Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “environment”

California Climate Change Cheat Sheet – Roger Ingalls

Government reports about climate change can be boring and laborious to read. I believe changes in our environment are important, especially at the local level so I’m making an attempt to boil the information down to important and, hopefully, interesting bullet points. I relied heavily on a recent report from California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

ca warm pic

Climate Change Bullet Points:

1)      In 2007, there was a 90% statistical certainty that man was responsible for the current global warming trend.

2)      Today, there is a 95% statistical certainty that man is responsible for global warming.

3)      By 2021, as more data is collected, statistical certainty will climb to 99% pointing to man as the cause for global warming.

4)      The greenhouse gases (GHG) that warm the Earth’s surface are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, halocarbons and ozone.

5)      In California, emissions from transportation, electrical power generation and the industrial sector account for over 80% of GHG emissions with transportation accounting for the largest portion at 38%.

6)      Atmospheric CO2 levels were first documented in 1958 at Mauna Loa, Hawaii at a concentration of 315 parts per million and in May 2013 a mean concentration of 400 was detected.

7)      Since monitoring CO2 concentrations in La Jolla, CA, levels have risen from 325 in 1969 to 395 in 2012.

8)      CO2 levels in the ocean rise as atmospheric CO2 levels increase, changing the chemistry of the water; this is called ocean acidification.

9)      California’s coastal waters are acidifying as evidenced by seawater CO2 and pH levels measured at Monterey Bay; this negatively impacts the local ocean food chain.

10)   Since 1895, annual average temperatures have increased by approximately 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit across California.

11)   Over the past century, minimum, average and maximum temperatures have all been increasing in California with the nighttime minimum increasing by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit and the daytime high increasing by 1.5 degrees.

12)   Over the past 20 years, the altitude in the atmosphere where temperature drops below freezing has risen by 500 feet indicating warmer conditions at higher elevations.

13)   Over the past century, spring runoff to the Sacramento River from the Sierra Nevada Mountains has decreased by 9%

14)   Over the past century, surface area of glaciers in the Sierra Nevada has been decreasing with losses ranging from 20% to 70%.

15)   The rise in global sea level is attributed to thermal expansion of ocean water and the melting of mountain glaciers and polar ice sheets.

16)   Over the past 100 years, sea levels have risen by an average of 7 inches along the California coast with levels at the Golden Gate in San Francisco increasing by 8 inches and 6 inches at La Jolla near San Diego.

17)   In Southern California, plant species in certain areas have moved upward by an average of about 213 feet over the past 30 years.

18)   The lower edge of the conifer-dominated forest in the Sierra Nevada has been retreating upslope over the past 60 years.

19)   Butterflies have been appearing earlier in the spring over the past four decades.

20)   Many small mammal species studied in Yosemite National Park showed a movement to higher elevations when compared to earlier century observations.

Don’t get caught up in a finger pointing “who’s responsible for climate change” world, just prepare for a warmer and biologically different future.

Never-too-late New Year Greeting

I’m still basking in the New Year glow. There is something so hopeful about switching from December to January that every other monthly transition lacks. Maybe this year will be one of peace. Maybe we will discover a cure for cancer. Maybe we can create an environment that is sustainable. Maybe we can help people find a meaningful occupation, true love, safety, hope.

It will happen … One Day…

.. but only when we realize that despite our differences we can only achieve it together.

Happy New Year.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Happy Birthday, Brad Pitt and Pele

Today is my oldest son’s birthday. He is fourteen and definitely a teenager. He wouldn’t want me to write a blog about him, though I am guilty of this and this. However it doesn’t seem right to wish Brad Pitt a happy birthday (his is tomorrow) and ignore my son ‘n heir, as we Brits are wont to say. So happy birthday, Pele.

Heralding from the olde countrye I am royally not amused with the whims and ways of actors and actresses. Living in California, I can’t help but note the amount of time people spend talking about them, and not necessarily their artistic achievements either.

