November 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
The world appears to be ending: Hurricane Sandy has ravaged the east coast, a nor’easter is now blanketing the northeast in snow, and the DOW dropped over three hundred points this morning. Weed is legal in two states; gay marriage added two more to its list. The country that President Obama is going to face in his second term is one that has changed drastically in the course of a week.
He couldn’t have asked for a better set-up.
The Four Years After the Day After Tomorrow.
With all that has transpired in the past week, it’s safe to say that if the nation isn’t already in a state of crisis, it’s on the brink. People are likening the weather situation to that of 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow or the more recent 2012 (in which the American president was also Black). I repeat again, however: President (elect) Obama could not be coming (back) into a better situation.
The United States, at this critical juncture, needs a leader who will handle this the right way. I can safely say that Obama, in his Federal-to-State-to-Local aid-giving approach has been pretty damn effective. He’s been praised by the once-republican Mayor Bloomburg, and by the heavily Republican (and recent GOP Convention Keynote Speaker) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for his handling of the rescue and aid efforts in response to Hurricane Sandy. He’s likely going to face challenges like this in his coming four years, so it’s nice to know that he’s on top of it.
As mentioned in my recent post about Hurricane Sandy and the climate science that explains it, while we can’t blame global warming for Hurricane (Superstorm/Frankenstorm) Sandy, we can safely say that global warming created the conditions that allowed it to build as large and as damaging as it did. (If you’re still confused as to how this work, check out this video). To quote Bill McKibben, perhaps the leading climate activist in the world right now, from his latest book, Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet:
“Earth has changed in profound ways, ways that have already taken us out of the sweet spot where humans so long thrived. We’re every day less the oasis and more the desert. The world hasn’t ended, but the world as we know it has— even if we don’t quite know it yet. We imagine we still live back on that old planet, that the disturbances we see around us are the old random and freakish kind. But they’re not. It’s a different place. A different planet.”
This new planet, she’s a feisty one. It’s gonna take a man with a plan to keep things going.
Red, White, Blue, Black, and – Green?
Obama’s that man, and he’s got a plan. Sure, it includes some great effort in responding to disasters, but you can just keep bailing the boat out – you’ve to plug the hole.
Before you can plug the hole, it helps to know what it is. Fortunately for us, President Obama, unlike many of his opponents on the right (Fun Fact: 20% more Republicans believe in demon possession than believe that Global Warming is real), understands that our excessive use of fossil fuels has pushed the climate to it’s breaking point. Climate Change is real. It’s imminent. And it’s dangerous.
President Obama isn’t usually given too much credit in the media for his environmental responsibility. Granted, up until recently, no one really has been. Despite this fact, however, Obama’s got a pretty solid history of doing the right thing for the environment. The short list:
- Sending the Keystone Pipeline plans back to the drawing board, effectively preventing anything from ever getting approved.
- Working on and supporting a Cap and Trade proposal that would have put a major halt on the fossil fuel industry.
- Using the Clean Air Act to impose six new regulations, limiting various major airborne pollutants, including the first ever national limits set on mercury.
- Setting new standards for automobile emissions – the strictest ever, in fact – requiring an average of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
- A goal has been set by cutting federal agency greenhouse gas emissions by 28% by 2020.
- Electricity generation from renewable sources has doubled since Obama took office.
- 2 Million new acres of wilderness were reserved, in addition to restoration programs in places like the Everglades.
I won’t lie and say that there’s been much coverage of all of this – Obama himself has done a pretty poor job of bringing his success up in speeches – but nonetheless, progress has been made. A lot of progress has been made. And there’s more to come.
One thing has caught the eye of many during these past few months of campaigning. Energy. In particular, the effects of our nation’s oil dependence. It’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for the environment. Perhaps most alarming to the American people, however, is the effect on our global politics. We’re stuck in the Middle East. At this point, our dependence on oil has two possible futures: We burn to death slowly in a stifling climate, or we burn quickly in a fiery bombing from any of a dozen possible suspects, ranging from small terrorist sects to entire nations. Either way, it won’t end well.
Obama’s got a plan to fix this: Get us off of foreign oil, and on to domestic oil. Ok, so it’s still oil. Not the best possible solution. However, it greatly alleviates the political-economic tension, and I mean, it does save some oil and fossil fuel emissions in the reduced transport. Not great however.
