RSSCategory: Environment

Global warming – two centuries plotted in two minutes

November 15, 2011 | By | Reply More
Global warming – two centuries plotted in two minutes

The UK Guardian offers this story and this sobering two-minute video demonstrating global warming:

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Woman pregnant with her 20th child

November 9, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More
Woman pregnant with her 20th child

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar are expecting their 20th child. Wikipedia features the family:

The Duggars raise their children using a buddy system, wherein an older sibling is assigned to a younger sibling and assists in their primary care. According to Michelle, “they help them with their little phonics lessons and games during the day and help them practice their music lessons. They will play with them or help them pick out the color of their outfit that day and just all of those types of things.”  In 2004, Michelle Duggar won the “Young Mother of the Year Award” in Arkansas, which is sponsored by American Mothers Incorporated.

In the meantime, Global Population Speak Out is asking concerned citizens to sign its pledge:

I pledge to show I care about people and planet by taking part in the global discussion about population growth. I am joining the Population 7 Billion: It’s Time to Talk campaign. With world population set to surpass the 7 billion mark in October 2011, it’s time for a broader public discussion, especially about the importance of family planning and the role that educating girls and empowering women can play in creating a healthier and more sustainable world. As part of my pledge, I will start conversations with others and help spread the word.

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Plummeting cost of PV solar power

November 7, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
Plummeting cost of PV solar power

The cost of solar power is collapsing to the point that its use is about to explode across the United States, according to Kees Van Der Leun at Grist:

[T]he fact that 30 pounds of silicon, an amount that costs $700 to produce, is enough to generate a lifetime of household electricity baffled me. Over 25 years, the family would pay at least $25,000 for the same 100,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity from fossil fuels — and its generation cost alone would total over $6,000!

Paul Krugman weighs in too, criticizing those who just can’t stop touting dirty coal and natural gas derived from tracking. Then he turns to the quickly falling cost savings of PV solar:

[P]rogress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, “there’s now frequent talk of a ‘Moore’s law’ in solar energy,” with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.

Even more falling cost data at CNET.

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A list of evidence justifying the #Occupy movement

November 4, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More
A list of evidence justifying the #Occupy movement

Consider the joy shown by Americans celebrating the Fourth of July.

If the Fourth is such a happy time, shouldn’t we now be equally furious that the government has been rigged to ignore the needs and wants of the People? Over the past few years, I’ve heard dozens of educated middle class Americans admit that Congress has ben bought―federal corruption at the highest levels is now accepted as unquestionable truth.

More recently, I’ve run into more than a few people who have become frustrated with the Occupy movement. For instance, last week I heard this from an acquaintance, who was speaking of the protesters:

Acquaintance: “They should get a job.  What the hell are they expecting to accomplish out there?”

Me:  Isn’t it a huge problem that all three branches of our federal government make decisions to accommodate large corporations, often ignoring the needs of ordinary citizens? Isn’t that worth protesting.

Acquaintance: “Still, the protesters are stupid.”

Me: What is your solution?   Ordinary people are barred from participating in a government that is supposedly to be run by ordinary people. Further, the news media is largely under the control of these same interests―they are too often serving as stenographers for the corporations that pull the strings of the federal Government.
[Fourth of July flag photo]

Acquaintance: [Silence].

Along the same lines, here’s an excerpt from an email I recently received from a DI reader:

About your note regarding ways to support the Occupy movement… yes, you are right to encourage people to talk about what is going on, but don’t you think that it is time for those who are actually doing the “occupying” to go home and do their homework.  It seems pretty apparent that it is mostly the late teen to early 20 year olds that are involved and that they don’t seem to have any really intelligent, well thought out ideas or goals.  The media and general public are already bored with the story, and the whole thing will have been an exercise in futility unless they move on in a dignified way.  Their goal should be to have an effect on the 2012 election which is a full year away.  They should go home and get organized and become better informed in order to form a voting block that will further their agenda (that is if they can come to a consensus as to what that agenda is).

In short, this reader wants the Occupiers to return home to do the same thing that millions of people have been doing for the past decade, i.e., doing nothing likely to invoke change.