We have family in SoCal which brings me, a few times a year, closer to Hollywood, duly noted by the fact that the stories often contain personal anecdotes: I met xxxx at the supermarket, I swam in yyyy’s pool.

But I do have a crush on Brad Pitt. I don’t think it is because of his devilish good looks and I am not even sure in what movies I have seen him. The crush was preceded by admiration. Upset with the failure of our government to come to the aid of those who lost their houses to Hurricane Katrina and the levee debacle, Pitt got some like-minded friends together and went to work, creating an organization called Make It Right.

But Pitt isn’t just about building houses. He wanted to make an environmental statement. People in the area talk about their houses being too cold in the winter and an oven in the summer. Heaters and air conditioners work around the clock for those who can, and often those who can’t afford them (I’m talking about the inhabitants and the environment).

Pitt’s houses are environmentally suited to the climate of New Orleans and some can even elevate in times of emergency to rise above the floodwaters. Critics will tell you that it looks like these houses have landed from another planet and do not reflect the culture of New Orleans. This is correct, but not necessarily a bad thing. It is okay to move with the times, to acknowledge that we can improve on the past and to seize an opportunity when a visionary comes to town.

Finally, these houses are not donated. The residents receive help obtaining a mortgage and purchase their homes. There is no charity involved. These are not Brad Pitt’s houses. They belong to the people who  live there.

Brad Pitt has not only helped restore a neighborhood, he has helped restore pride. You can’t put a price on that. And I hear he’s a pretty good actor too!

Happy Birthday, Brad & Pele.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Obama – Socialist? Or Conservative? – Tom Rossi

By my estimation, Barrack Obama is the second most conservative American president, at least since WWII. You could say he’s tied for second with Bill Clinton, both following George W. Bush, but leading the conservative icon, Ronald Reagan, by a longshot.

Republicans have seized on President Obama’s three-legged horse of a health program and the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to label him as a liberal or even a “socialist.” And the idea that Americans actually deserve access to decent health care even if they aren’t too well off, financially, is certainly a radical one. I can easily see why Tea partiers compare Obama to Hitler (why isn’t there a text treatment, along the lines of underlining or italicizing, to denote sarcasm?).

Obama went along with the bank bailout. He has nixed any prosecution of the corporate criminals in the banking and finance industries whose fraudulent con-artistry landed us in this economy. He has pushed “NAFTA on Steroids,” also know as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He’s increased the secrecy of the government. He’s visciously persecuted “whistle-blowers.” He’s deported many thousands of immigrants. He has renewed the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy. His economic policies are clearly designed to put the train back on the tracks that lead over a cliff – the same tracks George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had us on.

And when it comes to war… where do I start? He “ended” (sort of) the war in Iraq, while greatly stepping up the war in Afghanistan. He has employed the use of drone aircraft, basically to assassinate our enemies, along with anyone who happened to be standing around in the vicinity. All while curtailing attempts to get our war on the environment under control. He’s also allowed more oil drilling than ever in our history, allowed the insane patent-mania to continue and get worse, and allowed completely reckless genetic engineering to go even further. 

Liberal? Socialist??? Ha! This is why (and I’ve said this before) I’m voting for Dennis Kucinich. Or maybe Elizabeth Warren. Or maybe Bernie Sanders. Someone who actually wants to bring about some sense of balance to this country and not simply to let money determine our fate – as a nation and for every individual.

When I tell people of my little scheme, the reaction is often uproar, indignation, or disdain. “Think of what will happen if Mitt Romney is elected!” They say. “Think of how much worse things will be – for economics, for the environment, for women, for minorities…” To all of you who say these things to me, you… are right. The next four years would be even worse if Romney becomes president. And the effects could go on much longer.

Obama is clearly the lesser of two evils. It’s really a matter of how fast do you want to drive to hell? So am I giving up and saying, “Let’s just hurry up and get there?” No.