Good thing the plan doesn’t stop there! As he’s made clear over and over again, and as his website currently promotes heavily, the plan to fix American oil dependence (part 2) is: Renewable Energy. Yes, you heard me right. Wind. Solar. Geothermal. A little bit of Nuclear here and there. Obama is and has dedicated public lands to the production of wind, solar, and geothermal energy, and he is proposing various updates to our grid to make it “smart,” and able to manage all of this energy without the devastating blackouts, like the one my family on Long Island have been living for almost two weeks.
He’s got a plan. He’s got some backing in the Senate. Maybe we have a chance.
Voices From the Peanut Gallery
I like to think I’m a pretty smart guy, but I’m no expert. However, these guys are:
“There was only one candidate in this race who doubled down on our nation’s clean energy economy. There was only one candidate who consistently fought to hold oil and coal companies accountable and only one candidate who stood up for landmark protections to keep toxins out of our air and water. And there was only one candidate who took historic steps to mitigate the climate crisis. Because of those positions, President Obama faced an unprecedented assault from deep-pocketed oil and coal execs who inundated the airwaves with millions of dollars in attack ads.”
– Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
“The American people have rejected the candidate who mocked the threat of climate change on behalf of the carbon industry. Americans of all political persuasions agree that the president’s job is to explain existing threats to the public welfare, and lead the nation in tackling them head on. Obama’s forthright response to the immediate disaster of Superstorm Sandy demonstrated his ability to lead in a crisis. Now he must tackle the root causes of that disaster, including the terrible scourge of carbon pollution. The campaign over, President Obama must end his climate silence and speak out. …Talking about climate change will not be enough. What is needed is bold action, and that will require overcoming any number of practical and political challenges. … Words alone won’t save us, but silence seals our fate. It’s time for President Obama’s silence to end.”
–ClimateSilence.Org and Forecast the Facts
“Big Oil-backed special interests brought unlimited resources to bear this election cycle and were expected to overwhelm the presidential race. But voters … chose a different course – reelecting a president who has championed building a clean energy economy.”
– League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski
“During his first term, President Barack Obama strengthened the economy and created jobs by issuing executive orders improving fuel economy standards and advancing manufacturing and building efficiency. The president invested heavily in energy efficiency through the Recovery Act; weatherized more than a million homes; and made energy efficiency a central pillar and the ‘first fuel’ of choice for the nation. … We expect — and will press hard — for President Obama and his team to continue on this important path to make the United States the most energy productive country in the world.”
– Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy
(Quotes courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle)
All’s Well That Ends Well
Last night, as the election was called, I had my coverage tuned to two different stations. Of course, I followed CNN, waiting for the official announcement. The other channel, however, was Comedy Central, with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s coverage of the elections. Yes, they’re comedians by trade, but as it often is, with comedy comes the truth.
In particular, Stephen Colbert brought on an old friend of The Report, Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan, a British expatriate, is a noted conservative who, in recent times, has begun to stray from many of the views of the Republican Party. In explaining his support for Obama and why he was pleased with America’s choice, he made a short, direct, incredibly poignant statement: “I want the Republican Party to understand that global warming is happening.”
Global warming is happening. We need to stop it. Barak Obama has got a plan. We’ve got new faces in the House and Senate. Maybe, just maybe we can work together. Maybe, just maybe, we might save our country, and our planet. America appears to have made the right decision, on the environmental front at least.
I leave you now with a quote from last night. Obama, in his victory speech, made a wish, for “A nation….that isn’t threatened by the danger of a warming planet.”
Goodnight, Ladies and Gentlemen. A new horizon approaches. God Bless America.
July 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
ATTENTION: MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT!!!
For those of you who made it past that warning, I’m safely assuming that you’ve either seen The Dark Knight Rises or just don’t care (and should reconsider your priorities) because this movie, as you likely know, was EPIC. While I could ramble on for hours about the merits of the movie, there is, as always, that specific aspect of the movie I want to discuss: One of the major plot points of the movie centered around clean, sustainable energy.
