Even Rolling Stone Gets It — Why Don’t We?

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Climate change is all too real. Why aren't we — and our politicians — working to stop it?  Photo: Julia Wasson

Climate change is all too real. Why aren’t we — and our politicians — working to stop it? Photo: Julia Wasson

Once upon a time we had a concept called global warming. Then we had something called climate change — we called it climate change to make it easier to digest, although that didn’t seem to help the many conservatives in government who refuse to admit such a thing is even possible.

With the name change, there’s an added benefit that the temperature can go up or down, hurricanes can blow, and freak weather patterns can appear all under the same broad category of description. But even with melting ice caps, record droughts and any number of outrageous weather patterns, some individuals and organizations are still dragging their feet about climate change. Others are turning an absolutely blind eye.

The Math Gets Real

At this point, that’s just a bit too sheltered for good sense. After all, even a magazine renowned for its musical prowess, Rolling Stone, took a hard look at climate change and what it means for us. With an analysis like this by music pros, there is no reason that scientists, politicians on both sides of the aisle, and manufacturers should still be pretending nothing is going on.

So, what did rock and roll have to say about our climate? Surprisingly, the magazine approached the topic mathematically. Here are the key points:

  • May of 2012 was the warmest May on record for the entire Northern Hemisphere.
  • May of 2012 was also the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th century average. The odds of this occurring were 3.7 times 10 to the 99th power. That’s a pretty small chance.
  • June of 2012 broke or tied a total of 3,215 temperature records throughout the United States.
  • It rained in Mecca this year, Saudi Arabian authorities recorded. The outside temperature was 109 degrees when it rained, marking it the hottest precipitation in the planet’s recorded history.

Sadly, despite notable weather events like this, Rolling Stone went on to report the startling lack of response to even the possibility of change. Our current president — the same one who supports green energy to such a high standards — did not attend the 2012 environmental summit in Rio. President Bush actually went to the first event of its kind back in 1992, although it’s fair to say that not much came out of that meeting other than perhaps a picture of important people smiling together and shaking hands. Political leaders, as we know, tend to pay a lot more lip service to the issue of climate change than actually do anything about it.

President Obama did make it to the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, however. There, a large number of world leaders signed his accord to “cut carbon emissions,” although it included no way to enforce or even check if countries were complying — a noble, if lacking, effort from all leaders. One positive thing did come out of the meeting, however, and that was the limit of where our climate can go. President Obama’s Copenhagen Accord stated that the global temperature could not rise more than two degrees Celsius without disastrous results.

In light of the recent debate over foreign policy between the two presidential candidates, it’s notable that none of the discussion centered on emissions or global warming at all. Obama did remind us of how hard he is working in the different aspects of green energy, which is encouraging for future discussions on the topic. But Romney’s previous comments on global warming — denying that it is a problem or even exists — is of significant concern for anyone concerned about the future of the climate. In fact, where Obama is content to enjoy the status quo in carbon emissions, Romney is pushing for more oil and coal production, both of which would increase emissions and affect climate change even more than our current levels.

The Future of Rock and Roll and the Earth

The Rolling Stone article continued on to explain the impact of emissions, in particular carbon, on the environment to date. Since scientists began measuring, the global average temperature has risen 0.8 degrees Celsius. With that change, we’ve lost 1/3 of the ice in the Arctic, changed the acidity of the oceans and increased the likelihood of flooding.

If you’ve been doing your own math, you’ll realize that there are only 1.2 degrees left that the earth can warm before we hit the threshold. With 87 percent of the CO2-producing countries signing on to the accord, you’d think there would be some work to stem the CO2 production.

Instead, there is additional effort being made to produce more CO2. Currently, the amount of fossil fuels waiting to be discovered, pumped, and refined exceeds the amount the world can create and stay under the 1.2 degrees remaining of the agreed-upon limit.

The math is rather unexpected from Rolling Stone, but it’s very hard to argue with. The numbers are there, and there’s no room for politics in understanding them. All that we can do now is work to help others realize just how dire the situation on Earth is going to become if we continue our current practices — which we do with the blessing of past and present administrations.

Rolling Stone gets it – why don’t we?

Rebecca Garland

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Rebecca Garland is a freelance writer working hard to populate the Internet with relevant and engaging materials. With advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca enjoys writing about many different topics, including green initiatives like rainwater harvesting for Oasislandscape.com.



Dispatches from Copenhagen – Talks Extended

Simeon Talley, Blue Planet Green Living contributing writer and University of Iowa student, was selected by the Iowa United Nations Association to attend COP15 this week. This is Talley’s fourth report in the series, a late-breaking update. For background information about Talley’s trip, visit his own blog, The Road to Copenhagen. — Julia Wasson, Publisher


So much has happened, while so little real progress has been made.