The time has come for drastic action. No, I’m not talking about any kind of violence. I’m saying that we need to convince the Democratic party that, if they keep just towing the corporate line (just a little less that the Republicans) then they will lose. If they continue to leave those of us who see a little further into the future, who actually care about the health and well-being of our grandchildren (or other people’s grandchildren), and who can actually imagine a world where war doesn’t take so many lives and take up so many resources completely unrepresented, they will lose.

There is little or no hope for a third party that will change things. The democrats need to know, beyond any doubt, that they lost by neglecting a huge part of their base. The Republicans and thinly-disguised Republicans, who go by various code names, will always stop their whining and unite. We’ve heard, over and over, about how disatisfied some Republicans and all Tea partiers are with Mitt Romney. But every single one of these people will still vote for him.

We need to stop voting for second-worst. We need for the Democrats to have the guts to say, “We want less war, more human well-being, and more justice. And if that makes us “liberals,” then we will live with it.”

These are the principles that liberals stand for. Not equal outcomes. Not rewarding laziness. Not government takeover. Those are all idiotic labels that the other side finds useful.

I want President Obama to come very close to losing because people voted for true progressives. If he actually loses, that’s fine. We must be willing to sacrifice four years for our long term future.

-Tom Rossi

___________________________________________________________________________

Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

___________________________________________________________________________

Save a Cow, Save the Planet

A while ago, I suggested that obesity and wrong food production is the core to our sinking economy. It seems to have resonated with many people and I feel a need to explain myself. In the first of two articles, I want to focus first on the effects on our planet and then on our economy.

However, allow me to begin with a disclaimer: While I was vegetarian or vegan for most of my life, I am not now. It is something I struggle with regarding my own health and have been eating fish for a few years. I have also been known to eat rather than cry fowl.

It’s not just the remains of the animal dead on our plates, but the energy and resources involved putting them there. As John Vidal, a reporter for The Observer in England, and the author of the McLibel case that The Accidental Activist is based upon, once said: “It’s time to think of waste as well as taste.”

When we look for major ways to lower the impact we are having on the earth, where to cut energy, and become sustainable, eating less meat seems to be one of the clearest and most attainable. Note that I said “eating less meat” and not becoming vegetarians. Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes of the veggie movement has been this all-or-nothing approach, meaning that those not ready to make such a radical switch are likely to dismiss it.

But there is a more telling reason to cut meat consumption. With a billion hungry people and three billion more mouths to feed in the next few decades, this argument is far bigger than being nice to animals. People are dying of starvation, our planet is exhausting its ability to feed us, and we have the knowledge and technology already to turn this around.

If we really want to reduce the human impact on the environment, the simplest and cheapest thing anyone can do is to eat less meat. Vidal says: “Behind most of the joints of beef or chicken on our plates is a phenomenally wasteful, land- and energy-hungry system of farming that devastates forests, pollutes oceans, rivers, seas and air, depends on oil and coal, and is significantly responsible for climate change. The way we breed animals is now recognized by the UN, scientists, economists and politicians as giving rise to many interlinked human and ecological problems, but with 1 billion people already not having enough to eat and 3 billion more mouths to feed within 50 years, the urgency to rethink our relationship with animals is extreme.”

Millions of hectares of trees have been felled for cattle ranching in the Amazon. Photograph: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

Vidal lists 10 environmental concerns that curbing the meat industry would help turn the situation around.

1. Global Warming

2. Land Use

3. Water Supplies

4. Deforestation

5. Waste Management and Harmful Chemicals

6. Ocean pollution

7. Air Pollution

8. Pathogens from animals making humans ill.

9. Depleting the Oil Supply

10. Other Costs – This tenth point is what I will focus on in my next post. There is so much environmental information available now, one needs to make a conscientious effort remain uninformed!

The average American consumes about 200 pounds of meat a year – that is about 1/2 lb a day assuming that everyone eats meat. We don’t. About 7.3 million Americans don’t eat meat at all, while just fewer than 23 million eat a vegetarian-inclined diet. I am not sure what this means, but I doubt they eat vegetarians who are known to be lean and bad tempered when someone sticks a fork in them.

