White House Delivers LOUD Msg: Create Jobs- Cut Pollution!

Commitments and Executive Actions Illustrate Federal, State, and Local Leadership to Create Jobs and Cut Carbon Pollution

“The Obama Administration is committed to taking action to combat climate change. As part of that effort, today, the White House is announcing a series of public and private sector commitments and executive actions to advance solar deployment and promote energy efficiency.”

HOORAY!

Last night, I attended a presentation and panel on Climate Change and why our brains tend to ignore it. It was fascinating. I’m looking forward to reading this book by George Marshall, who was leading last night’s conversation: Don’t Even Think About It: How our brains ignore climate change

The presentation was a really terrific conversation, but definitely still left me feeling a bit nervous and like I need way more tools to help others understand the importance of discussing topics of climate change!

My nerves were quieted and my hope, for a near future in which we call stop ignoring this

Major-Global-Will-Affect-Every-Single-One-Of-Us-Issue,

has been reinforced by today’s news from the White House. Here’s more:

“The executive announcements today altogether will cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons through 2030 – equivalent to taking more than 60 million cars off the road for one year – and will save homes and businesses more than $10 billion on their energy bills. Those executive actions are:

  • Partnering with up to three military bases to create a veterans solar job training pilot;
  • Investing $68 million in 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in rural areas across the country, including 240 solar projects;
  • Proposing an energy conservation standard for commercial unit air conditioners that has the potential to save more energy than any previously issued standard;
  • Supporting funding for clean energy and energy efficiency for affordable housing;
  • Strengthening commercial and residential buildings codes; and
  • Harmonizing the power of national service and volunteerism to tackle climate change and its effects.”

Last night, George Marshall who goes by the twitter handle @climategeorge, said something to the affect:

Climate change is like the big elephant in the room… and right now, we’re INSIDE the elephant. It’s time to get out of the elephant and start talking about it!

So, are you ready to climb out of the elephant, the “let’s all ignore climate change elephant”, and look it square in the eye? YES! Begin to talk about climate change and help lead the discussion for solutions!

Read more about these new climate change addressing actions from the Obama Administration here.

 

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.

I <3 Local Food from our (what’s a?) CSA!

With all the rain lately, I find myself thinking of my childhood home, specifically the bathroom… You see, growing up, there hung these cross-stitch framed pieces in the bathroom. One said, April Showers bring May Flowers and the other, Save Water, Shower with a Friend and there was an image of 2 bunnies pulling a flower head over to have water shower from it onto their fuzzy bunny heads.  It’s silly, but I loved those pieces…not so sure if I’ll be showering with friends anytime soon…but…

What I am sure about is that April showers do bring May flowers and those flowers often turn into fruit, vegetables, herbs and other wonderfulness that farmers grow for us every year. And I am sure that sharing that food, once I get it from the Farmer with a friend is always much more satisfying than enjoying it alone!

And here we go- year 2 of Moraine Valley Community College participating in a CSA and year 2 of my friend Maura and me sharing the box of goods. So, what’s a “CSA anyway?” The acronym stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Small, food-producing farms (i.e., not industrial, mono-culture farms growing only one of corn, wheat, soy, canola, etc. to others for feed, processing, etc.) benefit from having capital on hand before the yield of the crop to ensure they have the funds for maintaining the soil, equipment, staff and so on to grow the food into saleable crops. Rather than going to the bank for a loan, many farmers have started offering this CSA as an option. Community members pay the farmer in advance of the crop. In exchange for their investment, they are guaranteed a set scheduled delivery of food from the farm as it matures. Sometimes this arrangement is referred to as buying a “share” of the crop or farm. More on the benefits for local economy, farmer independence, where to locate local CSAs or locally farmed food (ex., farmers markets or you-pick) can be found at LocalHarvest.org

For our CSA we get a box of different foods grown just down the road in St. Anne IL. It’s delivered to the College every week, with each week’s contents potentially different as it is dependent on the viability of the crops including weather, farming techniques, what was planted, what bugs are eating what, and on and on. Our Farmer practices organic and sustainable farming techniques, so dealing with Mother Nature is that much more challenging. Still, she has figured out the best way to manage pests, weeds and weather related challenges and is ready to deliver our very first box of the season!! I am so excited.

