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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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/15/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-15th-2018/

 

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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.
*****
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/

 

 

solar serendipity

Last week, I got a message on my answering machine from someone who is interested in purchasing solar panels in a community solar array with Renovus. Because we already own panels in a prior community solar installation with them and had agreed to be contacted, Renovus had given my name and number to a prospective solar customer.

I returned the call and had a lovely conversation. Of course, we started talking nuts and bolts about community solar, but then went on to talk about our all-electric Chevy Bolt, environmental issues, and living in the Southern Tier/Finger Lakes region.

We discovered that we both have connections to the Berkshires of Massachusetts and that we are both writers, although she has had a long career in writing and teaching and I am only recently (and lightly) published.

Now, we are friends on Facebook and perhaps, one day, will meet in person – brought together by the sun.

Bolt update

Because we have recently completed National Drive Electric Week, I thought I would update you on our experiences with our 2017 Chevy Bolt.

We still love it!

I wish I could have shown it off at our local Drive Electric event, but it did not fit into our schedule.

Over these last six months, we have learned a lot about electric driving. Air temperature has a big effect on range. When the weather was warm this summer, our projected range with a full charge was 280-300 miles (450-482 km) rather than the listed 238 (383 km). During the winter, though, our range may only be in the 160s.

The type of driving also has a big impact on the range. Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, electric vehicles are more efficient in stop-and-go driving because the energy from slowing, braking, and travelling downslope is used to send charge back to the battery. Yesterday, I drove almost fifteen miles while only having my projected range decrease by two miles because I was driving around town.

The Bolt has a screen that shows how various factors affect mileage in real time. It is a bit of a game to see how much different routes, speeds, etc. affect our kilowatt per mile ratio. In a mixed highway/city session, we get about 4.8 m/kwh, while on an exclusively in-town run, we average about 6 m/kwh. This is much cheaper than running a car on gasoline, especially because maintenance costs on EVs are also much lower. It is even cheaper for us because most of our electricity comes from our solar panels, rather than being purchased from a utility.

My favorite driving mode is L mode, which allows most driving to happen with just the accelerator pedal. It reminds me of using the swell pedal on the organ! L mode makes greater use of regenerative braking without needing to touch the brake pedal, which brings in the use of the disc brakes.

The only real problem we have had is that one of our forward cameras stopped functioning, which meant that we were without pedestrian detection and other safety features for a while as our dealer had to order the parts needed. This wasn’t too great a hardship, given that we had never had these kinds of features on prior cars so we were used to driving without them. Still, it was nice to have them back after the repair.

While we had planned to install a home charging station, we haven’t gotten around to it yet. Given that we usually keep the Bolt within the county and that we have an upgraded home electrical service, it hasn’t been a problem charging slowly with our regular household current, but we will eventually get a home charging station so that we can do a full battery charge overnight. We plan to get a station that plugs into a 220 outlet rather than one that is hardwired.

We are also slowly getting more public charging stations. In August, shortly before L had to return to London, we took ABC to Recreation Park in Binghamton to ride the carousel. We were surprised to see two charging stations in the parking lot. I pulled into a slot and got a few kilowatt-hours in while we rode the carousel. It turned out that the chargers had just been installed. It was fun to see the media coverage, knowing that I had already availed myself of the service.

It has also been fun telling people about our EV and giving people rides. One of B’s co-workers, who has an approximately 120-mile (193 km) daily commute, decided to buy a Bolt from our dealership after talking to B about our experience. We had been the first Bolt sold there and he was the third. We are hoping that the sales of the Bolt and other EVs will expand so that the public charging network will grow, especially rapid chargers that will make it easier to take electric cars on long trips.

This will also make it easier to sell more EVs, which will be better for air quality and climate protection for everyone. As battery prices continue to come down, EVs will soon be priced similarly to gas vehicles without subsidies while being cheaper to run and maintain. Several European countries already have plans to phase out gasoline/diesel only vehicles; perhaps, one day, the United States will follow suit.

Harvey

I join with the millions of people in the US and around the world in sending thoughts, prayers, and charitable donations to those affected by tropical system Harvey. The amount of damage from the winds and historic amount of rainfall is mind-boggling. Recovery will take years and some locations will not recover at all.

When my area suffered two record floods of the Susquehanna River, I learned a lot of lessons that, while our geographic and demographic situations differ, applies to Texas and Louisiana now:
– There is no way to adequately prepare for a flood of that magnitude. No amount of prepositioning of supplies and personnel could cover such a vast area with so much destruction over some many days. Yes, lessons can be learned for the future, but don’t waste time now casting aspersions. There is too much work to do.
– Accept help! I volunteered in a flood relief center in my town after the 2011 flood. We sometimes had problems getting people to accept the food, cleaning supplies, and other help we had available. They wanted to forgo it in order to leave it for someone worse off than they. We had to gently explain that everything had been donated to help those affected by the flood and that that included them; there was plenty to go around. On a larger scale, this goes to the question of whether the states accept help from other states and countries. They should graciously accept offers to help, in the same spirit in which they have offered help in past disasters. Obviously, there needs to be coordination so that donations mesh well. I know that the New York governor has offered the services of our Air National Guard because the need is so great and Texas has already mobilized all its available forces.
– Don’t argue about whether it is a 500-year flood or a 1000-year flood. Those probabilities were based on historic records that no longer apply due to climate changes. My area suffered two record floods in five years. Areas flooded that had never flooded before. A number of lots that had had homes on them have now been bought out and converted to green space because the flooding threat is too high to have people continue to live there. If you are going to rebuild in flood-prone areas, you have to be smart and elevate homes, build protective wetlands, and minimize impermeable surfaces. Which brings me to my last point…

– Accept the science about how storm strength and mobility are affected by global warming. Michael Mann helps to explain the factors that made Harvey so destructive. (More information and links can be found here.) Yes, there have always been category 4 hurricanes, but the warmer surface temperatures of the Gulf of Mexico and the higher sea level made the rainfall and storm surge higher than they would have been in years past. The lack of steering currents kept the storm spinning in the same area, dropping over three feet (one meter) of rain over a large area. This same mechanism had a hand in the first record flood here in 2006, which was caused by a stationary front, as was a flood a few years ago in the Boulder, Colorado area.

Part of what we all need to do going forward is pay attention to preparing for increasingly severe weather. We need to think about resiliency in our building, zoning, and planning. We need to look at restoring natural aids, like barrier islands, dunes, and wetlands. We can place offshore wind turbines strategically to help blunt high winds. We can move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible so that warming does not cross over into the catastrophic category. We can’t afford wishful thinking about the latest severe storm being once-in-a-lifetime. We need to work together to help each other recover and prepare for the future.

 

climate commenting

When I was on the online rapid response team for commenting on fracking issues in New York,  I learned over time not to revisit comments on articles, even though I knew I was getting inaccurate (and occasionally nasty) replies.

Due to changing circumstances, I haven’t been commenting on much of anything lately, but I did make a comment on a recent column by Thomas Reese, SJ, on a carbon tax. This has turned into a long stream of comments from a man who does not believe in mainstream climate science with my replies and a few others weighing in.

I have decided to stop replying at this point, but I’ve spent so much time on it that I thought I would share it here:
https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/faith-and-justice/carbon-tax-revisited