[More . . . ]

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Americans are moving their money away from banks

November 3, 2011 | By | 10 Replies More
Americans are moving their money away from banks

Last year I moved my money. I made the move in response to a campaign started by Arianna Huffington at the end of 2009.  She urged that we stop supporting big banks (especially too-big-to-fail banks) and start supporting local banks and credit unions. I moved my money to a credit union (I chose Gateway Metro Credit Union), and I’ve never looked back. Credit unions are non-profit; they are service oriented, offering low fees or no fees. My new credit union offered me great customer service. In my city of St. Louis, credit unions offer you the use of each others’ ATMs without fees. When I asked what the minimum balance was for my new checking account, the woman from the credit union said, “There is no minimum balance.” I had been struggling with my bank for 3 weeks to set up an HSA savings account, for which it was going to charge me $25/year. The credit union had the account set up in 15 minutes and is not charging me any fee. The credit union offers online check paying and other account services comparable to those offered by the bank I formerly used.  I am much happier doing my banking at a local credit union, especially thanks to the superior customer service.

Bottom line: If you are still keeping your money at a big bank, there are many good reasons for moving it. Think about taking it local, especially to a credit union. It turns out that after some of the big banks starting imposing new fees last month, there has been a mini-stampede away from the big banks and toward credit unions:

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) reports that a whopping 650,000 Americans have joined credit unions since Sept. 29 — the date that Bank of America announced it would start charging a $5 monthly debit fee, a move it backed down on this week. To put that in perspective, there were only 600,000 new members for credit unions in all of 2010. “These results indicate that consumers are clearly making a smarter choice by moving to credit unions where, on average, they will save about $70 a year in fewer or no fees, lower rates on loans and higher return on savings,” said CUNA President Bill Cheney.

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Fines for barking dogs in LA

November 2, 2011 | By | Reply More
Fines for barking dogs in LA

A recent story in the LA Times addresses a topic near and dear to me, because in years past I suffered the aural assault of five neighborhood dogs barking excessively. I even bought the neighbors (two of my neighbors) no-bark collars for their dogs, but they refused to use them. Eventually, the neighbors (who were all otherwise pleasant people ) moved away, taking their dogs with them.  I’m talking about barking that began at 6 am right below my bedroom window and continued off and on until midnight. It would penetrate right through closed windows and closed doors.  It would be as loud inside our house as we listened to the TV set.  The problem is that some people are not at all adverse to noise, but I am admittedly sensitive. Barking dogs at close range keep me from thinking, playing the guitar and sleeping.  The barking dogs to the west were a different kind of nuisance from the cat loving lady to the east (she had more than 20 stray cats, and also had an indoor 50 pound African serval that ate one of her other indoor cats).

From the above article in the LA Times, we learn that the city of Los Angeles is taking this problem of barking dogs seriously. Owners of excessively barking dogs will be fined. What is excessive barking?

A dog’s barking would be considered excessive if it continued for 10 minutes or more, or intermittently for 30 minutes or more within a three-hour period . . .

The fines are hefty, as I believe they should be:

Under the changes, dog owners would face fines starting at $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second and $1,000 for a third if a hearing conducted by the Department of Animal Services determines that a dog barks too much.

I’m not against dogs. My family has one, and you will occasionally hear her bark a couple of times, but that’s usually it (except when a possum sits on the fence).  I am happy for the people of LA who will now have a better chance of enjoying the lack of barking.

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Big fossil fuel campaigns claim that dirty fuels are green

October 26, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Big fossil fuel campaigns claim that dirty fuels are green

At Occasional Planet, Mike Davis discusses the ubiquitous TV commercials touting the green-ness of natural gas and Canadian tar-sand oil. At my workplace lunchroom, there is a TV, and I’ve seen these misleading commercials many times. I’ve also seen many recent ads for “clean coal,” even though no such coal plants exist. Interesting how the industry never even attempts to argue that coal ash is “clean.”

Mike notes a lack of media stories critical of these ads, not surprising given the ad revenue the media receives for running these commercials.

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A climate warming skeptic sees the light

October 21, 2011 | By | Reply More
A climate warming skeptic sees the light

A darling of many climate-change skeptics is a physicist who has done his own analysis and concluded:

The earth is indeed getting warmer. Global average land temperatures have risen 0.91 degrees Celsius over the past 50 years. This is “on the high end of the existing range of reconstructions.”

