Category Archives: The Environment
(It will be difficult to type this column since I have my fingers crossed.)
Some 100 days ago, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing eleven men and setting off a chain reaction of scientific, political, economic and energy fueled debate that has consumed the media and blogs everywhere. The tragedy that was the Deepwater Horizon, the floating oil rig that was responsible for the worst oil spill in American history, maybe be a story that is now about to enter its next chapter.
The spill is effectively capped, having been stopped from leaking about two weeks ago. It will be permanently sealed by the end of the month. Observers say that there is little visible oil on the surface of the Gulf. A combination of the use of controversial oil dispersants, evaporation, summer tropical storms and oil eating microbes, along with clean up efforts, has rendered much of the Gulf relatively clean.
The overall effect of the spill has yet to be seen. Truthfully, it will be years, maybe a decade before the full effect of the damage is known.
A good portion of the Gulf has been reopened to recreational fishing. Some areas have been cleared for commercial fishing. There are flickering signs that some tourism is coming back to the area, and the First Family is expected to pay a visit to the Gulf later this month.
And now the blame-game begins in earnest. President Obama has been hammered relentlessly by conservatives for his handling and the Federal response to the spill. Most of the accusations have been false (see Jones Act) but that certainly isn’t anything new. BP is replacing their CEO with one who hopefully can keep his foot out of his mouth and the $20 billion “slush fund” escrow account should pay the bill for the damage.
Well, like the little kid that sticks a bobby pin in a wall socket, this incident should shock us into taking the appropriate measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
But it probably won’t.
In the highly toxic partisan atmosphere of the country and Washington, gaining consensus for solutions is probably out of the question. Certainly, strong measures are required to make sure this never happens again, but logic has a way of escaping those inside the Beltway.
But the real burden in the aftermath of this disaster doesn’t lie with politicians and pundits, it lies with folks like you and me. If we breathe a collective sigh of relief and go on about our business, it will happen again. It is up to us, the citizens, to keep this issue on the front burner with the flame turned up.
This tragedy didn’t happen in our backyard, but it happened in our neighbor’s yard and we can’t let those that have been elected to represent us forget their responsibilities.
William Stephenson Clark
(Chevy Volt – plug in electric car – soon to be on the market.)
This is not a “gearhead” column, (so you non-gearheads can continue reading) but rather a thread about oil dependency.
The thread photo is of the prototype Chevy Volt electric car. The version that will be available in November is a conventional four door sedan.
The Volt is not a true electric car, nor is it a hybrid in the normal sense. It is a “plug in” car that does not need a special charging station. It has a “battery only” range of forty miles, at which point a small, four cylinder gasoline engine will kick in, acting as a generator and providing electricity to the motors.
Tesla Motors, a So-Cal based company, produces an all electric model that has an effective range of over 200 miles, but does not have a secondary source for electricity. It can also be charged at home, although it does need a special docking station.
By the time you read this, BP may have capped the gushing well in the Gulf – then the clean up will be the greater issue as million of gallons of oil have fouled the waters and beaches.
True energy independence will take a collective effort by all Americans – an effort that seems unlikely given our divided society. While polls show that Americans greatly favor alternative energy sources, we don’t really want to pay for them.
Americans in are in love with gas-guzzling mega-cars, SUV’s and trucks. We could postpone the inevitable end of the gasoline fueled vehicle if we were to go to higher mileage cars, but most don’t want to give up the space and presumed (wrongly) safety of our large vehicles.
Are vehicles like the Volt and the two Tesla models the “future?” Definitely maybe.
If we were truly, honest-to-God serious, we would be immediately moving towards hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, while using Compressed Natural Gas powered cars as an interim solution.
But we’re not serious.
The oil spill will be cleaned up, gas will hover around $2.50 a gallon, the economy will improve and more folks will have cash to drop at the gas station.
And we will kick the can down the road, once again.
Until the next crisis.
William Stephenson Clark
“in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”
………………. Dr. Laurence Peter, 1969.
The fundamental point of the Peter Principle is that, within an organization, usually a corporation, an individual will eventually rise, through promotion, to a point beyond his or her capabilities, hence their “level of incompetence.”
