Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

And you call yourself an environmentalist

I am a meat-eating environmentalist. And that would make me a hypocrite.

It says so right here in the NY Times: “You just cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist,” says a PETA spokesman.

Through stepped-up advertising campaigns, PETA and other animal rights groups are trying to educate us that eating meat does more to cause global warming than driving. And those they are going after most aggressively are environmentalists, reserving special wrath for Al Gore. The animal rights activists don’t believe the earth activists are doing enough to promote a non-meat diet. Especially after a UN report issued late last year concluded “that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.”

I’m sympathetic to the causes of animal rights groups. But why hammer environmental types for eating meat or not promoting vegetarian or vegan diets? After all, it ain’t exactly easy getting yourself, much less others, to get rid of SUVs, drive less, walk or bicycle more, move into or build smaller homes, switch to CFLs and turn off the lights, stop flying, buy local, unplug appliances, reduce, recycle, reuse, buy carbon offsets, and on and on.

“So what,” seems to be the rabid herbivores’ response. As one vegan tells the Times:

“I guess the environmentalists recognize that it’s a lot easier to ask people to put in a fluorescent light bulb than to learn to cook with tofu.”

Environmentalists, and I’m sure many are also vegetarians, have all they can do to get people to change transportation and household behaviors that contribute to global warming. Let the animal rights activists carry the flag for vegetarianism. The only way we can expect to re-wire every citizen in this country so they contribute the least possible amount of carbon emissions is by sharing the duties.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think a strategy of telling those already doing more than most others to stop global warming, “You’re not doing enough,” will swell the vegan ranks anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007
Posted in Climate Change, Food and Drink, Marketing | No Comments »

Sampling the local-foods debate

A recent post, “The Eat-Local Backlash,” has stirred up some good conversation over on (thanks to BALLE for tipping me off to the blog entry). I encourage you to read both the post and the comments to sample the debate that is emerging over the local foods movement.

The author addresses specific efforts to debunk the claim that shorter distances between food and plate — “food miles” — mean fewer carbon emissions. The commenters take the discussion in numerous other directions, including whether it is better to buy local non-organic versus non-local organic or whether it is immoral to stop buying food from impoverished African farmers in favor of growing and buying locally. I agree with the guy who writes:

“I do think we’re going to be seeing more and more clashes over competing ‘goods’ (reducing carbon emissions and alleviating poverty).”

Speaking of the local-foods movement, the blog author thinks the visible criticism it is getting now in places like the Economist and NY Times is a good sign:

“Just as you’re not really famous until you’ve been rumored to be gay or on drugs, a movement hasn’t come into its own until it’s drawn a formidable entourage of detractors.”

Just getting high-profile media to openly examine the tradeoffs between localized and globalized food economies is indeed a sign of progress. I am optimistic this argument will expand into a much broader mainstream conversation around the merits of turning to local producers for not just food, but for an increasing share of all the goods and services we consume.


Global warming? No, things are just peachy in Georgia

Not to belabor my post from yesterday, but if you really want to see what a completely empty green cup looks like, check out the Georgia Legislature. While most other states are asking how they can slow or prevent climate change, a Georgia House committee this week held a hearing titled “Global Warming: Debunking the Myth or a Need for Climate Change Policy.” And the majority conclusion?

“Climate scientists and environmental activists like former Vice President Al Gore are alarmists. They use flawed statistical models to predict a catastrophic future of thawed glaciers, super-charged hurricanes, swamped coastlines and scorched crops.”

Turns out three of the four panelists invited by the Republican-led committee are among “the nation’s leading skeptics on climate-change science.” So no one could be too surprised by the testimony. As the debunkers convened in their cool majority, legislative reporters took note of Tuesday’s weather: “a 98-degree day during a record-setting heat wave.”

Friday, August 24th, 2007
Posted in Climate Change, Politics | No Comments »

When green values collide

Interesting article this morning foreshadowing what is almost certain to be an ongoing clash of values as Oregon and other regions of the country and world escalate their pursuits of renewable energy. In this case, a wind farm proposed for siting near the eastern mouth of the Columbia Gorge is drawing determined opposition from nearby residents and Gorge preservationists who fear a blighted landscape within view of their property and the Gorge.

The Oregonian reports the proposed development “sets up a conflict between Northwest values, pitting a revved-up desire to advance clean, renewable energy against the long-held belief that rural and scenic areas deserve special care.”

Meanwhile, owners of property where the 40 turbines would be located relish the idea of substantial new cash flow from their farmland. Kind of like I imagine ranchers once did when they learned that oil was below the surface of their property.

This is the kind of complicated, if not wrenching balancing act between conflicting interests that we can expect to see played out in public for years to come. What is the ultimate price we are willing to pay for renewable energy? Because renewable doesn’t mean it’s free. Wind farms dominate landscapes. As long as they are located in remote areas, most people don’t object. But when ideal wind conditions are found within view of many people’s homes or a national scenic area like the Gorge, then what? Does the need for renewable energy trump the desire to protect scenic treasures? Do property owner development rights exceed the rights of nearby residents who object to noisy, marred surroundings?

