another step

Our family has taken another step in reducing our carbon footprint. We replaced our 2005 Honda Odyssey with a new Chrysler Pacifica hybrid. Having had a minivan in the family since E was an infant thirty-two years ago, we like their versatility for transporting people and cargo. We wanted to keep that utility but cut back on emissions.

As it turns out, the Pacifica is the only plug-in hybrid minivan on the market. It has a full gasoline-powered engine plus enough battery to travel thirty-ish miles. That means that most days, we can run on battery power but have the flexibility to go on long trips without having to plan on stopping at a rapid charging station as we would have to do with our Chevy Bolt.

As it turns out, in order to get the most advanced safety features, we wound up having to get a lot of other bells and whistles, too.  I admit that I am having a bit of trouble adjusting to nearly everything happening by touch screen. Sometimes, buttons and knobs are easier!

It is nice to not have to go to a gas station very often and I appreciate that we have so drastically reduced our transportation greenhouse gas emissions. For those of us who live in places without much mass transit, transportation is one of the most difficult areas to achieve reductions, so I am grateful to have gone mostly electric, especially as most of our electricity comes from our solar panels.

It’s fun to go green!
Pacifica hybrid

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SoCS: sap

I have lived in the Northeast United States for my whole life and soon my thoughts will turn to sap.

Maple trees are plentiful here and are often used for maple syrup production. The sap flows in the spring and is tapped, usually now with lines rather than with spigots and covered buckets as it was done traditionally.

At least, it used to be done in spring when I was a child. What you need for a good flow of sap is days above freezing and nights below freezing. This used to be early spring weather, but now, with climate change and increased volatility of weather, those conditions sometimes happen as early as February.

February is not spring.

Some years, the sap starts to flow in February, but then it gets colder again and stops. If we are lucky, it stops before the trees actually start to bud as the cold weather can then damage the buds and affect the tree for the year.

When I was a child, we used to go to a local sugarhouse during sugaring off and watch as they evaporated the water out of the sap to leave maple syrup. I always liked the lighter, more delicate syrup. The sugarhouse had an attached dining room where you could order great pancakes and waffles, which were served with fresh syrup. Then, my sisters and I would order sugar-on-snow for dessert. They would bring us cake tins full of snow and a pitcher of warm maple syrup. We would drizzle it over the snow and it would instantly congeal into a candy which you could pick up with a fork. You could sometimes even twirl it around the fork like spaghetti. It was delicious, but super sweet, so they would serve it with homemade dill pickles, which were also really good.

It has been many years since I had sugar on snow, but I always keep a supply of real maple syrup at home. I refuse to eat “pancake syrup” which is usually just corn syrup with some maple flavoring thrown in.

In my area now, I usually buy maple syrup from a farmers’ market rather than directly from a sugar house. When I go back to Massachusetts or Vermont, I will sometimes buy syrup there to bring home. Right now, I have a gallon that was made in B’s hometown and about twelve miles from my hometown.

It’s all good.

I do worry, though, about the future of our sugar maples. They are stressed by climate change and the range of the trees is moving north. In the coming decades, we may need to import our maple syrup from Canada. I’m sure it would be as delicious, but probably in short supply, which would be very sad.

I’ll savor my maple syrup all the more now.
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Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday and/or Just Jot It January! This week’s prompt was sap/sep/sip/sop/sup. Today’s pingback link is here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/04/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-5th/
More information and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/

Two Poems for the Marcellus

In April 2014, I changed the original post below when I submitted my poem to an anthology. It wasn’t selected, but I never reposted with my poem included. When I ran across this copied into my drafts folder today, I figured it was time to put it back out there. It a good reminder to me that, even though there is a lot more work to do, we have made some progress since November 30, 2012.
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I had to share this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandra-steingraber/marcellus-shale_b_1428030.html, which leads to an essay and poem by biologist/poet, Dr. Sandra Steingraber.  She is one of the heroes in the fight to keep unconventional fossil fuel extraction, aka fracking, out of New York State and to rein in this and all toxic industrial activity everywhere. The poem is mind-blowing for me, partly because of its depth of composition and partly because I have spent a lot of time in the fight, too, although in the role of citizen advocate/commenter, not expert/lecturer/author.

This seems a good opportunity to share a poem I wrote, right after the announcement that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was putting out final drilling regulations for comment, despite the supplemental generic environmental impact statement not being complete. The good news is that we mobilized to submit over 100,000 public comments and the DEC let the proposed regulations lapse. The SGEIS is still incomplete, pending a health review from the state health commissioner, and we still do not have high volume fracking in New York State.

Novermber 30, 2012 – After DEC Regs

Watching the silent snow,
The voices recede.
The hills are shrouded,
The innocent land
Unaware of the impending attack.
The crows circle,
Seeking carrion.
The cold creeps into our bones.
The land shivers,
Resting now from the furrowing of the plow
Under its snow blanket,
Dreaming of spring.
Will the thaw bring warmth and greening
Or drilling and destruction?

