argue it’s too late. Call me a bit pie-eyed, perhaps even quixotic, but I’ll hold out hope for change before 2020.

Changing the future on a…train?

Millennial Trains Project (MTP): 20 participants age 18-34 are set to embark on a fast-paced cross-country journey in the name of sustainability, entrepreneurism and social change.

Ten cities, 10 days, 20 bright young minds on a transcontinental train trip sharing ideas for solving real-world problems — that’s the concept behind The Millennial Trains Project, a sort of mobile think tank that brings together socially minded entrepreneurs to address the challenges of the present and future. Departing Aug. 8 from San Francisco, the train will stop in Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington on its journey of discovery. 

Read more about this project in Mother Nature News reporter Gerri Miller’s interview with Patrick Dowd, the project’s founder and CEO.

All of the projects sound really interesting! There are studies of food waste, energy conservation, health and diversity issues like- living with chronic illness or what it’s like to be an Arab American- and one, not surprisingly, about the use of trains for transit as a sustainable choice. In all, the MTP categorizes the individual projects into ten tracks:

I’ll be very interested to learn more about that last one; it’s Malcolm Kenton’s project. Trains Revitalizing America, is born out of Malcolm’s passion for trains and interest in sustainability and ecology. He’ll be creating a documentary that highlights various reasons that makes train travel a sustainable, efficient and ecologically sound mode of transportation. Cool!

The individual millennials and their project ideas can be found on the Project’s website. They have some really unique and creative stories and ideas. I hope they are able to make great strides and grow their concepts into real, actionable and helpful strategies to shape a better future for us all.

Safe & successful travels, Millennials, Choo Choo!!

Staying Hungry for Justice

Students, staff and faculty frat the University of California, Santa Barabara recently participated in a 24-hour “Justice Fast”, to promote justice, solidarity, integrity and dignity, in light of humanitarian issues worldwide and other social justice concerns.

Excerpts from the article, Campus Fasting Event Highlights Diverse Social Justice Movements, shed some light on the event:

  • …the act of fasting, or abstaining from eating, emphasizes a continued prevalence of people’s hunger for justice. … “We’re trying to bring awareness to certain issues that are affecting our society and our larger global society,” Ochoa said. “At first, we were trying to figure out what issue to revolve our fast around, but in the end, we realized we couldn’t just focus on one issue. So we decided to split them, and students decided to take upon their own issues.”

Another recent article, which cites this UC-SB event, discusses deeping the academic experience to help students foster their already innate connection to the global challenges facing them and expounds on why these students resorted to fasting:

  • From water shortages to climate change, population growth to the health of bees, biocultural diversity to globalization, everything feels inextricably interdependent and connected. Higher education is a great leverage point for addressing the complex issues that affect us all. Many students recognize the multifaceted challenges that face us, and they can become overwhelmed when classes seem abstract and disconnected from day-to-day life and there is no clear action component to the learning process. A recent article discusses a student fast at the University of California, Santa Barbara with the slogan “There’s too much to lose, don’t make me choose!Resorting to fasting shows the seriousness with which these students take environmental, social and economic problems.

And these students and others across the nation are serious!  80% of US grads want to make a positive impact on the environment and 92% want to work for an eco-friendly company. Thankfully, 53% of our Fortune 500 companies are publishing some kind of sustainability or corporate social responsibility report, so our grads can find these companies, and nearly 80% of the nation’s population agrees we need to decrease consumption of energy and goods. This means, more and more our institutions of higher education need to be preparing students to be able to design systems, social and economic, that will meet these concerns and allow humans to persist within our limits.

At Moraine Valley Community College, faculty are fortunate to have an excellent resource that will help them integrate the concepts of sustainability into their coursework. The Moraine Valley Learning Academy, in collaboration with the Center for Sustainability, offers a faculty-enrichment program called the Greening Your Curriculum- Prairie Project. Enrollment for Fall 2013 is open now. The course explores many facets of sustainability, addressing today’s challenges and the unknowns of tomorrow, and guides faculty to understand how these topics relate or can be used to teach their individual disciplines. The program is unique to Moraine Valley, but there are other similar examples across campuses regionally and nationally. I am inspired and hopeful because of them.

Windy City Just Got Windier!

Thanks to recent municapl electricity aggregration deal cut by Chicago, the City is set to receive nearly double the wind power it has currently. The deal also includes methods to reduce carbon emissions by 16%. A 98% reduction in ozone depleting and acid rain causing NO2 emissions, and a water-use savings equivalent to the annual consumption of about 12,500 households should also be realized through this new strategy.

Read more about how this deal is also saving rate payers money and driving the demand to create more green jobs in the City. Where do you live? Do you know if your city is following suit? According to WBEZ.org reporter, Chris Bentley about 600 cities and towns across the state have pursued aggregation deals and that they can take advantage of these deals like Chicago has to create a cleaner, thriving economic environment:

Renewable energy supporters are hopeful that municipal electricity aggregation could prove a useful vehicle to promote policies from distributed energy storage to local green jobs.

“With municipal aggregation,” said The Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin, “cities like Chicago and every city and suburb in Illinois has the power to ask those questions to their suppliers.”

“Chicago’s inclusion of local wind energy in their power supply is an example for other aggregated communities to follow and build upon,” he said in a statement.

Interested in Wind Power? Illinois Wind is a website dedicated to information for Illinois residents interested in wind as a source of renewable energy.

Dept of Energy: Climate Change Will Cause More Energy Breakdowns

The NY Times has an article out today about how climate change will affect (is affecting) our electrical grid. Journalist John Broder sites the US Department of Energy stating, “The nation’s entire energy system is vulnerable to increasingly severe and costly weather events driven by climate change, according to a report from the Department of Energy“.

The fact that our power grid is threatened should be alarming enough, however, climate change is affecting so much more that will then again threaten our ability to maintain power, quality of life, etc.

Broder further writes, “The effects are already being felt, the report says. Power plants are shutting down or reducing output because of a shortage of cooling water. Barges carrying coal and oil are being delayed by low water levels in major waterways. Floods and storm surges are inundating ports, refineries, pipelines and rail yards. Powerful windstorms and raging wildfires are felling transformers and transmission lines.”

Coincidentally, (??)  The Weather Channel website is featuring a 254-page slide show of images from NASA showing dramatic changes to our planet, not just the US.

Dramatic Images of Our Changing Planet “The pictures, featured in NASA’s “State of Flux: Images of Change,” show movement over time, with lapses from just a few days to centuries. They look at cities and locales the world over, from Saudi Arabia to El Salvador. They exhibit lake shrinkage and flooding and drought and fires. Many highlight the impact humans have had on these natural places.

In some instances, the changes are slight, circled or outlined to delineate the modification. But in others, like this one of deforestation in Argentina, the difference in just three decades is stark.”

In that same posting by The Weather Channel, they have quick video about how NASA is using its images and other data collected from satellites to understand climate change. It’s very quick, but educational if you’re not yet aware of this process.