SoCS: on our yard and climate

Unlike many people in our area, we keep our yard as natural as we can. No pesticides or herbicides. Big shade trees on the south side of the house – maple, oak, cherry, and ash. a few bushes – lilac, rhododendron, forsythia. We do have a mowed lawn; going full meadow wouldn’t be allowed by our town, but along with the grasses, there are wild strawberries, violets, daisies, and, of course, dandelions. There are animals – squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, and the occasional skunk – and lots of birds – chickadees, nuthatches, bluejays, mourning doves, several kinds of finches and woodpeckers, tufted titmouse, and, this time of year, robins. At the moment, a robin is building a nest on the bend of the downspout near the back door.

This has been a good year for our forsythia. It is usually a bit anemic. We inherited it when we bought the house and have a suspicion that it was actually a variety that was more suited to a warmer zone. Lately, it seems to have more good years for blossoms than bad. It’s probably not a coincidence, as the climate is warming and growing zones shift.
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Of course, this is a particularly appropriate day to talk about climate change, as there are many climate change awareness marches happening today, here in the US and around the world. I wish that I were able to be in Washington DC for the main US march. There are people from my area who boarded a bus at 3ish in the morning to get there to participate.

I will be joining them in spirit. I have been writing, studying, protesting, lobbying, etc. on phasing out fossil fuels, banning fracking, increasing renewable energy quickly, and combating climate change and greenhouse gases’astronomical rise for many years now. With the current administration, we are redoubling, tripling, quadrupling, or exponentially raising our efforts.

If we are wrong on climate policy and the effects of climate change roll on out of control, people will die unnecessarily. Coastal populations and those living in poverty are most vulnerable. There are already climate refugees. Some island nations are under threat of losing their land entirely. Even in the US, there are already some people needing to be relocated due to rising sea levels.

We are all in this together. Every single person throughout the world. The heaviest burdens financially in the cleanup efforts, and mitigation, and relocation, and all the other effects of climate change, should be borne by the countries and companies who were enriched by exploiting fossil fuels beyond what the environment and climate could absorb. Developing economies don’t need to follow the fossil fuel pattern of the industrialized countries. They can build up their communities using renewable and energy-efficient technologies and the wealthier countries must help them to do that.

When Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’, he addressed all people and called for an integral ecology that would aid the natural world and human communities, with special emphasis on aiding the most vulnerable people and environments. Many people of all spiritual traditions and those who do not follow any faith path have joined together in this endeavor. One-hundred ninety-five countries signed onto the Paris climate accord. Each pledged to all the others to implement goals to combat climate change, help the environment, and support people, especially those most at risk. Progress is being made and many places are reaching beyond their stated goals to effect further greenhouse gas reductions.

We are already feeling the effects of climate change in increased severe weather, droughts, floods, heat waves, wildfires, and species extinctions. Even if the US government unwisely abandoned its promises in Paris, many of our states and localities, our companies, and our citizens and residents will keep going, moving forward with energy efficiency, renewable energy, and preparing our towns and cities for emergencies.

We will continue to march on, literally and figuratively.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “yard.”  Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/04/28/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-apr-2917/

 

Bolt!

As part of my Earth Day observance, let me introduce the newest addition to our eco-conscious family, our new bright blue all-electric Chevy Bolt!
Bolt

Bolt side view

While Bolts became available in some parts of the country late last year, they only arrived in upstate New York in March. Only one dealer in our area is authorized to sell them and I had been inquiring for months, so, when their first Bolt came in, we were among the first to find out. We arranged a test drive and, after waiting a few days for the long-anticipated New York State rebate program to get up and running, we took the Bolt home on March 30th.

We love it!

There is a lot to learn, though, and a lot of bells and whistles that other people take for granted, like backup cameras and collision avoidance systems, that have been available but weren’t a feature of any other car we have had.

It is nice to have a simple push button start and not to have to worry about keys at all. With no engine, it is very quiet. The seats, front and back, are comfortable for both B and me, despite ten inches of height difference, and the seats are heated, which is nice in the damp chill of early spring. I even tried out the heated steering wheel one particularly chilly morning! There is lots of glass so the visibility is good and we have external sensors that warn about vehicles and pedestrians that are alongside.

It is so much fun to drive! It’s like a game to learn about the regenerative braking and how to get the most miles per kilowatt-hour. It accelerates super fast, which is a help when I have to merge onto the highway near our home, where the speed limit is 65 mph (105 kmh) and the merge lane is short. The link near the beginning of the post tells about the torque, for those of you who know about such things. Our salesperson told us it has a much torque as a 6-cylinder Camaro, but, never having driven a sporty performance-type car, I have no basis for comparison. I just know that it is fun!

