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. 

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Handel, the ACA, and Parkland

On Saturday, my daughters E and T and I, with Baby ABC in tow, attended a choral sing of Handel’s Messiah Part I plus Hallelujah Chorus. The Madrigal Choir of Binghamton and their director Bruce Borton, choral director/professor emeritus at Binghamton University, organized the sing, with Bruce directing and Madrigal Choir members serving as soloists and section leaders. Volunteers from the Binghamton Community Orchestra provided a twenty-piece orchestra to accompany us. It was so much fun!

I had a number of friends among the choral attendees from my long-time affiliation with University Chorus. It was nice before we began to introduce ABC to friends. Her smile and wide eyes added to the already high spirits in the room. I also love every opportunity to sing with my daughters. We are all sopranos, so we get to sit together and sing.

The event featured a free-will offering for the American Civic Association, which, since 1939, has served the Binghamton area with immigration services, refugee resettlement, citizenship classes, and cultural and ethnic preservation and education.  In these days when some in the United States, including the President, are not supportive of immigration, the ACA and their work in our community are more important than ever.

Anything involving the ACA has a special poignancy because, in 2009, a mentally ill gunman opened fire there, killing fourteen and wounding four. Most of those killed were immigrants or foreign nationals affiliated with Binghamton University. There is a beautiful memorial featuring sculptures of doves in flight a short distance from the ACA building, which reopened a few months after the shooting.

When news broke of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on Valentine’s Day, I had the familiar thought of “not again” coupled with the thought that this atrocity too would probably result in “thoughts and prayers” from those in power, but no action to curb gun violence.

In 2013, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, New York State passed the SAFE Act, which has a number of provisions on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and ammunition, background checks, and mental health. It doesn’t mean that there will never be another mass shooting in New York, but violent crime rates have fallen. New York is also proactive in making mental health treatment more available, which is important not only in preventing the small number of people with mental illness who are also violent from using firearms but also in keeping the much larger number of people who become suicidal from shooting themselves.

It seem unlikely that Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Florida legislature will enact similar policies despite the Parkland school shooting and the Orlando Pulse Nightclub massacre. It would also be possible for the United States Congress to finally listen to the vast majority of the general public and of gunowners who favor stronger background checks and other gun control measures.

Unfortunately, such action is also unlikely on the federal level, despite the horrific history of mass shootings and other gun violence and the eloquent and poignant voices of the survivors in Parkland. Sadly, this Congress and President have been moving gun policy and mental health care in the opposite direction. The first legislation DT signed as president was to rescind a rule making it more difficult for some people with mental illness to pass background checks for gun purchases. A current bill in Congress would make concealed carry permits granted by one state valid in all other states. The Trump budget calls for cuts in mental health care funding. These and comments from Congressional leadership indicate that the platitudes will continue without any meaningful action to prevent further bloodshed.

In the 2018 Congressional election, the candidates’ stance on gun control and on mental health care will definitely be important in my decision-making. Millions of others will join me and maybe we will finally get some national legislation to help reduce the plague of gun violence in the United States.

Does anybody really know what time it is?

No, seriously. Does anybody really know what time it is?

Earlier this week, daughter E and now five-month-old ABC returned from visiting spouse/daddy L and his family and friends in London. They were there for three weeks and had lots of good times and adventures and firsts, but crossing five time zones and having daylight savings time shift was a bit steep for a child who had barely been learning that night is supposed to be mostly for sleeping. The flight back was particularly disorienting, as it involved getting up at 4 AM London time and arriving here at 5 PM Eastern Standard Time, which feels like 9 PM in London. ABC decided to only take two one-hour naps in all that time, so both she and E were exhausted. That evening, they did both sleep for a six hour stretch, which was helpful, but one of our goals in the coming weeks will be see if we can get ABC to consistently sleep a long stretch at night and take a couple of daytime naps so there will be some semblance of schedule. There should be no more time zone travel for a while, so here’s hoping.

As we were preparing to change our clocks back to standard time last weekend, which, confusingly, happens in the US on a different weekend than in most of the rest of the Northern hemisphere, there were numerous media stories about proposals for the state of Massachusetts to switch to the Atlantic time zone, which would essentially be like being on Eastern Daylight Savings Time year-round, helpful for them as they are on eastern edge of the zone now, so have early sunsets. However, because they are a small state with five bordering states, they will have to convince the other northeastern states to change time zones along with them, joining the parts of Quebec that are on Atlantic Standard Time year-round. I am not a fan of daylight savings time shifts, so I would favor the change to Atlantic time, even though, being father west, it would extend the time that we have to wake up in the dark.

This week, I also mowed the front lawn and there were a couple of dandelions blossoming. Neither of these things are normal for November in our geography. It’s possible that it is a local sign of being in the Anthropocene, the proposed name for the current epoch of geologic time in which humans have significantly impacted our geologic/atmospheric systems. It does seem, though, that our colder fall temperatures have finally arrived. There had been a heavy frost, so I didn’t mow until late afternoon; still, there was a bit of frost close to the house where the sun hadn’t reached. Maybe now the grass will go dormant and we won’t have to mow again until spring.