Having worked in the corporate world for over thirty years, I saw many examples of the Peter Principle applied. Many “good” employees saw their careers stalled or even destroyed when they were promoted beyond their capabilities.
What we have seen in the past month and a half goes beyond the Peter Principle in reference to a single employee to the Principle applied to a entire corporation.
And that corporation is BP.
This amalgamation of morons, idiots, criminals, thieves, liars, spineless charlatans and clueless flunkies is responsible for the deaths of eleven workers and the destruction of a good portion of the Gulf of Mexico and it’s attendant industries.
And the destruction continues and BP seems to be without a semblance of knowledge as to what to do about it.
“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. – Murphy’s Law.
As a business person often charged with large-scale projects, I always kept this “fact” in the back of my mind, and planned contingencies as a response. In other words, I had a back up plan.
Well, here is a question that should have been asked of BP, before the fact:
“If you are drilling an exploratory well a mile under the surface of the Gulf, what is your “back up plan” should your single line of defense against a leak fail?”
As we all know now, the answer is nothing. And worst of all, it continues, a month and a half later, to be nothing, despite the optimistic reports from BP that this or that fix may, could, might stop the leak.
Now, they are trying a new approach – one that could well exacerbate the problem, rather than stop the flow of oil.
I am not encouraged.
William Stephenson Clark
Sociologists tell us that the human mind cannot meaningfully grasp numbers higher than a few thousand. Photographer Chris Jordan has made large mosaics that help translate the raw language of statistics into powerful images of global mass culture that we can respond to emotionally. The artist says, “I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.”
This picture, the artist titled, “Gyre,” is made from 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic that enter the world’s oceans every hour. All of the plastic (2.4 million pieces) in this image was collected from the Pacific Ocean.
Other statistics Chris Jordan has made into images include:
- 426,000 cell phones discarded per day in the U.S.
- 2,000,000 plastic bottles used by Americans every five minutes
- 10,000 dog and cat collars, equal to the average number of unwanted dogs and cats euthanized in the United States every day
- 2.3 million Americans in prison
- 166,000 packing peanuts, equal to the number of overnight packages shipped by air in the U.S. every hour
- 28,000 42-gallon barrels, the amount of oil consumed in the United States every two minutes (equal to the flow of a medium-sized river)
- 320,000 light bulbs, equal to the number of kilowatt hours of electricity wasted in the United States every minute from inefficient residential electricity usage (inefficient wiring, computers in sleep mode, etc.)
- one million plastic cups, the number used on airline flights in the US every six hours
- one hundred million toothpicks, equal to the number of trees cut in the U.S. yearly to make the paper for junk mail
- 200,000 packs of cigarettes, equal to the number of Americans who die from cigarette smoking every six months
Seeing the cumulative impact of individual actions through this talented artist’s lens awakens us to the enormity of our personal decisions.
To see more images and how Chris Jordan’s work is compiled: http://www.chrisjordan.com/current_set2.php
America Recycles Day (ARD) is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and buy recycled products. ARD is celebrated November 15. Hundreds of events are held across the U.S. to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and to encourage Americans to sign personal pledges to recycle and buy recycled products.
On November 15 each year, millions of people become better informed about the importance of daily recycling and buying recycled products. The purpose of America Recycles Day is to continue to promote the social, environmental and economic benefits of recycling and encourage more people to join the movement toward creating a better natural environment.
It really does all come back to us!
I am humbled. There aren’t words — this girl said them all better than I will ever be able to.
“This is the famous speech by Severn Suzuki when she was 12 years old in 1992 to United Nations.”
And still, nothing has changed.
Wendell Berry has written one very powerful message for the The Progressive (Sept., 2009) magazine. This article by Berry ( a farmer and writer in Kentucky) is one that provides unusual clarity into the practical, but also the moral, problems with our economy. I usually have an aversion to copying material like this, but the message so deserves to be disseminated, I will do it, just this one time…
Read more here.
This NYTimes story reminded me of another Wichita writer, Gaylord Dold, who wrote a series of murder mysteries set in the 1950’s Wichita, KS. He described the joys of living summers in Wichita without air conditioning. This has been an unusually cool and damp summer here in the Air Capital of the World; most summers by this time of the season, my grass is pretty brown and getting browner – not so much this year.
