Climate Strike!

The day after I wrote this post lamenting the lack of a local climate strike action, I got an email from a local climate champion saying that there would be an event in Binghamton on Friday, the day that millions of people took part in thousands of actions around the world.

We met in front of the building that houses Senator Schumer’s office. As Senate minority leader, he is our most influential representative in Washington. In keeping with the youth leadership of climate strikes, this was organized by local university students, with lots of energy coming from the students who gathered. There were also a number of allies, many of whom were veterans of the fight against fracking in New York State.

I was pleased to be able to attend and lend support and happy to be part of three generations in my family there. Daughters E and T were both there; granddaughter ABC, at two years old, was the youngest attendee. Several people commented that we were gathered there for climate action for her and her generation, so that they will have a livable planet.

Our climate strike event on Friday was very grassroots, with the co-organizers speaking and then offering the mike to anyone that wanted to speak. Next Friday, September 27th, will be a larger and more formal event with several local organizations as sponsors, featuring speakers, music, tabling, and food. I hope to be able to attend that, too.

There is a lot of work to do in order to keep global temperature rise in check, so much that it often seems impossible, but I am more hopeful than I have been for a while. With young people around the world rallying and demanding action, maybe national leaders will finally find the political will to make a rapid and just transition to a sustainable, though still damaged, world.

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Sixth Blogiversary!

(I enjoy the way spellcheck corrects my spelling of blogiversary, as though it were a real word.)

WordPress helpfully reminded me that I started Top of JC’s Mind six years ago today.

Six years ago feels like a different world, in ways both small- and large-scale.

Six years ago, B and I both still had our moms.

L and daughter E were in Hawai’i, still in their first year of marriage, never dreaming that the first two years of their daughter’s life would be spent at our home in upstate New York while L worked in London toward getting a spousal visa for E. The visa should be arriving soon. B and I will have an eerily quiet home when E and ABC leave at whatever point in the coming weeks…

During the last six years, daughter T has completed a master’s in conservation biology of plants – and has faced an administration that has ignored her field of study at a time when it is most needed.

Six years ago, Barack Obama was president of the United States. Even though the Republicans in Congress blocked a lot of things that would have been helpful for the country, we, at least, had a sense of pride in our nation on the world stage and an absence of scandal. With Donald Trump as president, there is a general sense of fear and apprehension and the United States has lost its leadership position; there seem to be multiple scandals every week.

Six years ago, we were fighting in New York for a ban on shale fracking. Amazingly enough, New York instituted a regulatory ban, which is still holding. Given that New York has just recently enacted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, it would fly in the face of our climate goals to begin fracking, even under a future governor.

Meanwhile, the global climate situation is becoming more and more dire. While I was encouraged by the Paris climate accord, the time since has been difficult, with DT ready to pull the US out of the accord in November, 2020. Many states, cities, companies, and individuals have stepped up to continue working toward net zero carbon goals. Our family is doing its part by changing to LED lighting, increasing our insulation, buying panels in a community solar installation, and driving a fully electric Chevy Bolt and a plug-in hybrid Chrysler Pacifica.

Some things have stayed constant over these six years, though. I am grateful for my loving family and safe home, for a faith that remains despite challenges, for music and poetry, and for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.

My hope is that I will be able to continue writing – and that, at least, a few of you will continue to visit me here at Top of JC’s Mind.

Fracking update

I spent a lot of time involved with the eventually successful efforts to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for fossil fuels in New York State. Meanwhile, from my town on the NY/PA border, we have watched a host of negative consequences unfold for some of our PA neighbors. I am also only an hour or so from Cornell University, home to some of the leading researchers on fracking. I was privileged to see these professors speak a number of times, both on campus and at community events.

One of these researchers, Dr. Robert Howarth, has just published a new paper in the journal Biogeosciences about one of the most unfortunate environmental effects of the fracking boom, the release of methane to the atmosphere. Global atmospheric levels of methane are at all-time highs since recording began. The levels started a steep rise in 2006, just as the fracking boom in the United States was picking up.

Having heard and seen so much evidence of methane leakage from fracking, I had already assumed that the two were related, but, in this paper, Dr. Howarth explains the evidence by measuring the amount of 13C present, allowing him to determine the part of the global rise in methane related to fracking, most of which was emitted in the United States. The industry tries to tell us that they are controlling methane emissions through detecting and fixing leaks on the wellpads, but there are many other ways in which methane is released, including venting and flaring at the site, especially in areas where the methane is released when the company is primarily drilling for oil; well leakage that develops over time as casings fail; methane that seeps through the ground to the surface, similar to the way radon reaches basements when it originated thousands of feet below; abandoned wells when fractures intersect with them; compressor station leaks and releases; leakage from transmission and delivery pipes, some of which are over 100 years old; and the production, transport, and use of LNG.

Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but is relatively short-lived in the atmosphere. This makes reducing it quickly imperative in the effort to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It is also why the more ambitious climate plans in the United States, such as those of Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Bernie Sanders, call for a ban on fracking.

The sooner this happens, the better. The economics of fracking are already poor, with a number of companies going bankrupt because of it. In many markets, renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuel energy already and energy storage technology is progressing rapidly while falling in price. It’s time to ban fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure and go all in for renewable energy, energy storage, and energy efficiency.

We need to do all we can to keep the planet livable for people and all other life forms. Banning fracking would be a great step in the right direction.

SoCS: social justice

During the struggle against fracking in New York, one of my roles was writing comments on related articles. I was part of the rapid response team, so I spent a lot of time doing it, so much so that if I was at an in-person event that drew people from around the state, people recognized my name if we were introduced. I had done a lot of research, so I was able to present my point of view on many different aspects of the effects.

What I seldom wrote of was the personal basis of my views, which was Catholic social justice doctrine, which was always in my heart, even as my mind was filled with science and statistics and personal stories from our neighbors in Pennsylvania.

As time has gone on and my public role has lessened, I have more often spoken of the role of social justice in my life. This became easier when Pope Francis published his encyclical Laudato’ Si. While people knew that it would be about climate change, they didn’t realize how much of it would center around human relationships with each other. Francis calls this approach “integral ecology” and it demonstrates one of the basic tenets of social justice doctrine, care for creation, and another, care for other people, especially those most vulnerable. These are viewpoints that many people of good will hold and there are many routes to them; I just want to acknowledge the impact of Catholic social doctrine for me, which combined with other influences to bring me to this point.

(The link above has the entire text of the encyclical with the option to read it in about a dozen languages. It was written prior to the Paris climate change meetings which led to the accord signed by over 190 nations. Francis addressed it to “all people of good will” because climate change affects everyone on earth.)
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “social.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/06/14/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-15-19/

SoCS badge by Pamela, at https://achronicalofhope.com/

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. 

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