Guilford Harbor

Archive for June, 2010

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Obama: Something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Below are a few excerpts from President Obama’s comments on the Gulf oil spill (courtesy of CBS News—click here for the full transcript).

Do the American government, private industry, and the rest of us have, in his words, the sense of urgency and courage to confront our energy challenges in this country?

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked – not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry. As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels. Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient. Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that will someday lead to entire new industries.

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us. As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of good, middle-class jobs – but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment. And only if we rally together and act as one nation – workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party – as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development – and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny – our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. We know we’ll get there.

…The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again. What sees us through – what has always seen us through – is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it.

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Photo credit:   http://www.flickr.com/photos/happeningfish/3007746661/

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Posted in behavior, energy, nature and culture, solutions | No Comments »

Will the Gulf spill be a catalyst for change?

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

In Tom Friedman’s column in the Sunday NY Times, he describes a poignant letter written by a friend in the Pentagon to his hometown South Carolina newspaper:

“I’d like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. ‘Citizen’ is the key word. It’s what we do as individuals that count. For those on the left, government regulation will not solve this problem. Government’s role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans. For those on the right, if you want less government and taxes, then decide what you’ll give up and what you’ll contribute. Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something. So again, the oil spill is my fault. I’m sorry. I haven’t done my part. Now I have to convince my wife to give up her S.U.V.”

Read the rest of the column here.

And the photo above is a bicycle parking garage in Amsterdam.  Here’s a cool rendition of a recently proposed bike station in Philadelphia that could replace a 100-car lot with a 690-bike garage.  If fully utilized, and assuming single-occupancy commutes, this could generate up to a 7-fold reduction in vehicle use.  One good idea in a suite of many that will be needed.

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/redjar/113013177/

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Posted in behavior, energy, nature and culture, solutions, sustainability | No Comments »

Oreskes and Conway: Global Warming Deniers and Their Proven Strategy of Doubt

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have an interesting piece at Yale 360 that builds on earlier work about climate skepticism (emphasis mine).

In researching a book on global warming deniers, we often felt demoralized by the efficacy of doubt-mongering tactics and depressed that the American public had been repeatedly fooled by the same strategy and tactics. On the other hand, we felt cautiously optimistic because disputes over other issues — tobacco smoking, acid rain, second-hand smoke, and the ozone hole — ended with the scientific evidence prevailing, and with regulation that (however delayed or weakened) addressed the problem.

Global warming was the great unfinished story, but with the mainstream media and many politicians acknowledging the reality of global warming in recent years, it seemed that there was real progress. “The debate is over,” California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared in 2005. “We know the science. We see the threat posed by changes in our climate.”

Now it seems that progress has been reversed. In recent months, as the U.S. Senate prepared to consider climate and energy legislation, there has been a stepped-up effort on a broad front to belittle the overwhelming evidence of human-caused global warming. As they did with smoking and acid rain, the so-called global warming skeptics have had one overriding goal: to sow doubt in the public’s mind and head off government regulation.

….If all this sounds familiar, it should. Similar attacks were launched against the scientific evidence of the ozone hole, of second-hand smoke, and of the harms of DDT. As one tobacco executive put it in 1969, “Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.” Casting doubt about climate science is simply part of the effort to prevent regulation of fossil fuels. The point of merchandising doubt was, and remains, the prevention of government regulation.

These opponents of science are free-market fundamentalists, unwilling to accept that global warming and many other pollution-induced ills are market failures, and that government action of some kind will be needed to address it. Market fundamentalists believe that free markets are the solution to social problems and government intervention can only do harm. The reality, however, amply demonstrated by experience, is that pollution is external to the market system — there’s no cost to dumping waste into the air and water. And as Lord Nicholas Stern has recently noted, global warming is the biggest market failure of them all. But this is yet another truth that the free market fundamentalists prefer to ignore.

Meanwhile, the contrarians’ campaigns continue, and with significant success: Many Americans accept the deniers’ allegations as true, or at least are confused by them, and therefore do not know what to think or whom to trust. Science has been effectively undermined, which has eroded public support for the decisive action needed to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

Posted in climate skeptics deniers and contrarians | No Comments »

NY Times Op-Ed: Public opinion on climate warming stronger than expected

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

A new poll by Stanford communication researchers helps dispel recent notions that most Americans don’t believe climate warming is human caused or a serious problem.  Indeed, as the title of the article suggests, there seems to be a climate majority in terms of values and policy recommendations.

This is an interesting and important piece that’s worth reading in full. Here are a few snippets:

On Thursday, the Senate will vote on a resolution proposed by Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, that would scuttle the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to limit emissions of greenhouse gases by American businesses.

Passing the resolution might seem to be exactly what Americans want. After all, national surveys released during the last eight months have been interpreted as showing that fewer and fewer Americans believe that climate change is real, human-caused and threatening to people.

But a closer look at these polls and a new survey by my Political Psychology Research Group show just the opposite: huge majorities of Americans still believe the earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it.

….Fully 86 percent of our respondents said they wanted the federal government to limit the amount of air pollution that businesses emit, and 76 percent favored government limiting business’s emissions of greenhouse gases in particular. Not a majority of 55 or 60 percent — but 76 percent.

Large majorities opposed taxes on electricity (78 percent) and gasoline (72 percent) to reduce consumption. But 84 percent favored the federal government offering tax breaks to encourage utilities to make more electricity from water, wind and solar power.

And huge majorities favored government requiring, or offering tax breaks to encourage, each of the following: manufacturing cars that use less gasoline (81 percent); manufacturing appliances that use less electricity (80 percent); and building homes and office buildings that require less energy to heat and cool (80 percent).

Thus, there is plenty of agreement about what people do and do not want government to do.

Posted in behavior, energy, environmentalism, nature and culture, solutions | No Comments »

Pesticides in produce gaining attention

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Two stories in today’s news:

(1) The Washington Post ran an article on the possible pesticide-child behavior link we examined in a previous post.

(2) CNN also picked up the recent report from the Environmental Working Group (video clip and printed story) on pesticide residues in produce:

The Dirty Dozen (may contain 47-67 pesticides per serving—EWG suggests buying or growing these organically)

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Domestic blueberries
  • Nectarines
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Spinach, kale and collard greens
  • Cherries
  • Potatoes
  • Imported grapes
  • Lettuce

The Clean 15 (contain fewer or no pesticides—EWG suggests you can buy these conventionally grown)

  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Sweet peas
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Sweet onions

The EWG shopper’s guide.

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Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/maheshkhanna/786837829/

Posted in food and agriculture, health, pollutants, toxics | No Comments »

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