Climate change is threatening to push a crowded capital toward a breaking point.

Mexico City is not unlike Chicagoland. It is a city of neighborhoods and suburbs and houses roughly 21 million people (Chicagoland is actually roughly 10 million). They have a democratic government, elect officials to take care of their constituents, which includes providing schooling, police, and municipal amenities like: clean drinking water. In the Chicagoland region we are lucky to have the Great Lakes and we are not facing serious water issues. However, with climate change the Lakes are threatened.

This interesting article about the issues Mexico City is facing with drought and lack of water paints a picture of what could be a potential future for our region. It is the first of a series of articles that are examining how cities are tackling climate change threats or not, and what are the consequences of not acting.

“A Columbia University report found that where rainfall declines, “the risk of a low-level conflict escalating to a full-scale civil war approximately doubles the following year.” The Pentagon’s term for climate change is “threat multiplier.” “

Many organizations are studying climate change as it relates to the Great Lakes. The EPA has a summary of how lake levels have changed over time and what that means for water supply as well as industry.

“In recent years, warmer surface water temperatures in the Great Lakes have contributed to lower water levels by increasing rates of evaporation and causing lake ice to form later than usual (see the Lake Ice indicator), which extends the season for evaporation. Lower water levels in the Great Lakes forced ships to reduce their cargo tonnage by 5 to 8 percent between 1997 and 2000, which increased shipping costs. Lower water levels can also affect water supplies, the usability of infrastructure such as docks and piers, and shoreline ecosystems. These types of disruptions from low water levels are expected to continue as the climate changes.”

Back in Mexico City water shortages have already reached crisis level.

“…the government acknowledges that nearly 20 percent of Mexico City residents — critics put the number even higher — still can’t count on getting water from their taps each day. For some residents, water comes only once a week, or once every several weeks, and that may mean just an hour of yellow muck dripping from the faucet.”

As more and more are without municipal water, they are forced to buy it from private providers. This cost is often too much for the poor to bear.

“People in rich neighborhoods on the other side of town, “they don’t have to think about water,” she added. “But for us it is something we think about all day, every day.” “

The issues the world faces due to climate change are vast and sometimes too much to comprehend. However, it is important that we try. There are other organizations fighting for climate action. They have great solutions like taxing carbon at its source and then distributing that money back to the people. The idea is that initially the increased costs of using fossil fuels will be put back on the consumer. So the dividend is to help consumers bear the initial increased costs. However, over time it will become too expensive to use fossil fuels and companies will be forced to innovate and use clean energy.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is one of those groups pushing this idea. They are a non-partisan organization seeking Carbon Fee & Dividend Legislation. So far, they have 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the Senate that have agreed to join the Climate Caucus that is trying to pass this legislation… so there’s hope.

No Mention of Climate Change or Renewables on WhiteHouse.gov

After the inauguration of our 45th President, many changes were made to the WhiteHouse.gov including removing any information about climate change, LGBTQ issues, renewable energy and more. Feel free to search for yourself.

What I did find is this – “An America First Energy Plan” that basically outlines intents to abolish the existing or proposed policies that actually help to make America a great and safe place to live.

I was shocked. Upset. Frustrated. I still am, but I need to focus that energy into making sure we still work for climate change policy and justice. So, I reached out to some friends and asked for help to find hope, to inspire me to keep up the good fight. It worked. Here are a few reasons why:

1, This headline from popular online zine, Vox.com, “Illinois passes huge, bipartisan energy bill, proves democracy still works”

2, This blurb from the The Environmental Law & Policy Center summary of the bill helps explain the positive impact further: “Future Energy Jobs Bill (SB 2814) will improve and modernize the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by ensuring long-term, reliable funding sources for the purchase of renewable resources into the foreseeable future. The newly updated RPS creates a secure, stable budget of more than $200 million annually for the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) on behalf of Illinois utilities by the Illinois Power Agency (IPA). It also establishes new community solar, low-income solar, brownfield solar, and distributed generation programs that will lead to diverse and balanced solar market development that is accessible to all Illinois residents.”

3, (summary of a conversation with a colleague) So that means at least IL is not going to kill renewables. Also, even though Illinois allows fracking, the low gas prices have discouraged fracking in Illinois, and as of today no permits have been granted. Furthermore, the economics of renewables have gotten much better and we should expect that to continue. In IL and surrounding, republican controlled states, we have seen movement toward green energy… Texas has one of the largest wind energy programs in the nation!

4, Here is a recording from ELPC Executive Director, Howard Learner talking with Justin Kaufmann from WGN Radio. Learner gives a lot of insight into what we should be concerned about the future of the EPA, but also why we should be hopeful.

5, And another interview with Learner, by Kari Lydersen from the Midwest Energy News: Q&A: Advocate upbeat about Midwest as Trump administration looms 

This interview even more so highlights progress that has been made, bipartisan in fact, on clean energy and why he believes it will continue.

But it will take work. It will take constituents reaching out to their representatives and telling them to support a clean and healthy today and tomorrow for all of us.