How does this effect our economy? That’s for another post.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

The Problem is Nuclear Waste

I am trying to establish an argument against nuclear power, without any grasp of the scientific exchanges that are going on. One aspect, however, seems to be clear. It is the entire process of nuclear energy production that must be scrutinized and there is a growing belief that the Achilles heel of nuclear power is the issue of nuclear waste and what to do with it.

From what we understand, it might take thousands of years for nuclear waste to break down into a compound that is not dangerous to the environment. This fact alone makes the storage of nuclear waste to be one of (if not the most expensive) stage of the process. There are several methods that are currently used, though none purport to have such lasting ability.For a list and explanation of current methods, please click here.

I'm sure that helmet is excellent protection if there is a leak!

As the storage of nuclear waste builds and the experiments work or not (how do you measure the success of a storage technique that needs to last thousands of years?) there inevitably will be failures. I am not trying to be obnoxious, but this is the nature of experimentation. It’s a shame that my chemistry teacher didn’t subscribe to this when I blew up some compound over a Bunsen burner.

He works at a nuclear power plant - it never seemed to have affected him.

Do we even want to experiment with such dangerous materials? Our lab is our planet and so far, it is the only one we’ve found with decent cappuccino.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Oil sands in Canada – should we? RhondaJo Boomington

From Alon – RhondaJo is joining our team. Please click here (or scroll down) to get acquainted. Over to you, RhondaJo:

Last night, at dinner with a young fellow who is working at the Canadian Consulate this summer, I got a crash course on the Oil Sands of Canada.

The oil sands consist of oil that is encased in a type of thick sludge, which has the consistency of cold molasses at room temperatures. According to the New York Times, “Canadian oil sands are expected to become America’s top source of imported oil this year, surpassing conventional Canadian oil imports and roughly equaling the combined imports from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait”

Some people believe that oil sands are the answer to the United States’ unfulfilled need for oil that we can not produce. There’s no drilling in the ocean, no wrangling over supply from the Mid East. Just essentially an unlimited supply from a friendly neighbor.

Ah – but there’s a but. Isn’t there always – when we’re jockeying for the oil that we need?

The process of separating of the oil from the sludge  is dirty business, creating vast amounts of greenhouse emissions, far surpassing those created from drilling. And forests are ravaged in the process.

By 2030, oil sands are production may make up 36% of United States oil imports. There are plans to build a pipeline from Canada to transport the oil to Texas. The latest word is that the State Department is “inclined to approve the line on energy security grounds.”

Then the EPA will weigh in. The EPA may attempt to involve Obama – and Obama may simply stay out of the fray and suggest the two entities compromise amongst themselves.

I am not advocating for the use of oil sands. I am suggesting that oil sands are a reality about which we should learning more.

Yes, we should pursue biofuels (which is the research project of  another dinner companion that night). And electric cars and new fangled car designs that can ensure that our future is less dependent upon oil.

Cars of our future?

But in the meantime, my relatives, along with millions of others in middle America have to drive their older, gas guzzling cars to their job at the factory. To keep our economy going. To keep their families going.

Factory Worker

In getting the oil we need to live now – bad things will happen to the environment somewhere. It’s simply a fact.

—————————————————————————————–

RhondaJo Boomington landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and she never plans to leave. Formally a fundamentalist from North Carolina, she always voted for for Jesse Helms. Now she relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area. Her  J.D.  and a Masters of Divinity degree provides great material for her gigs as a stand up comic and solo performance artist.

A Zoroastrian Revival

Let’s talk truth. When it comes to the environment, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have failed miserably. These monotheistic religions are not overtly hostile toward the environment but they place humanity in an elitist position, thereby relegating all else to servitude.

Prior to the rise of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, mankind worshipped many gods with a significant portion dedicated to mother earth. The so-called pagan religions respected nature and, in turn, help protect the environment. Then along comes the big three monotheistic religions—endorsing man’s entitlement over all things earthly—and the entire ecosystem begins to progressively deteriorate.