Obama’s speech essentially reiterated the US’s already stated position: mitigation commitments by all major economies, transparency by both developing and developed countries alike, and US commitment of $10 billion in the short term/$100 billion in the long-term by 2020 for climate finance.

The US president didn’t say anything new. The 17% number has not moved, and he didn’t specify what the US contribution would be to the climate finance fund. But, in talking with journalists and delegates from developing countries, that’s exactly what they had hoped to hear. The speech is being interpreted as “take it or leave it,” which may play well with the domestic audience, but has not gone over well here.

The speech was primarily directed at the Chinese. After his speech, President Obama met with Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao; no word yet on the outcome.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon just requested to extend the conference into the weekend. This could mean one of two things: We are close to an agreement, but leaders need some more time; or not enough progress has been made on the last day.

This meeting with 193 representatives from each country and over 100 heads of state in attendance is becoming a bi-lateral meeting between China and the US. For all we know right now, the Chinese have not agreed to the American proposal.

A draft text that was leaked early this morning shows how far from consensus countries really are. Very, very troubling.

It’s late afternoon here in Copenhagen. There was a scheduled signing ceremony for 3 pm; but everyone is still waiting, still guessing as to what will happen. Pessimism is growing.

The scene inside the Bella Center is frenetic. Hundreds of journalists are all trying to piece this puzzle together. You find TV cameras stalked outside meeting rooms, where they don’t know who’s inside, but whomever they are, they want that quintessential shot.

More to come, as events continue to unfold …

Simeon Talley

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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Dispatches from Copenhagen – Friday, the Final Day

Simeon Talley, Blue Planet Green Living contributing writer and University of Iowa student, was selected by the Iowa United Nations Association to attend COP15 this week. This is Talley’s third report in the series. For background information about Talley’s trip, visit his own blog, The Road to Copenhagen. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

COPENHAGEN – On the final day of COP15, the process of negotiations has moved from talks between delegates to direct communication between heads of states. As I write this, President Obama is in talks with other leaders over the remaining unresolved issues. CNN’s Ed Henry tweeted that President Obama has scuttled his schedule and is in a meeting with Ethiopia (representing China) Russia, South Africa, India, Mexico, Spain, South Korea, Norway, and Colombia. Accompanying President Obama to Copenhagen is a renewed sense of optimism for the prospects of success at COP15.

We know where the fault lines lie. We are essentially where we were two weeks ago: emission cuts that would limit temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius by 2020, climate finance, and whether developed countries like China, India and Brazil will agree to a system of international monitoring and verification. Whatever form of the final deal, it must include a nod toward — or even a better, a specific timeline or deadline for — a legally binding agreement.

What do we know now in the eleventh hour?

We know that these types of talks will proceed in the future on a two-track process: a Kyoto Protocol track and a long-term cooperative agreement track. The G-77 favors the Kyoto Protocol route, while the US, along with other developed countries, tried and failed to remove the Kyoto negotiating process from the Copenhagen proceedings.

We know that China can nix any final deal it doesn’t approve of, but the Chinese position has slightly softened. African nations, long distrustful of the US in these types of proceedings, effectively elevated their issues and concerns in Copenhagen. And President Obama will have to charm and cajole this international body forward or risk another major embarrassment in Copenhagen.

No one, I mean no one, really knows what the outcome of all of this will be. However, most are hoping for success.

Stay tuned: More to come.

Simeon Talley

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Follow Simeon Talley
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Green Jobs + Renewable Energy = A Stronger Nation

“It’s big, it’s bold, it’s green, and while winning it wasn’t pretty or easy, it was well worth the effort,” said Andrew Huff of Environment Iowa, referring to the recently enacted economic recovery package.

On February 17, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Then, in an address to a joint session of the Congress on February 25, he told our nation, “Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector — jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.”

The American Recovery

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act promises to redraw our energy picture.

The priorities Mr. Obama outlined focus first on energy. “Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years,” he said.