Christopher Nolan‘s Gotham is designed to be a mirror of real life. Over the three movie arc, the city has been plagued by issues with clean water, terrorism, an income gap, organized crime, corruption, and everything in between. For the third and final movie of the trilogy, however, Nolan decided to tackle perhaps the biggest real-world issue he has to date: the environment. Right from the start, Bruce Wayne and Miranda Tate are involved in a discussion about a sustainable energy project that they had invested in. As it turns out, the project, which was incredibly expensive, did in fact successfully create a nuclear fusion-powered device – something in our world that we are years away from.
The problem with the nuclear fusion device parallels the issues faced throughout history with nuclear power: There is incredible danger involved, in contrast with the incredibly high levels of efficiency. If everything goes right, nuclear power is the perfect solution. If not, however, the damage would be catastrophic – in the case of Bruce Wayne’s device, being able to be turned into an immensely powerful nuclear bomb.
My point? As I always love to point out, sustainability and environmentalism is truly becoming mainstream – do I sense a Captain Planet movie in the making? (PLEASE CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, PLEASE!)
July 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
When we last left our planet, the Middle Ages were dawning, and people were crowding closer and closer together. Sure, there were some ups and downs – kingdoms rose and fell, peoples who were once considered barbarians settled down and became the emerging peoples of Europe, and intercontinental trade was once again begun, on a scale like never before. Perhaps the most important change during this period of time, however, was the largest influx of people to cities the world had seen to this point. As you would imagine, when more and more people crowd together, they create more and more waste. But this is just where the problem begins.
The Industrial Revolution, which followed the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, is perhaps the most significant turning point in the history of environmentalism thus far. With the mechanization of the Western world came a whole new set of problems and challenges. First and foremost, what was powering these machines? Coal, and a lot of it. The problem? Coal is dirty. To create the steam needed to run the newly mechanized world, ungodly amounts of coal were ripped from the British landscape, and then from all over Europe, the United States, and eventually from the entire world.
If you think that the environmental impact of mining all of this coal was pretty serious, the environmental impact of burning all of this coal eclipses that by a long shot. A personal favorite anecdote that I’ve always been told about this period of time involves the adaptation of a species of insect which was forced to adapt by becoming black in order to blend in with the soot-covered buildings of London. From coal mines to cities and factories, there was coal dust, soot, smog, and smoke in the air everywhere – by far the most pouted skies in history.
This environmental impact was not the only effect of the industrial revolution – there were plenty of other things that resulted out of the Industrial Revolution, though most of them would end up being detrimental to the environment in the long run. Our consumerist culture, our complete disregard for our world’s air and water supply, a lack of concern for the limits of our natural resources, and the exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels would all play a role later on in history.
Before I wrap this up, let me remind you that the Industrial Revolution wasn’t all bad. The technological advances led to a higher standard of living for the world at large, and created widespread employment and limitless opportunities. Social mobility finally peaked out from it’s hiding place, and the old world order began to decline. Perhaps most importantly, we could never fix the environmental problems of the early industrial revolution without the technologies it helped to create.
July 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
The first video is a unique take on the anti-bottled water campaign. Not only does the video cover the dangerous effects of the bottled water industry, it delves into how and why it got to be the way it is, and provides plausible solutions for the problem.
The second video explains something that even I find very difficult to understand, the Cap and Trade system:
July 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
Check out these three cool stories about environmentally friendly products!
July 1, 2012 § 1 Comment
So, I know this is coming a little late, but this is a video you have to see.
Ever have trouble defining sustainability? I have. Well, this video will clarify things for you almost perfectly.
Check it out:
June 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
For the second time this week, I’m proud to introduce a new weekly series, the Environmental Video of the Week! Each week, I’ll post and review a video related to the environment or sustainability that I found particularly moving, informative, or in this week’s case, just plain fun.
So why do I like this video? Well, let’s start with the obvious. It’s just fun! With it’s adorable cartoon-cutout animals, bright colors, humorous dialogue, and hilarious sound effects, it’s hard not to enjoy this video. The video is accessible to people of all ages, intelligences, races, beliefs, etc – making it an all around useful tool for introducing environmental conservation to anyone.
One of the things that particularly struck me about the video is its message. The video exists to promote the same thing I do – to provide small, simple ways to make a huge impact on our environment – in a good way, of course! This message is exactly what the world needs, and for that, I chose to feature this video as my first Video of the Week.