We intend to use the Bolt mostly around the county and for short trips until more rapid-charge stations come to our region. The listed range is 238 miles (383 km) on a full charge, although factors such as temperature and terrain affect this. We don’t put on a lot of miles every day and usually charge it once it get down sixty miles or so.

We have taken it further afield once so far. When E went to London, she had to fly out of Syracuse rather than Binghamton, so we took her in the Bolt. The roundtrip was about 180 miles and we had plenty of charge to get there and back, despite the temperature being colder than optimal for best battery range.

At the moment, we are recharging with just 110v household current, but we plan to install a charge station later this spring. That will allow us to do a full charge overnight, instead of two days using household current.

On Earth Day, we are proud to have shrunk our carbon footprint considerably. No burning of gasoline! No need for motor oil! And most of the electricity we use will be produced by our solar panels!

Our Bolt makes every day seems like Earth Day!

Earth Day and Science March

Happy Earth Day! Sending out good thoughts to all those working in the environmental movement, to the earth itself, and to all its inhabitants. Earth Day this year was chosen as the day for the March for Science, with the main march being in Washington DC, with satellite marches around the country and the world.

It’s sad that we need marches to remind us of the importance of science and of protecting our environment, but there are definitely some people who need reminding. The science march emphasizes the importance of scientific research and advances and of scientific education and literacy in the general public, while celebrating the contributions of science to our world, particularly the contributions of those who have been traditionally underrepresented among scientists, such as women, indigenous people, African-Americans, and Latino/as.

In that spirit, I want to honor two scientists in my family.

First, my older sister who has just retired from decades of work as a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s and doctorate from Indiana University.  After post-doctoral work at the Cleveland Clinic, she came to NIH for the remainder of her career, where she worked on projects to add to our knowledge of how to fight disease and promote wellness. Today, she participates in the Science March in Washington, DC.

Second, my younger daughter T. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and last year completed a Master’s of Professional Studies in conservation biology of plants at State University of New York – Environmental Science and Forestry. She is passionate about plants and hopes to build her career around restoration ecology. Nothing makes her happier than pulling out invasive species so that native plants can thrive! Right now, she is working in Missouri for their Department of Conservation with a study of the effects of fire on prairie plants. She is marching for science in Springfield, Missouri.

I am proud to have these two women scientists in my immediate family! I appreciate their contributions and that of their colleagues across all scientific fields.

I think today is a good day to reflect on how important science is to our lives. Medical science and biology are important in decisions I make every day. I am especially drawn to environmental science and geology and often use that knowledge in my advocacy on environmental and climate change policy and renewable energy. Computer science makes B’s job possible. The list could go on and on…

There is a Sci/Cli March today in Binghamton, a local mash-up of this weekend’s science march with next weekend’s climate march. I had hoped to attend, but I don’t think I will be able to make it. I’ll be marching with them in spirit, as well as with my sister in DC.

Science rules!

SoCS: March On!

Here in the United States, we are doing a lot of marching these days.

I participated in a sister march for the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st. These marches took place throughout the United States and around the world, even Antarctica! We had about 3,000 participants in Binghamton, although we had expected only a few hundred.

There have since been other major marches, including one for indigenous rights.

April will see two major marches on Washington with satellite marches elsewhere, one for Science on April 22, which is Earth Day,  and a Climate March on April 29. I wish I could be in Washington for both of those, but will probably have to settle for a local combined march.

The marches themselves are energizing, but the larger point is that people use them as educational tools to raise awareness of important issues and then continue their advocacy through follow-up actions. That has been an encouraging thing that we are seeing in the US this year, that so many people are getting involved in civic life at a new level, so…

March On!
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “march.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/03/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-mar-2517/

 

dread and alarm

It is with an increasing sense of dread and alarm that I approach January 20th.

January 20th is the date on which Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States.

It is not a secret that I was a Bernie Sanders supporter who went on to support Secretary Clinton in the general election.  If our electoral system went by popular vote, she would be assuming the presidency and I would have at least some hope of helpful and reasonable legislation making it through Congress.

As it stands with DT, though, I believe that our country – and the world – are in danger.

That sounds very dramatic, but it is, unfortunately, true.