“We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

“But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest $15 billion a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

President Obama’s budget priorities will include those signed into law in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, so let’s look there for more specifics about what our Congress has promised in the 1,073 page document. How much of the spending will actually go to green jobs, like those Mr. Obama mentioned in Wednesday’s speech? With help from Andrew Huff, BPGL has pulled together the following list of not-to-miss items from the economic recovery bill:

  • $80 billion for clean energy, public transportation and green infrastructure, the largest such investment in our nation’s history.
  • 1.6 million new green jobs, including 135,000 green jobs created by a $4.5 billion investment in greening federal buildings.
  • A 68 million ton reduction in our nation’s carbon footprint, a cut equivalent to a city the size of Chicago, IL going completely carbon-free.
  • Energy renewability and efficiency through research and development of biomass, geothermal, hydrokinetic, hydropower, advanced battery systems and electric vehicles.
  • Thanks in part to 20,000 online petition signatures urging congressional leaders to keep President Obama’s recovery plan clean and green, Congress dropped a controversial $50 billion loan guarantee for the coal and nuclear industries.

Did you know?  The law also includes:

  • River restoration projects as well as habitat restoration on public lands.
  • Watershed infrastructure improvements, including purchase and restoration of floodplain easements.
  • Increased assistance for residential and business renewable energy and energy conservation projects.
  • Weatherization assistance programs for government buildings, private homes and business.
  • Modernization of the nation’s electrical grid to conserve energy and accommodate new energy technologies.

This represents an enormous down payment on a new energy future for America.  Now it is the task of the Obama administration, the various governmental agencies who will be implementing some of the projects, the major recipients of the green dollars, and the public (you and me) to pay attention and provide feedback to our governmental leaders as we witness these projects unfold.  Transparency only works if people are watching.

Miriam Kashia

International Editor/Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

I am not a soldier in your army, but I am out here working in your trenches. I am not carrying a gun in Iraq or Afghanistan, but I am carrying your message. I am a retired worker, an active environmentalist and a true-blue American. I am too old to be lied to by my government anymore, but too young to lose the hope that you might be able to change things. I am too realistic to expect miracles from you, but idealistic enough to always dream of a better world.

What else does my generation dream of, Mr. President? What do my fellow Baby Boomers and I picture when we close our eyes? We imagine a world in which we can afford our health insurance, our medications, and next week’s food prices. We wish that one-third of our pensions hadn’t been ripped from our hands. We hope that we can live long enough to earn the Social Security benefits we’ve paid into for so many years. We hope there still is a Social Security fund to sustain us before we die. We hope that 50 years from now our great grandchildren will not be burdened by this year’s Wall Street and Big 3 bailouts, and that the greedy bastards who got us into this mess will still be in prison for their crimes.

Old — not dead — and rarely silent

Old — not dead — and rarely silent

And we are angry. Angry that General Motors/GMAC received a $19.4 billion handout and that Chrysler/CF got its $5.5 billion. Mind you, neither corporate giant got so much as a suggestion from our Congress that they should improve gas mileage or produce electric cars. I’m sure they were planning to do both anyway — in 30 years, when our planet runs out of oil. Couldn’t someone in Congress have suggested a few incentives, or limits, or controls, or expectations, or maybe get down on their knees and beg “pretty please?”

Congress is taking money away from the rest of us, and from our next three generations, to give to an industry that has refused to improve emissions for the last 20 years, fought against passenger air bags, killed the electric car production lines, and refused to improve gas mileage standards. I say, let these dinosaurs die. You can bet that, two minutes after the gates of the Big 3 are closed, some hungry, innovative car company from India, or China, or Japan, will build a new plant down the road and begin manufacturing efficient, safe, and reasonably priced, electric vehicles.

We are angry because we were told that the price of food inflated because the price of gas was $4.00 a gallon. But now gas is $1.60, and the price of food is still going up. Damn, we hate being lied to. Worse yet, the food industry is reducing the sizes of the containers, while raising their prices. They not only lie to us, they think we are too stupid to see what they are doing.

And since I‘m on the subject of food, we are not fond of the fact that, through genetic modification, our foods no longer need to be sprayed with pesticides and herbicides —they are pesticides and herbicides. God knows we have to protect our farm yields. Big Ag takes great pride that a genetic engineer has predetermined our cancers, heart disease, asthma, and diabetes. Perhaps our heirs will save money when we die, when our bodies will self-cremate from all the petrochemicals we have digested.

Sir, I wish you the very best. I wouldn’t want your job, but I am elated you won this election. Wouldn’t it be great if Wall Street, the oil industry, the farm lobby, the steel industry, the military weapons industry, the U.S. Auto industry, the medical industry, the pharmaceutical companies, and the food industry, all left Washington, just pulled out and said, “We’re sorry, we screwed up. We promise we won’t put profits before people or the planet ever again. We won’t steal from our investors ever again. We won’t strip mine or clear cut or genetically alter crops or slaughter whales or shoot wolves from airplanes, or kill people, or test chemicals on animals or poison the air, the water, the soil; or deplete the ozone ever again. We promise.” Yeah, right. Dream on.