This week also saw Election Day. Here in New York, we had only local races and some state-wide referenda, but we are observing an important milestone, the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the state, three years before the national amendment was adopted. To celebrate, we had special commemorative “I voted” stickers. A few states had more extensive state votes. The Democrats fared better than expected with exit polls suggesting that some of the voters were motivated by displeasure with how the Republicans are handling government on the federal level. Next year’s midterm elections will be very interesting.

I submitted my poems for the Binghamton Poetry Project’s fall anthology this week. Our reading will be on November 18th and the anthology will be available to us. I will post the poems here that weekend. All three were written from prompts during our sessions and all three deal with issues from the past, including one about my friend Angie. You can read a prior poem about Angie here.

All of these events have had me pondering time and the meaning of time, but none as poignantly as having my mom, known here as Nana, under hospice care. While I know intellectually that the future is not promised to any of us, dealing with end-of-life care issues makes the finite nature of our lives more concrete. It helps me to appreciate more the little joys that we can still share – bringing her a fresh batch of lemon pizzelles –  enjoying hot soup at lunchtime or Sunday dinners together – visits with my sisters, my daughters, and especially ABC, her first great-grandchild.

Watching Nana and ABC together sharpens my sense that there really is, as the adage says, no time like the present.

 

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

A few more snow photos

A few photos from shoveling part six, following up from my post with photos from earlier in the day:

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House with snow banks at about 5 PM
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I am really worried about the snow sliding off the garage roof and blocking the overhead door…
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At 5 PM, I measured 27 inches (2/3 meter) of snow in the front yard.

The snow is supposed to continue until at least midnight and the wind has started to pick up. I am about to go out for shoveling session seven. We are all hoping that we don’t get heavy winds. Big snowstorm is preferable to blizzard.

activism refresher

Yesterday, I was able to attend two events that were updated but familiar.

First, I went to a presentation on sustainability in our area, hosted by SUNY BEST. Four speakers talked about different aspects of sustainability, including community revitalization, energy, and building/infrastructure.

My favorite presentation was by Amelia LoDolce of VINES (Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments). Daughter T was involved with this cause before it became a formal organization and I was thrilled to hear about how it has grown and all the good work it is doing and planning to do in the future. Their projects include community gardens, an urban farm in Binghamton which increases the availability of fresh produce for low- to moderate-income folks, youth employment, and educational outreach for schools and community.

It was nice to reconnect with some of the people that I met during the fight against fracking in New York. We have been hard at work continuing to fight against new fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure projects, as well as advocating for renewable energy and increased efficiency. Still, we don’t see each other as often as we used to in the days of frequent rallies…which leads to…

I left the presentation and proceeded to a press conference/rally at Senator Schumer’s local office, part of a coordinated effort around New York State. Senator Schumer is now the Minority Leader in the Senate, so he is vital to leading the opposition to DT’s agenda. We stood outside in the cold and snow to get our message out. Speakers called on Senator Schumer to vote against several of DT’s appointees. There were several speakers who talked about environmental concerns, particularly about Scott Pruitt’s nomination as EPA chief. We were happy that one of Senator Schumer’s staff members came and spoke to us; she passed out two-page documents that had quotes from Senator Schumer’s press releases of which nominees he is opposing and the reasons for his opposition. It was nice to be acknowledged and to know that the Senator is doing what he can to protect our rights and our environment.

Today, I finished watching a video of the Washington Women’s March. Daughter T and I participated in the Binghamton March. It is encouraging that so many people are banding together to fight for social and environmental justice. The people and groups are diverse, but we are stronger together as we support one another in these tumultuous times.

 

Solar!

I am pleased to announce that in late December, our household went solar!

Thanks to a change in the New York State laws, community solar projects were finally allowed in 2016 and we jumped in as soon as practicable.

We had had our rooftop evaluated for solar panels previously, but the south side of our house is too shaded. The shade trees help to cut down on air conditioning costs in the summer, so it would have been counterproductive to cut them down in order to put up solar panels. Also, some of the shade is supplied by trees in our neighbors’ yard, so we wouldn’t have been able to cut those down.

We had hoped to be able to join a community solar farm in our county, but Tompkins County was able to get permits and leases in place sooner, so we decided to go with Renovus in Ithaca, which is the home of T’s alma mater, Cornell University. Here is a short video of the final installation process a few weeks before it went online:  

(There is a lot of mud in the video, but it will be seeded in the spring.)

We own twenty panels in the array, which is in Trumansburg. Being a part of a solar farm does have some advantages. The panels are commercial grade, so their production is higher than residential panels. They can be optimally oriented and angled for catching the most sunlight. Also, if we move to a new home in our area, we can continue to use the credits from our panels. Alternatively, we can sell them, either to new owners of our home or to anyone else in our area.

It was nice to have the panels go online before the end of the year, as we will be able to apply for tax credits when we file our taxes.  It’s not optimal for solar production, though, with daylight hours so short. Still, we will get some reduction in our electric bill for the winter and spring. By summer, we will be able to start building up credits in our account to cover for the lower wintertime production next year. Our array is sized to cover our annual household usage, so it will all average out once we get through this initial low-production period.

Until we get an electric car…

Stay tuned.
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Join us for the last few days of Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/27/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-27th17/ 

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