Dr. Jenkins Makes Statement on Climate Change Policy

Welcome to Spring 2017!! I thought it’d be good to start the semester off with some good news. So here you go!!

Open Letter on Climate Action from over 230 Higher Education Leaders to Incoming Administration and Congress about Climate Policy

Dr. Jenkins and Moraine Valley Community College, along with over 230 other Presidents and Chancellors from Colleges and Universities, including 35 states in the U.S., have joined together to urge president-elect Trump and the incoming congressional representatives to accelerate progress towards a clean energy future. Through their open letter, organized by nonprofit Second Nature, they call on elected officials to support participation in the Paris Agreement, climate research, and investment in the low carbon economy.

The group of schools expressed their alignment with the business and investment communities in supporting the science-based targets outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. Moraine Valley has been taking climate action for years, including voluntarily setting carbon neutrality goals and publicly reporting progress through a program called the Climate Leadership Commitments.

Dr. Jenkins, thank you for your support & leadership on this very important issue. 

A full list of the schools supporting the open letter can be found here: secondnature.org/higher-education-climate-action-letter

Interested in learning more about Climate Policy and how to integrate discussions in the classroom? 

I’ll be leading some CTL workshops on the topic. I’m happy to come for a classroom visit. And you can find some good resources here to fight the “doom and gloom” attitude & stand up for good policy changes.

 

Merry Your Season Be Merry & Green!

Americans generate a lot of waste during the holidays, and one of the big culprits is holiday entertaining. Plastic cutlery can hang around a landfill for thousands of holidays to come, and even paper plates aren’t earth-friendly!

Biodegradable cutlery and plates are one alternative. Better yet:
Use cloth instead of paper napkins. Reusing is always better than recycling! Also you can borrow plates and silverware. If you’re short, ask a few friends to bring a set of each. Here are some other ideas for how to make the party green.

And, here are a few more ideas make sure your holiday has a great impact on hearts but not the planet. Also, note the reminder for the office, too!

Gifts:

  1. The gift of an experience – for those that  have it all and  need nothing, how about movie tickets or tickets to a play or passes to a yoga classes? Check out 30 other ideas here.
  2. Holiday cards are really great to receive! But what do you do when the holiday is over? 18 creative reuse ideas right here– and some would make fun gifts, too!
  3. Wrapping paper is beautiful, but so is fabric and scarfs! Here are 15 ways you can wrap gifts that are fun, sometimes reusable and festive!

Around the Office (whether you work at Moraine Valley Community College or not):

  1. When you leave for the break make sure to unplug everything: tvs, computers and monitors, fridges, coffee makers, and anything else you have plugged in. This saves a tremendous amount of energy and reduces the risks for fire and other issues.
  2. Oh, and please, turn off the lights!

In the spirit of love, happiness and always hope for a bright future- may you and yours have a love filled, safe and happy green holiday!

Sustainably yours,
Stephenie

Hope & What to Do About Climate Change in 2017

A colleague, Clara Changxin Fang, recently posted an article talking about her top Ten Reasons to Feel Hopeful About Climate Change in 2017, https://residenceonearth.net/2016/12/07/hope-climate-change/

I found it to be uplifting in a time where I even more concerned about the future of climate policy and climate change action in the U.S.

Of the 10, I think my top 2 favorites:
1. All power does not reside in the President (remember checks and balances, separation of powers!!)
and her number 10.,
2. The next election is only 2 years away.

That’s right, we’ll have another chance to vote for candidates that will support and fight for solid climate policy.

So, what can we all do about climate change in 2017? Or even right now?

TALK ABOUT IT.

In a recent article from Katherine Kayhoe of the Huffington Post, she wrote “Seventy-two percent of people in the US are cautious, concerned, or alarmed about climate change, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication’s Six Americas survey. Yet so few of us talk to our friends and family about it. Why? Because we don’t hear anyone else doing it.” 

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Kayhoe warns to not get into the “Yes it is, No it is not” arguments; they are pointless.

A quote from the Citizen’s Climate Lobby about talking about climate change explains: “Research from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has found that knowledge about the scientific consensus on climate change serves as a “gateway belief,” making people more inclined to accept the fact that climate change is happening and more inclined to support public policy solutions. Here is the specific wording that needs to be communicated:”

97 percent of climate scientists are convinced, based upon the evidence, that human-caused global warming is happening. (Link to Yale Study: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.)

Check out Kayhoe’s suggested talking points, or Citizen’s Climate Lobby, or the Yale Project… or, wherever you get your creditable information and start talking about it!

(My favorite of Kayhoe’s: “2. Fort Hood in Texas, the biggest army base in the US, is installing wind and solar. Why? To save taxpayers $168 million dollars. Now that’s what I call green.”)

Happy Pollution Prevention Week! (Sept 21-27, 2015)

Happy Pollution Prevention Week!

(Sept 21-27, 2015)
Courtesy of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR)
(Repost: September 21st, 2015 by Laura B.)
“Twenty-five years ago, Congress passed the Pollution Prevention Act. Pollution Prevention (P2) Week, celebrated during the third week of September each year (September 21-27, 2015), highlights the efforts of EPA, its state partners, industry, and the public in preventing pollution right from the start.”