Early in the primaries, before it was clear that DT would be nominated, I had thought that, if he were to be elected, it would get the Congressional  Republicans to finally cooperate with the Democrats and Independents to pass reasonable, bipartisan legislation, as it was obvious that DT’s ideas were often unconstitutional, impractical, unethical, or some combination thereof. DT was also campaigning against both the Democratic and Republican establishment.

For reasons that I cannot fathom, once DT won, the Congressional Republicans suddenly think they have a mandate to do all kinds of things, such as privatize Medicare, that the majority of the public oppose (and DT used to oppose, although it is often hard to tell where he stands).

DT keeps telling us how smart he is and how he hires great people, but the nominees for staff and Cabinet positions are downright – I know I keep using this word – scary.  Several Cabinet nominees are on record as opposing the existence of the departments they are slated to head. Several have espoused outlandish conspiracy theories, which is even more pathetic when DT and his team are downplaying the very real role that Russia played in influencing the presidential election. The vetting that the Trump transition team did on background and conflicts of interest was sparse and the Senate Republican leadership is trying to rush through hearings and votes, even though the Ethics Office hasn’t been able to evaluate the candidates, some of whom haven’t even sent in their full information.

It is particularly galling because Mitch McConnell, when he was Senate Minority leader, made a huge deal about having extensive background information on President Obama’s appointees. He sent a letter detailing his requirements to then Senate Majority Leader Reid.   Recently, the new Senate Minority Leader and my Senator Chuck Schumer sent that same letter to Mitch McConnell, crossing out his name and signing it himself. It isn’t likely to do much good. Unfortunately, there looks as though there will be massive conflicts of interest with Cabinet secretaries, as well as totally unresolved conflicts with DT himself.

Because the US is so powerful on the world stage, our developing troubles here can affect other countries, too. There are the obvious problems of diplomacy, war, alliances, and trade. I am especially concerned with science and climate issues. Researchers and tech specialists have been rushing to back up data outside the country, in case DT’s departments try to limit or erase content. There is the threat that Congressional Republicans may reduce the pay for some posts, for example, those researching climate change, to $1 in the budget, effectively eliminating those jobs in a way that the Democrats could not block. The prospect just makes me sick. I am also worried that DT may try to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement, which would be terrible, although many private businesses will continue to participate even if the government tries to renege on its promises.

In many areas, there is a danger that DT and the Republicans are making end runs around the laws that were set up to establish separation of powers and checks and balances. The Congressional Democrats are gearing up to fight, as well as some of the governors and attorneys general. Particularly important will be New York and California.

Everything is unsure, but many ordinary citizens are also gearing up to fight. My inbox is filled with action items on various appointees and policies, including the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act without replacement legislation in place.

It is all terrifying.

And a work in progress.

Stay tuned.

Update January 11:  Not long after I posted this, additional allegations of Russian intelligence against Donald Trump surfaced, raising fears of possible future blackmail. This just adds to the unease over his impending inauguration. DT is scheduled to hold his first news conference in six months today. Should be…interesting.
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January!  Prompts are provided but any post counts. I usually choose not to use prompts, but today’s from Matthew is “danger” – which fed into how I was feeling after watching the news. Find out more about it all here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/10/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-10th17/

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SoCS: coat

A lot of places in the US are under a coat of white from snow.

Not exactly a surprise in January, except that, while there is snow in places one expects, like Colorado, the Dakotas, and Vermont, but also in some places where it is more unusual, such as Alabama and the Carolinas. Seattle, Washington has also recently had snow.

Weirdly, we don’t have much here in the Binghamton, New York area.  While some parts of the state have had massive lake effect snows, the wind pattern is preventing them from reaching us here. The storm systems are coming up the coast and we are too far inland to get major amounts of snow from them.

Also weirdly, the cold and snow dipping into the Southern US are caused by the warming of the Arctic region.  This pushes the polar vortex south.

This weekend, we are having some of our coldest temperatures of the winter. I am pulling out the heavy coats.

Postscript: You can tell this is stream of consciousness because I misused a correlative conjunction and couldn’t go back and fix it.
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It’s a double dip! This post is both part of Linda’s Just Jot It January and Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt is “coat.” Join us! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/06/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-and-jusjojan-jan-717/

 

What?

I just heard a report that Trump is considering the current and the former CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson and Lee Raymond, as possible choices for Secretary of State.

I am having trouble wrapping my head around this.

It is absolutely stunning to think that anyone could think that either of these men is qualified to be the chief diplomat of the United States.

It smacks of oligarchy, not democracy.