Mr. President, we know it’s only your second day in office. We know your tasks are mighty. But, you do have a Congress that should be supportive while you try to solve the financial crisis, launch your version of the New Deal, create 3 million new jobs, fight crony capitalism, and keep your country from going bankrupt. Please try to accomplish most of that in your first week in office.

Next week you have to improve the image of our country to the world, and then help bring peace and stability to Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, North and South Korea. And be sure to bring our troops home safely.

As you’re settling in, between phone calls, maybe you’ll get a chance to work on climate change; develop renewable energy; teach your citizens how to live sustainably; improve health care, education, women’s rights, child safety, the electrical grid, and our highway infrastructure; and fight crime, pollution, domestic violence, the spread of AIDS, home foreclosures, and terrorism. Should be no problem. You’re young and energetic.

You gave us a lot of hope during your campaign. Maybe you want a little of it back. But don’t worry, Mr. President, we will be patient, as long as we see a little progress every day. Just don’t tell us any fairy tales about weapons of mass destruction. We regret that you have so much to do, so soon. We regret that you have so many broken things to fix. We realize that dealing with the over-50 crowd isn’t one of your priorities. Just don’t forget we’re here, especially if you need some help. All you have to do is ask. We’re a pretty dependable work force, and we have a lot of wisdom to share. We may be old, but we’re not dead yet, and we won’t be silent.

Joe Hennager

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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Uniting for a Greener and Safer World

Uniting for a Greener and Safer World

There’s celebration afoot, as our nation prepares to swear in its first African American president. But tomorrow, after the last balloon has floated away, the real work will begin for our young leader. We must not expect him to do it alone.

"Be the change that you seek in the world." — Gandhi. Photo: Julia Wasson

The future 44th President stumping in Iowa. Photo: Julia Wasson

President Obama will face challenges as great, arguably greater, than any president in any era before. He inherits an economic disaster second only to the Great Depression. Unemployment rates are skyrocketing as business after business closes its doors. The economic hole we’re in threatens to collapse and bury us under massive debt and unprecedented bailouts.

Our very planet is in peril. We wonder, when we’re brave enough to contemplate the question, Will our children’s children find the world as hospitable a home as it was for us? Or will homo sapiens itself find a place on the endangered species list? The decisions our new president makes in the next four — or eight — years will not only affect the economic and political survival of the world’s nations, but will also help determine the fate of every inhabitant on this planet. He must proceed with caution, then act decisively and with determination. And we must give him our support.

But if he forgets for a time that no other issue — not mind-numbing economic crisis, not the tensions and fighting in the Middle East, not even his beloved children — is as critically important as the sustainability of our planet, then we must remind him and hold him accountable.

It is well past time to put an end to environmental rape. We, the American people, must consider whether our cherished “pursuit of happiness” truly requires huge, gas-sucking vehicles to drive to the neighborhood store; giant televisions blaring in empty rooms; closets stuffed with so many pairs of shoes that we will never wear them out; and playrooms filled with so many toys that even toddlers have more possessions than an average family in a developing nation. As Dr. Jeff Murray said in his My 5, “No one should have two of anything until everyone has one.”

Let’s consider our neighbors as well as ourselves. It’s a small planet we share. And when we cry, “Not in my backyard!” let’s remember that someone else’s backyard is as sacred as our own. In too many cases, we’ve pushed our worst polluters onto someone else’s soil. Companies that declare themselves “green” in this country too often turn the waters black and poison the air on the other side of the planet. We must not let environmental sins go unrecognized, let alone unpunished.

President Obama has proposed a new, green-collar workforce, trained in environmentally responsible jobs and building a system of renewable energy that can free us from clinging to foreign oil. Let’s not stop there. As the economy improves, let’s do all we can to improve energy efficiency and retrofit our own businesses and homes with alternative sources of power.

Today, when our 44th president takes the oath of office, let’s take oaths of our own. If you haven’t yet written your My 5, do it now. Ask yourself, “What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?” What are you willing to do? Really? Make your commitment now, and hold yourself accountable. Then start today. It’s up to each of us to support our president as he tries to make the planet sustainable for humankind. Whether your party was red or blue or another hue entirely, let’s all come together as one green nation.

As a candidate, Mr. Obama’s theme was “Change.” When he is sworn in this morning, let’s remember another great leader, Gandhi, who said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Obama’s mantra throughout the campaign was, “Yes, we can.” And now, as a united American people, I urge us all to say, “Yes, we can — and we will.”

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)