Check out the GLRPPR Blog posts this week for great ideas on how to minimize waste and pollution through your daily activities.

Also, “If you’re on social media, use the#P2Week and #25YearsofP2 hashtags to raise awareness of pollution prevention as the cornerstone of environmental sustainability.”

Recycling… does it really happen?

The radio station WBEZ (91.5) has several feature shows that tell stories about current events and interesting topics. Personally, I like their story-telling style versus a bullet point fact sheet approach to news-telling. Curious City is one of my favorite shows (also podcasted). They take questions from listeners that are specific to curious and “mysterious” topics about Chicago and surrounding areas.

Recently, Curious City was asked about the Blue Cart Recycling Program. Many think it’s just a sham. It’s not working and is just a “feel good” placebo program. I’ll admit, I had my doubts too. After listening to the podcast “What really happens to Chicago’s blue cart recycling?” by Chris Bentley, I am happy to know that at least 80% of what I (and collectively, my Chicago Family) put in the blue bin actually ends up somewhere with the intent to recycle it: to turn them into something of use, reclaim the natural materials and reserve the need to use virgin and raw materials. They will not sit in the landfill forever, never to be used again, wasted.

 

 

Simple Tips (& Why) to Green Your Holidays!

Stores staying open all day on Thanksgiving, Black Friday hype, Christmas ads already blaring… enough! It’s STRESSING me out! And that is not healthy.

I want to relax and enjoy quality time with my family and friends. And I want the experiences to be healthy for me, them and light on environmental impact.

Two things I like to consider to help me be less stressed & promote health for my peeps and my (our) planet: 1. Greening Gifts
2. Greening the Menu

1. On Gifts (and avoiding the crazy, stressful shopping wars!) I’m steering clear of all that hub bub and instead will be home, warm and cozy, preparing my craft room to make my gifts. I love making things! It helps me unwind, plus I know I’m pouring love into the gift and so does the recipient. Win-win!

Not everyone is crafty or inclined to make gifts. But if you are! Here’s a blog with a few ideas I really like and maybe you will, too. 38 DIY Gifts People Actually Want

If you’re not crafty, no problem. You can of course still pour love into bought items, too. And there are plenty of resources out there to help you find the perfect gift for that special someone. It’s perfect because not only do they need the item, it is helpful to them, won’t make them sick and is also created in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. Perfect!

I realize some of us will still want to get out and shop for some great deals… have you heard of Small Business Saturday? A lot of Chicagoland businesses are participating and shopping local is really a great way to encourage local economic recovery!

2. On the Menu: Eating lower on the food chain is a great way to make a difference for your health and the planet. It’s easier than you think, too. Do you have to give up the Turkey? No!! But treating it more like a condiment and enjoying more of your favorite vegetable based sides is a great start. Also, everything doesn’t have to be organic, but I do look out for certain food additives to avoid as well as where and how the veggies or fruit are grown for health concerns.

[On meat: If I did eat meat I would want to buy it from a local farmer where I know the animal was cared for, ate the right foods and slaughtered in a manner that was ethical.]

What’s on my menu? Well, I’m not hosting….but this is what I am bringing
Roasted Brussels Sprouts in a Balsamic Reduction
Kale, Pumpkin Seed, Cranberry Salad
Apple, Turnip, Sweet Potato Saute

Final Greening Holidays tip from me to you… When making your list to give people this holiday season, it helps to consider the following:

  • WHAT will be the impact on the person I’m giving this gift to? Will it improve their live in a meaningful way?
  • WHERE does this gift come from? Is it locally crafted and supporting local economies?
  • WHO made it? Are they paid a living wage and have safe working conditions? WHO profits from me buying this gift? Does it enrich some corporation whose values I do/don’t support?
  • HOW was it made? How does the resource and manufacturing impact on the environment?
  • WHY? Why should I give this gift? What NEED does it fill?

It’s important to consider these questions so that not just at a personal level, but at a global level you are fully aware of the impacts of your gift-giving decisions.

Happy Holidays!

2 World Leaders #ActOnClimate

Woke up to hopeful news this morning!

U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping coming to agreement to #ActOnClimate Change. Under this new deal, the U.S. would cut its 2005 CO2 emissions by 26-28% before 2025 and China will aim to get 20% of its energy from clean (zero-emission) sources by 2030.

The U.S. and China are two of the world’s top CO2 emissions polluters so this deal is quite significant; it sets a precedent and calls for other countries to also address their emissions in a global commitment to mitigate the most severe impacts of climate change. Perhaps there is hope for the Climate Summit in Paris next year!!

Still have questions about climate change? The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has a series of podcasts and simple to understand articles that help explain what is climate change; what changes can we expect regionally and globally; what is being done to address these changes (policy and innovations); what else can be done and how can we, individually, act?

Or, Check out Bill Nye the Science Guy explain climate change in less than 5 minutes…

then dig deeper to get wise on the topic. The more we know, the more we can do to make positive change for today and tomorrow.