Man has forgotten how to work with nature and now pushes against her, consuming a lot of energy in the process. We are so out of control that we use 10 fossil fuel calories to produce one calorie of food. These fossil fuels—in the form of pesticides, fertilizers and desiel—have turned the soil barren and the skies brown. Take a shovel to any industrialized farm and turn over the dirt. You will not find anything living; no worms, no ladybugs and no beneficial bacteria. It’s all dead. Plants will only grow with more fertilizer and more pesticide—death breeds death.

It’s odd that these three faiths would have such little respect for all creatures and earthly elements when one considers their origin. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all derivatives of Zoroastrianism. Yes, that’s right, Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic—one god—religion dating back to 2000 BCE or 4000 years ago.

The three prevailing “one almightly god” religions are fundamentally the same and, for all practical purposes, just copy-cats of Zoroastrianism. However, Zoroastrianism has one major difference. From its inception, it preached ecology and care of the environment with respect and reverence for nature. Zoroastrians must protect the sky, water, earth, plant, animal and fire. At the end of times, when “all things” are harmonious, mankind must give the world back to God in its original perfect form.

The eco-friendly beliefs of Zoroastrians are in stark contrast to the trivial considerations Judaism, Christianity and Islam gives to nature. Imagine what the world would be like today if these three religions also copied the environmental aspects of the original “one god” religion.

Perhaps we need a Zoroastrian revival.

-Roger Ingalls

———————————————————

Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Death to the Publishing Industry: Long Live the Publishing Industry!

Two weeks ago I wrote about the pitfalls of an author receiving a large advance. Despite the feedback I received, I am still convinced that the up-and-coming author would be better off rejecting a $20K advance and asking the publisher to invest that money in book promotion. And yes, I am still waiting for a publisher to test my resolve!

But there is another principle, another cornerstone of the publishing industry that I wish to vilify: The Principle of Returns. In any other industry, the shop can return a product to the manufacturer if it proves defective or damaged. A bookstore can return a book if…it doesn’t sell.

Where is the responsibility? Your average big bookstore will stock around 100,000 books in their store, while taking responsibility to promote only a few. Why should they put any effort into selling any but a select number, when they always have the option of returning the books and receiving a full refund? Barnes & Noble, I understand, are taking a lead in responsible book ordering and trying to find a more sustainable model.

This has two major effects. Firstly, there are way too many trees being cut down unnecessarily and energy being wastefully expended on production (I admit that I have not yet felt a desire to purchase a Kindle or other electronic reader, despite being a fervent environmentalist and Star Trek fan – where do you think the idea came from?).

The second issue is that such a policy is blatantly discriminatory to the smaller and independent publisher, who can often receive a book returned a couple of years later. Such business practices are strangling the smaller publishers and creating a fearful environment of huge corporations that base their decisions exclusively on the bottom line.

Last month, I attended a talk by Charlotte Cook, president of KOMENAR Publishing, a small independent company, at the California Writers Club (Berkeley branch). Ms. Cook spoke about how they often receive returns up to four years after ‘selling’ a book.

But what most annoyed me was Ms. Cook’s account of a recent booksellers’ conference to which several workshops focused on teaching booksellers how to improve a returns instead of payment strategy in. Certainly booksellers who hadn’t previously considered returns as a legitimate and productive business tactic, may well have left the conference thinking why not?

Like Ms. Cook, I am left pondering: why did they not offer workshops on, perhaps, how to promote and sell a book?

I have heard rumors that there are a number of well-placed people in the industry who want to abolish the returns policy, and that they are exploring the idea of creating a publishing house that will not work on this premise.

I have no idea where this stands, and have to admire the courage of anyone in this economic climate who would consider leaving a secure job to set up a new business while challenging one of the sacred cows of the industry, even if it is time to put that cow out to pasture.

Good Writing,

Alon

Btw – I am five days away from holding a copy of Oilspill dotcom in my hands.

Also thank you to those who offered feedback about my website (http://www.alonshalev.com). I really appreciate your input.

Post Navigation

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: