SoCS: hole in the ground

For the last three days, there has been a crew in our front yard drilling a 500-foot hole in the ground. That’s about 150 meters for all you people who live in the metric world, which is almost everyone except the US…

The reason for this is not to find water, which happened well before they hit rock at 80 feet. Instead, this very deep hole is to install a geothermal heating and cooling system.

I’m excited because, after the new system is in, we will be able to permanently disconnect our house from the methane supply system. Our cooling costs will also be much lower because geothermal systems are much more efficient than the typical central air conditioning unit.

I will be glad not to be using any fracked gas which has caused so much trouble for our PA (Pennsylvania) neighbors and the climate. We will also helping to support the New York State version of a “Green New Deal”, moving to renewable energy in a way that is supportive of impacted workers and communities.

At the moment, though, we just have a very deep hole in the ground with two tubes coming out of it – and a very, very muddy, messy yard.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “ground.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/10/11/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-oct-12-19/

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Climate strike – part two

Friday, September 27th was the last day of the Climate Action Week that featured youth-led marches, rallies, and work/school strikes around the world. As happened around the world, there was an opening event last Friday in Binghamton, with a larger event scheduled for the closing day.

This event was held at the Peacemaker’s Stage near the confluence of the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers. We began with a welcome from the University student-organizers, who recalled that we were on land of the Onondoga Nation, who have endured centuries of broken treaties and environmental assault. This continued the emphasis on social/environmental justice as an integral component of climate action.

The climate movement in the United States is being energized by youth and indigenous leadership. At the Binghamton rally on Friday, there were speakers from the local high school and university, as well as young adults from Citizen Action and local government, either as city council members or candidates. There were people on hand to register new voters or process address changes for those who have moved to be ready for the local elections coming up in November.

Some of the speakers were people of color. Amber, from Citizen Action, reminded us that we bring our personal and community heritage with us, as well as our efforts toward treating everyone with equal dignity. It reminded me of what Pope Francis in the encyclical Laudato Si’ calls “integral ecology” and what I personally experience.

While I am following the science on climate change, I am also taking into account the ethics involved. Because of my Catholic faith, I see the situation in terms of social justice doctrine, which calls for care of creation and of others, especially the most vulnerable. People of color, people of lower socioeconomic standing, indigenous peoples, women, the elderly, babies and children, and people with illnesses are more affected by environmental degradation and climate change, so they merit special support in our efforts.

Amber and other speakers reminded us that all our efforts are connected. You don’t leave your efforts toward combating racism, sexism, poverty, violence, etc. when you are talking about climate and other environmental problems. All of these are justice issues; they are interconnected and the solutions need to take the whole spectrum of humanity and nature into account.

Besides the speakers, the event featured tables set up by different organizations. It was good to have a space for the youth organizations to meet up with the older, established local organizations. It will make it easier to coordinate efforts and initiatives. Next Sunday, there will be a planning meeting open to everyone to keep the momentum going.

There is a lot of work to do. Let’s get to it!

 

 

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.

Fire in the Amazon

Large swaths of the Amazon rainforest are on fire. Media tends to call these wildfires, but the vast majority of them are intentionally set. I think of wildfires as being caused by lightning strike or an accidental spark. When fires are set intentionally, they should be called arson.

While the current scale of the fires is new, the problem is not. For years, farmers and ranchers have burned parts of the Amazon rainforest to clear land for themselves. They have been opposed by indigenous people and their allies, some of whom have been killed trying to defend the forest.

The fires are devastating for the plants, animals, and people who live there, but the scale of the destruction now threatens the very mechanism that makes the rainforest possible. The vegetation, especially the large, tall trees, transpire large quantities of water, which form clouds and help to keep the rainforest green. If too much land is burned, the amount of rainfall will decrease so much that it would be impossible to sustain a rainforest ecosystem.

Plants also take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. It is estimated that 20% of the world’s atmospheric oxygen is produced in the Amazon. As more and more of the rainforest is destroyed, the level of oxygen in the air that all people and animals need to breathe could diminish, while the level of carbon dioxide, already at record highs, could become even higher, accelerating global warming and increasing drought, which diminishes plant growth and causes a downward spiral.

The government of Brazil is making only half-hearted measures to control the fires and has refused the assistance of other nations. President Bolsonaro is a climate change denier, who sees this issue as being solely about the economic development of Brazil. His short-sighted actions may cause world-wide suffering for decades.

It highlights to me how interconnected we are as a planet. At this point in human history, we can’t afford countries being isolationist and concerned only with making their rich citizens even richer.

Money can’t buy oxygen or make more rainfall or change the temperature.

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: dough

Today, E and I took ABC to her first theater experience, a performance of Sesame Street Live. The theme was magic, but a lot of the story revolved around things that turned out to be science. One of those things was making cookie dough out of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar and adding heat to make it into cookies.

My other dough experience of the week was making pie dough for a birthday pie for Paco who turned 94 on Tuesday. I wanted to make him a prune-apricot pie. Unfortunately, it had been a loooong time since I had baked a pie from dried fruit. And I was super tired because I had been up at night with ABC and then had trouble getting back to sleep. I realized too late that I had forgotten the salt in the crust. D’oh! I also didn’t put as much water in the fruit when I stewed it as I should have, so the apricots didn’t soften as much as I would have liked and I didn’t have very much juice to thicken. Still, it all worked out okay as Paco enjoyed it very much.

I thought that doing an unsweetened pie might also appeal to Nana, who hasn’t had much appetite lately, but it didn’t sound good to her. She is still eating breakfast, but usually not much for lunch and supper and she doesn’t like things that are too sweet. One of the hospice rules is that she can eat whatever she wants and we are following that. We have gotten some coffee ice cream to keep on hand because it was always one of her favorites, the bitterness of the coffee cutting the sugar. We’ll see if she wants to try some someday soon.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “dough/d’oh”. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/03/29/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-30-19/

Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is a concept that combines a rapid transition to sustainable energy to help keep global warming as low as possible – the Green part – with social justice action, not only to fund the initiatives but also to guarantee living wage jobs and truly affordable, quality health care – the New Deal part.

At this point, it has not been formalized as legislation, but there are plans to have a Congressional committee to study all the components and put them together into a viable bill, if not for the current iteration of Congress, perhaps the next.

Time is of the essence, as recent scientific reports both from the US and internationally have made clear that the next 10-12 years are critical in keeping climate change impacts from becoming catastrophic. We know that we are already experiencing some disturbing impacts and that there is no currently known way to fully reverse those changes. We also know that the United States has had very high carbon emissions over the last century and a half and, therefore, carries a major obligation to cut emissions quickly and to make major contributions to help our country and the international community to adapt to climate change impacts. The Green New Deal looks to be a powerful aid to doing that.

Yesterday, I was part of a group visiting our local Congressional office to deliver petitions and discuss the Green New Deal. Our representative, Anthony Brindisi, just took office last month, so we wanted to let him know that climate change, good-paying and secure jobs, renewable energy, labor rights, regenerative agriculture, and environmental and economic justice are important to many of his constituents.

The staff member with whom we spoke was very attentive and let us gather and talk in the office. This was a stark contrast to our former representative who did not want us gathering even outside the building where the office is and called the police to remove us, which they didn’t do because we were on public property and not blocking passersby.

We are hopeful that this will be the first of several visits and meetings to engage with Rep. Brindisi and his staff. We think that the Green New Deal concepts will help the people of our district, as well as the rest of the country and the world.

Update:  You can read the Green New Deal Congressional resolution text here.