And I would add one other matter not touched on in today’s article: the value or lack thereof from having an outside company as the wind project developer. From an economic development standpoint, I would much rather see Oregon companies behind these projects. If we don’t have home-grown companies willing or able to tackle energy developments like this, that signals another problem. But first comes the larger question of whether this site should be developed for wind energy. What do you think?


Corn ethanol advocates take the patriotic path

We here on the West Coast when talking about the need for renewable energy usually point to climate change. It seems the people and organizations behind corn ethanol, mainly in the Midwest, prefer to make the case in more patriotic terms, as in greater “energy security” from relying less on imported oil. And they’re finding favor in Congress at the moment.

I noticed the nuance today after doing some follow-up reading on an article that reported on the skyrocketing costs of farmland in the Midwest. The price hike is attributed to the demand for corn by ethanol producers. Can’t help but feel we’re in the midst of yet another real estate bubble and those buying the farmland today at highly inflated prices, their lenders and the taxpayers who will have to bail them out, will be big losers down the road. Among the losers right now, as the article points out, are the younger farmers who are priced out of buying more farmland.

The farm bill recently passed by the House contained provisions that apparently made the corn producers and ethanol lobby happy. One major lobbying organization, the Renewable Fuels Association, sent a letter to the House Agriculture Committee praising it for passing the bill (HR 2419) out of committee. It called the bill “a pathway that will provide a more stable and sustainable energy future for all Americans.”

A Sacramento Bee columnist called it and the recently passed energy bill “monuments to waste, stupidity and policy distortions.” Peter Schrag says the farm bill is more akin to an energy program.

“The link is corn — already subsidized to the tune of billions — since corn is the source of ethanol, which refiners are now required by federal law to mix into almost everybody’s gasoline. The theory is that gas blended with ethanol doesn’t emit greenhouse gases in the same concentrations as regular gas, and that it reduces dependence on imported oil. In fact, it does little of either.”

Schrag explains some of the reasons for this and why “the cheers for corn ethanol are far more political than they are scientific.” If the corn ethanol lobby cannot make their case as the best option for reducing greenhouse gases, it’s understandable they would hang their hat on energy security. In our post 9/11 world, politicians prefer to be seen fighting for security than against global warming. But the scientific, environmental and economic facts are not on the side of corn ethanol as a viable solution for either energy independence or lower carbon emissions.

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007
Posted in Climate Change, Politics, Sustainability | No Comments »

It must be global warming!

At last check of the temperature in Portland today, the thermometer read 101 degrees. Must be global warming! I mean, it doesn’t get this hot this soon in Portland. Except, of course, when it does. Especially after a weekend of Live Earth and all things atmospheric, I wonder how many of us in similar thermal conditions across the country today are asking whether the Big GW has set in for good. See, all you climate change naysayers out there, this is what I’m talking about! It’s 101 degrees in Portland, and it’s July 10, when the average temperature for this date is just 79 degrees. What more proof do you need?

I often find myself wanting to madly shake the shoulders of those still in disbelief or denial about the reality of global warming. As if that will bring them to their senses. Impatience will get us nowhere with those who reject the science and wouldn’t be caught dead taking advice from Al Gore. Hey, they never voted for the guy! Nor will we bridge the gap by being imprecise or inaccurate in our claims. I am thinking now of comments by Philip Mote, Washington’s state climatologist, at a seminar for science and environmental journalists last month. Philip told the group a few days ahead of his public announcement that the glacial melting on Mount Kilimanjaro is not due to warming temperatures. That’s significant since Kilimanjaro is virtually synonymous with global warming, as illustrated by “An Inconvenient Truth.” It’s not that Mote doubts global warming and human contributions to the problem. He just wants journalists and the rest of us to be accurate in what gets attributed to rising greenhouse gases.

Fortunately, we do not have to exaggerate or mislabel anything when it comes to making the case for climate change. The facts speak for themselves. In fact, Dr. Stephen Schneider of Stanford University told the journalists attending the seminar (sponsored by the University of Oregon) that the science is settled on global warming. It’s happening; the remaining questions have mainly to due with causes. Schneider would know; he was a lead author of this year’s Fourth Assessment reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The journalists’ main question at the seminar was whether to continue balancing out their reports by including the claims of the shrinking minority of scientists who still dismiss the reality or forecasted impact of climate change. I think most agreed the debate was over on whether the climate is changing, and they were going to move on to covering the issues of what to do about it.

So as I watch abnormally hot air engulf Portland, I’ll refrain from telling anybody, I told you so! Why even speculate about whether global warming is behind our little heat wave. It’s behind plenty of other things that can no longer be denied. Time to stay focused on what I can do to help solve the problem. Is that my air conditioner I hear roaring?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007
Posted in Climate Change | No Comments »