As the Times article points out, many are turning off their A.C.s due to economic hardship, but a subset of air conditioning spurner’s are doing so due to green living and health motivations. One A.C. terminator states:
“It’s not like we’re health-nut crazies or a bunch of dirty hippies dancing naked around the fire. We’re all white-collar geeks living an exurban lifestyle. We just all share the philosophy of rolling with the seasons if you can.”
Other adherents to turning the A.C. off indicate that they lose weight during the summer by being outside more and eating less.
Sorry guys, this is not a trend that I am going to get excited about…
Republicans have long ago given up having ideas or solutions of their own, and set their fortunes on the Democratic Party messing up badly enough that voters will turn to them. Yesterday when the global warming energy legislation narrowly passed the House, the GOP members began chanting, ““B.T.U., B.T.U.” and seemed almost in a celebratory mood. Always the Party to look backward instead of forward, they are counting on 1993.
According to an article in The New York Times, Friday’s vote will be the ‘way back’ for the Republican Party.
“House Democrats, in the early months of the Clinton administration, reluctantly backed a proposed B.T.U. tax — a new levy on each unit of energy consumed — only to see it ignored by the Senate and seized as a campaign issue by Republicans, who took control of the House the next year. A lot of Democrat members got burnt on that vote,” warned Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, who called the climate change measure the defining vote of this, the 111th, Congress.”
Are any of you aware of how much water you use every time you sit down for dinner? Well, me neither, until I read “When the River Runs Dry” by Fred Pearce. Here is a partial list of that:
One portion of rice= = 25 gallons, two pieces of toast = 40 gallons, two egg omelet or small salad = 130 gallons, glass of milk = 265 gallons, one serving of ice cream = 400 gallons, one pork chop – 530 gallons, one hamburger = 800 gallons, one steak = 1320 gallons, cup of coffee = 37 gallons, one teaspoon of sugar = 50 gallons.
All that water, and little that can be done to recoup it. Hydroponics has come a long way, but feeding millions using that method is just not practical. The grain glut on the world market is a problem that can be addressed, though. For every pound of wheat we export, we are exporting 130 gallons of virtual water. That is what it takes to grow that pound of wheat. And we lead the world in exporting virtual water, make no mistake about that.
All that means we have to do a much better job of conserving the one precious resource we can’t live without. Take the Ogallala aquifer, that vast underground storage system spread beneath eight states. The aquifer leading water experts say if no water was drawn from any more, it would take two thousand years to replenish. That same aquifer T Boone Pickens wants to own so he can sell its water to Dallas/Fort Worth. One day, if the powers that be don’t realize the importance of the aquifer for all eight states, it could run dry. If that happens, God help us all. The following is a link to a map showing the declining water level in the aquifer. I might add the map is fourteen years old, so water levels are even less today.
Many may have seen the parts going down the highway, the staff that will hold them and the giant blades passing by. I know I had seen them going through town and wondered just where they were heading.
The windmills that are to provide power, but I did not know where they would be erected.
We made our annual trip to Parsons, Kansas yesterday, on the way back I glanced toward the South as we traveled back West. At first I thought it was a tall high line power tower. Then I noticed what I was taking for the Y shape of the top was moving! One large blades followed by another, then I saw there were more.
Rows of them all turning in the wind and stretching Southward.
I finally looked for a land mark that would give a point of reference as to where they were. I read the sign saying the Butler county fishing lake and pointing down a dirt road. I was amazed, I would look over my shoulder out the back window and it seemed every time the field of windmills had grown! How was it that I did not noticed them on our way East I wondered? They were so large and covering so much land it seem impossible to not have notice.
I knew they would be somewhere but actually seeing them was a moment of amazement!
The windmills of Kansas, the promise of a future of green energy and maybe just a future.
I know the day will come when such sights are common place and the likes will bring no more thought then we do at seeing a Microwave in the kitchen. But for now it was a meaningful sight for me, kind of like when I will see my first whale swimming free in the Ocean.
Okay, I sorta promised the Friggin Loon some kinda’ post about pot saving America. I’m sure everybody expects some snark and humor, and we’ll get to that. First though, let’s go to POT CLASS 101. In a quick search for some jokes to steal, I came upon much more serious journalism on the subject than anything else. Seems that Cheech and Chong classic bits have been eclipsed by world economists and scientists. Kinda takes the fun out of it. Also for any ‘active’ users out there, let me remind you, today is NATIONAL DONUT DAY. Support your local Donut dealer.