Each week we get an email update containing the musings of our Farmer- what’s happening at the farm; is there a new crop coming in; perhaps a deluge washed out the greens; or maybe the extra sunny days made the peppers come early… and then she includes what’s in the box. For giggles, here’s the first of the next 16 emails Maura and I and all the other CSA Members received:

***

Eggs: This is week 1, so both weekly egg shares and half shares pick up eggs this week.  For those of you who signed up for bi-weekly eggs, please only take eggs on the odd numbered weeks.  If your name is not on the list for eggs, please contact me, but do not take eggs.  I will take care of the problem next week.

The rain has gone on its journey out of Illinois, happily for we farmers.  I would like a little warmer weather than we have today, but just to see the sun shine is a real treat.  Because it has been so wet, we have been ditch digging most days to drain the fields of water.  For the most part the water has flowed nicely, but I have seen a bit of crop damage due to the wetness of the soil.  It is all part of farming, being at the mercy of nature, but it can still be discouraging.   Almost all of our greens turned yellow or purple from too much water around the roots.  Some of the peppers curled up and died.  But, most things are fine and will come out of it just fine.  And, fortunately, I have enough extra plants that I should be able to replant the areas that died off, so we really do not have a loss there, just in the greens department.

I was able to pick strawberries today.  Hoorah!  I was worried they would be ruined due to the wetness, but they are mostly fine.  I do ask that you wash them carefully prior to use to make sure all the dirt is gone.   For those of you who were spring CSA members, Mr. Gray Bunny relocated to the berry patch and is very happily snacking on our strawberries.  And, I thought I hated the meeses to pieces, but the darn bunnies on this farm have gotten my goat!

I have started a new blog where there are little missives and the beginning of a collection of recipes.  Please feel free to contribute to our recipe list with original recipes.  I will send out recipes from cookbooks, etc via email, but not in the blog.  Here is the link to it. http://blog.genesis-growers.com/

Your box

  • Strawberries – please wash them prior to eating
  • Turnip greens – these are young and tender and can therefore be eaten raw as well as cooked
  • Asparagus – I heard an idea for asparagus and tried it – Ymmm.  Wrap bacon around the individual spears and then roast or grill. What a treat!
  • Rhubarb
  • Kohlrabi
  • Radishes
  • Loose leaf Lettuce head
  • Basil – I picked several different varieties.  The Thai is great for an Asian twist.  Purple and lemon are nice in salads, and green is your typical basil

Vicki
Genesis Growers
8373 E 3000 S Rd
St Anne, Il  60964
815 953 1512
www.genesis-growers.com

***

I canNOT wait to get my hands on those fresh berries and the greens and the kohlrabi and… well, all of it! I know for sure that basil is getting chopped with the turnip greens & loose leaf lettuce and topped with hunks of roasted asparagus and radishes for a robust, flavoral dinner salad. I’ll make a vinagrette-0oo maybe with some of the strawberries!- and drizzle the salad that will accompany my rhubarb corn muffins. The kohlrabi, you ask? I’ll make that into pickles. Mmmm…what a yummy, summery dinner I have to look forward to this weekend! [FYI: these links are not my own recipes... I'll probably use a few to inspire my own work]

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, and experienced myself, folks explain how local food is so fresh it’s really a different experience than grocery store food. Try it yourself and then tell me all about it on Facebook or email me @ sustainability@morainevalley.edu. Not sure where to start? Check out LocalHarvest.org to find your own amazing summer dinner fixins’…Happy Summer, y’all!

Light Snowfall, the Economy, and Winter Sports

This PBS Newshour piece highlights evidence of warming and its impact. As our area is in a drought, this is something that reaches into our lives as well.

For Winter Sports Industry, Decreasing Snowfall Sends Business Downhill
SUMMARY: While winter storms have blasted parts of the Midwest and Northeast, a lack of steady and deep snow — less accumulation and faster melt — has had serious effects for the ski industry. Hari Sreenivasan reports on how winter sports businesses are navigating the season as part of the Coping with Climate Change series.

Watch Decreasing Snowfall Sends Winter Sports Industry Downhill on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Local Food…What will it take?

Check out this 5 minute video about making local food in the Chicagoland region a reality for all. There is a potential for not only increased health benefits for individuals, but also a healthier community that includes economic development (jobs).

2010 Deepwater Horizon spill still causing problems and more…

Scientists worry oil from the 2010 disaster could reemerge as Isaac turns waters in the Gulf. People are still sick, ecosystems wrecked and economies broken from the original onslaught of that spill. It’s a shame they’ll have to revisit it so tangibly again.

As if that weren’t bad enough for the sake of oil: Jamaica is realing from their latest oil spill disaster.  At that link address there is a slide show showing 12 more spills since the 2010 disaster. Check it out to see and learn about them.

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