Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Didn't Know

Thirteen percent of Americans in a recent survey have never heard of global warming. Is that so terrible? But perhaps the bar has been set so low that many of us are grateful for any sign of life. After all, this is the country where a poll reported not long ago that approximately two-thirds of Americans believe the devil--literally--is wandering the streets of America ... or that more than 40% of the adult population doesn't believe in the theory of evolution. But I think there is now reason to be cautiously optimistic, in the U.S. and elsewhere regarding global warming, energy use and most importantly, raising awareness.

A great many people are now uttering the words "global warming" and "energy." Even the colossal incompetent in the White House has mumbled something about the subject.

Environmental Defense has discussed three areas in particular where energy efficiency can be a focal point for action. These three areas are individual action, transportation and buildings. Yes leadership is still required but it can come from many levels, both public and private, local and national.

Improved building design, the major source of global warming pollution, can cut energy use by some 40%. Individual homeowners as well can make a significant impact on global warming along with saving money by doing such things as improving insulation and using energy efficient appliances.

Transportation represents about one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. According to Environmental Defense, improving vehicle efficiency by some 60% by the year 2020 would reduce our fuel demand by 2.3 million barrels per day. This is what we now import from the Persian Gulf.

The Institute for Local Self-Government says, in reference to the roughly 350 cities participating in the Climate Protection Planning Process, that they will fail to meet their greenhouse gas emission goals if they don't get improved fuel efficiency standards for vehicles or get people to drive less.

Before the stampede sets in to build costly nuclear plants, more primitive coal-fired facilities or drill for oil in every preserve in America, we need to forcefully address real energy efficiency. It's not obscure nor is it fanciful. Do we want to be a California that uses half as much energy per person as Texas because they understand energy efficiency much better than the "lonestar" state? Do we want to see 19 more coal-fired plants built as Texas has proposed or do we want to follow a state like California that has a program to reduce CO2 emissions 20% within the next 13 years?

Certainly, if we want China and India to go beyond their global warming "entitlement" rhetoric, the U.S. needs to demonstrate that it has heard of greenhouse gases and is actually doing something to address global warming--beginning yesterday.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Carbon Constrained World

The leaks to the press indicate that the February summary will state that human activity is strongly responsible: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its report to be issued on the 2nd of February will likely find that we humans are more than marginally contributing to global warming because of the burning of fossil fuels. Of course we shall have to wait a couple of weeks to learn how "unequivocal" the final account is. Governments around the world will probably want the report to reflect their particular views.

Ten large, influential Fortune 500 corporations, along with several well-known environmental organizations, have formed the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP). They are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that will cut global warming pollution, and not attempt to postpone it until after the 2008 presidential election. John Rogers, the president and CEO of Duke Energy, and one of the ten companies that are part of US-CAP, announced at a public meeting on Monday that we have to face reality. He said that we're going to be living in a "carbon constrained world." Could we actually be lurching forward?

Even the "dim bulb" that occupies the White House at the present is supposedly going to call for "better" fuel economy in his state-of-the-union message on Tuesday night. Is the rock beginning to move up the hill?

But is it all much too little after so much time of inaction and resistance? Probably so, but even more reason to push for more aggressive achievements while the door remains open. Get busy and get active wherever you are in the world. Don't let the door close again.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Gasping For Air

It's easy to believe that the Iraq conflict is "sucking" oxygen from almost everything in the United States at the moment, as well as slowly spreading across the planet, engulfing more and more countries directly or indirectly. Once again I found myself revisiting The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement website. The movement's motto is "May we live long and die out." It is a site everyone should visit at least once.

Scientists have recently reported that they have strong evidence, because of a South African skull apparently some 36,000 years old, that a clear resemblance exists between this skull and the skulls of other humans that were living in Europe, Asia and Australia at the same time. In other words we all looked pretty much the same back then. The original Homo sapiens--our ancestors--were moving out of Africa quite possibly some 65,000 years ago. New technology made it possible to determine the date of this skull with a margin of error of only three thousand years. So here we are in 2007 with ever improving technology and ever increasing knowledge.

I recall reading some time ago that on average a species goes extinct after approximately 1.4 million years. We humans have been around maybe 200,000 years, give or take. Is it possible we'll get anywhere near the average? May we live long and wisely?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Drink Your Hemlock

Children of Men, a movie set in the not to distant future, confronts a serious situation. For whatever reason, women are no longer able to get pregnant, raising an obvious dilemma. No one knows exactly what the reason or reasons might be, but speculation covers such possibilities as pollution, assorted environmental toxins and so forth ... and so forth. Does this fictional movie predicament seem ever so slightly plausible in the actual world we humans inhabit today?

Organic View states that some 40 cosmetic companies use potentially harmful "nanoparticles." These are tiny synthetic particles thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair. Cosmetic companies like this technology because these almost invisible elements are able to carry various vitamins and sunscreen deep into the skin. Of course, nanoparticles can also enter directly into the bloodstream.

The industry naturally states it would not introduce any technology that has the potential of harming humans, presumably because it would be bad for business among other things. This is also the general response that nutritional, food, beverage, seed and pesticide companies offer. They too use nanotechnology.

At the present time the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have regulations regarding nanotechnology. Cosmetic companies are not required to notify the FDA that they're using nanoparticles. There are as well no pre-approval requirements for what is called "cosmetic formulations."

In the past 60 or so years manufacturers in the United States have introduced an "estimated" 100,000 synthetic compounds. Only about 10% of the synthetic chemicals we currently use have been tested on animals.

We know the umbilical cord sends nourishment to the fetus. It can also deliver synthetic chemicals. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the average American now has "116 synthetic chemicals" in his or her body, including dioxin and organochlorine pesticides--not something we probably need. Ah, but progress has its price. And of course an "unfettered" market knows what's best....