FORBES MAGAZINE, POT & THE ECONOMY: Milton Friedman leads a list of more than 500 economists from around the U.S. who today will publicly endorse a Harvard University economist’s report on the costs of marijuana prohibition and the potential revenue gains from the U.S. government instead legalizing it and taxing its sale. Ending prohibition enforcement would save $7.7 billion in combined state and federal spending, the report says, while taxation would yield up to $6.2 billion a year.
The report, “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition,” (available at www.prohibitioncosts.org) was written by Jeffrey A. Miron, a professor at Harvard , and largely paid for by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a Washington, D.C., group advocating the review and liberalization of marijuana laws.
At 92, Friedman is revered as one of the great champions of free-market capitalism during the years of U.S. rivalry with Communism. He is also passionate about the need to legalize marijuana, among other drugs, for both financial and moral reasons.
If the laws change, large beneficiaries might include large agricultural groups like Archer Daniels Midland (nyse: ADM – news – people ) and ConAgra Foods (nyse: CAG – news – people ) as potential growers or distributors and liquor businesses like Constellation Brands (nyse: STZ – news – people ) and Allied Domecq (nyse: AED – news – people ), which understand the distribution of intoxicants. Full article here – http://www.forbes.com/2005/06/02/cz_qh_0602pot.html
THE ENVIRONMENT; Industrial Hemp for Paper: One acre of hemp in annual rotation will produce as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres of trees during the same twenty year period. Hemp can be grown and harvested every year, unlike trees that take fifty to one hundred years to grow back. Hemp can be grown in more areas of the world than trees. Making paper from trees creates over five times more pollution than making paper from hemp. Since 1937, 70% of our national forests have been destroyed.
Industrial Hemp for Clothing: Hemp produces three times as much fiber per acre as cotton. While cotton is grown on only 3% of the world’s farmland, it uses a devastating 26% of the world’s pesticides per year. Hemp requires no pesticides or herbicides to grow.
Industrial Hemp for Energy. Since pre-industrial times, carbon dioxide levels have risen by almost 30% due to deforestation and fossil fuel combustion. The United States currently burns fossil fuels for 93% of its energy needs and consumes 25% of the world’s supply. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, including fuel pellets, liquid fuels and gas. Development of biofuels could significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Eco-friendly hemp can relace almost all toxic petro-chemical products. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products. more here http://www.hamline.edu/personal/dhudson/eng3370/3370s01/lutterman/hemp5.html
Medical Marijuana is frequently beneficial in the treatment of serious medical conditions. Medical marijuana has been deemed legitimate (by at least one court, legislature, and/or government agency in the United States) for treatment of the following medical conditions: AIDS, Glaucoma, Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Chronic Pain. more here http://www.compassionatecoalition.org/mmjinfo/uses
Polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct, and the reason for this is the alarmingly fast melting of sea ice in the Arctic, and when you know that the reason the ice is melting is because of climate change, you can’t just keep ignoring science.
Sadly, that’s what happened under the Bush administration.
Now we’ve got President Obama and he understands and wants to address protecting our environment, right? Well, evidently not! Here’s what his new guy, Ken Salazar, says:
“We must do all we can to help the polar bear recover, recognizing that the greatest threat to the polar bear is the melting of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change,” Salazar said in a statement. “However, the Endangered Species Act is not the proper mechanism for controlling our nation’s carbon emissions. Instead, we need a comprehensive energy and climate strategy that curbs climate change and its impacts — including the loss of sea ice. Both President Obama and I are committed to achieving that goal.”
Is he saying something like, “We know what the problem is, and we know this is a vehicle for making those changes happen sooner rather than later, but we’re not going to take it. We’ll find some other way, somewhere down the road. Some day.”
There are going to have to be rules and reform. I’m truly disappointed!
Since I know that many of you are missing the inane arguments from the other place, I thought I would do my civic duty and report on what the Cicadas are saying. They, according to this scientist, are thinking that their underground homes are getting too hot and they are leaving them early. This has been a consistent pattern and attributed by this scientist as more evidence of climate change.
More information here.