Disturbing fracking news

I am a veteran of the fight against shale gas development in New York State, and, more broadly, against unconventional fossil fuel development and for a rapid increase in renewable energy in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming as low as possible.

I am fortunate to live in the Binghamton area, not that far from Ithaca, where several prominent scientists and professors work. They often came to speak at events in Binghamton and I sometimes would travel to Ithaca for lectures. I learned a lot from them and would use their research in commenting on news articles and in writing blog posts.

One of my favorite speakers is Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Emeritus at Cornell University. His specialty is rock fracture mechanics and he had done hydraulic fracturing research for many years, putting him in a unique position to anticipate the dangers of combining high-volume slick-water hydrofracking with long laterals in shale. He teamed with Dr. Robert Howarth, an environmental scientist at Cornell, in the first major paper raising an alarm about methane leakage from shale oil/gas development; the paper was controversial, but prescient, with subsequent research affirming levels of methane leakage much higher than industry and government projections.

This newly released twelve minute video with Dr. Ingraffea shows the climate consequences of the decision to develop shale gas. This blog post by Sharon Kelly gives some further background and also has a link to the video, in case the embedded one below isn’t working. 

Christmas tree takedown

Over the weekend, B and T undecorated the Christmas tree. We usually do this on Epiphany, but that was when L was flying out to return to London, so it got pushed back this year. Because B and E had cut the tree down themselves in mid-December, it was still in good shape so the extra week in the house didn’t matter.

I admit that I continued my largely hands-off policy with the tree. I didn’t really even look at it that much, other than when I would bring ABC close to it because she enjoyed the lights and grabbing at a few strategically placed safe ornaments. I especially liked that she played with – and could chew on – a red plastic-canvas-and-yarn ornament that was part of a set I had made before ABC’s mom E was born. E and T both played with those ornaments when they were young and I appreciated seeing our first grandbaby doing the same.

The other thing that was comforting about the tree this year was the scent. Even though I didn’t much care to look at the tree and often sat with my back to it, I loved the scent of our Canaan fir. I miss it now that it is gone.

This morning, a truck from the town came by and collected the tree from the curb. It and the other Christmas trees will become mulch for use in the town parks. Having served its purpose at our home, I’m glad that it has been returned to the natural world.
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SoCS: ecology

I have long had an interest in ecology and environmental issues. In recent years, I have done a lot of advocacy in opposition to fossil fuel development and in favor of renewable energy. I’ve also taken a number of steps to do my part in fighting climate change, such as driving an all-electric vehicle, buying solar panels in a community solar array, adding home insulation, switching to a hybrid heat-pump electric hot water heater, and moving to LED lighting.

I have also participated in and then led a study group on Pope Francis’s encyclical “Laudato Si'” which uses the term integral ecology to connote practices that are good for both the planet and for people, especially those who are most vulnerable.

One of my closest connections to ecology, though, is my daughter T, who hopes to build a career in ecosystem restoration. She has an undergrad degree in the Science of Natural and Environmental Systems and a master’s in Conservation Biology of Plants. Unfortunately, the current administration in the US is not keen on environmental restoration. We hope states and foundations will step in to fill the void.

Our country and planet really need people working to help the natural world as much as possible. All our lives depend on it.
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The prompt today was “eco.” Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday and/or Just Jot It January! Details here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/05/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-
6th-2018

 

 

 

Cold

Here in the lower 48 of the United States, we have been experiencing unusually cold weather.

Some people, including our president, have been taking this as evidence that there is not global warming going on, but our cold snap is actually a predictable part of global climate change.

Some points on this topic:

  • What we experience day to day is weather; global climate has to do with the whole world over a longer time period. Weather of all sorts continues to happen as generally appropriate to one’s locality.
  • Global warming does not rescind seasons, which occur due to astronomical conditions. It is still winter here in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • The disruption of global warming impacts different regions in different ways rather than uniformly. For example, the arctic regions are warming more quickly than other regions, which disrupts the upper level winds and changes the temperature and water-carrying capacity of weather systems. The cold air that has made its way into most of the lower 48 states has been able to do so because the mechanisms that have historically kept these winter air masses confined to Alaska and Canada have broken down. It is a symptom, not a refutation of global warming – and part of the reason that the term global climate change is used more often than global warming.
  • If the climate system were in equilibrium, one would expect roughly the same number of record high and record low recorded temperatures. There have been significantly more high than low temperature records globally in recent years. This article has a good explanation, along with a graphic that shows the proportion in the US for the last 365 days. In some regions in the world, the disparity is even greater, as high as 5 to 1.

I hope everyone will stay warm – or cool – as needed in the location where you are. I also hope that people will look to see what changes or adaptations they need to make to deal with current and expected changes to our climate.
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:
 https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/04/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-4th-2018/