The rate of increase on land is accelerating. Warming for the entire 20th century clocks in at 0.73 degrees C per century. But over the most recent 40 years, the globe has warmed at a rate of 2.76 degrees C per century.

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Meet the protesters of Occupy St. Louis – October 14, 2011

October 15, 2011 | By | 10 Replies More

I occasionally listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show because I consider it important to understand how it is that my views differ from those of people who oppose my views. Two days ago, I listened to Limbaugh bloviating about the people who are participating in the Occupy Protests springing up all over the United States.  By  some reports, there are more than 1,000 such protests ongoing, and they are actually occurring all over the world.   Limbaugh announced, without hesitation, that these protesters are mostly unemployed, lazy, dirty, amoral, socially irresponsible and ignorant young people. Those who rely on Rush Limbaugh for their facts might thus be highly likely to object to these protests (including Occupy Wall Street) based on Limbaugh’s description of the protesters.  But is the description he gave to his many (though dwindling number of) listeners accurate?  I had an opportunity to check this yesterday at the Occupy St. Louis protest in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

Over the past few days, I’ve been quite occupied at my day job, and it was only while walking back to my law office from the federal courthouse at 4 pm yesterday that I spotted an organized march coming down Market Street in downtown St. Louis.  I would estimate that there were almost 1,000 people marching.  I didn’t have my video camera with me, but I did have my Canon S95 pocket camera, so I got to work taking hand-held video and still shots of the protesters.  Here’s the finished product, which will allow you to actually meet the types of people who are participating in the Saint Louis Occupy protest.  You can now be your own judge of what these protesters are like:

As you can see from the parade route pans and the interviews, none of these people fit the description given by Rush Limbaugh.  Off camera, I asked most of the protesters about their “day jobs,” and all of them indicated that they were gainfully employed, and in a wide variety of challenging fields.   These “young” protesters of Occupy St. Louis ranged in age from 20’s to their 80’s.   The on-camera statements of the people I interviewed show that they are well-informed, thoughtful, highly articulate and good-hearted.  Many of the people I spoke with indicated that they are not going away.  They have been waiting for a good time and place to express their deep concerns about the way our government works, and they have finally found what they’ve been looking for.

In case anyone is concerned that I intentionally skewed my sampling regarding who I interviewed, this was my method:  I simply walked up to someone nearby and asked whether he or she would be willing to give a short statement about why they were attending the protest.   I approached 12 people.  One woman sympathetic to the protest apologized and said she couldn’t talk on camera because she was a member of the news media. One man said that he supported the protest, but he’d rather not go on camera.  Another man said he had never been part of a protest before, but he read about this protest recently and then said to himself, “Yeah, these people are right on these issues.”   The other nine people I approached agreed to give statements on camera.  I’d like to thank each of these folks for taking the time to talk (I’ve listed their names in the order in which they appear in my video):

  • Al Vitale
  • Fred Raines (a retired economics professor, who said that he compiled the statistics displayed on one of the signs appearing on the video)
  • Apollonia Childs
  • Chrissy Kirchhoefer
  • Curtis Roberts
  • Michel Kiepe
  • Jeff Schaefer
  • Matt Ankney, and
  • Frances Madeson

Based on the above video, there is no lack of intellectual moorings for this protest. The focus is that our government, including politicians of both major parties, has been substantially bought by big business, and many destructive things are flowing from the consequent misuse of government power.

About a dozen protesters have have formed a camp in Kiener Plaza, a public gathering spot across the street from the towering downtown headquarters of Bank of America. I was told by several protesters that some of the camping protesters had been evicted from the camp over the past week, but that the intent is nonetheless maintain a presence in Kiener Plaza indefinitely. The Bank of America building has been the geographical focus of other recent protests, including this one in August, 2011. (A payday loan protest by a group called GRO occurred at this same bank last year–here’s video).  I should note that most of the people who work in the huge Bank of America building work for companies other than the Bank of America, yet the building remains a symbol of what has gone so very wrong with the political process.

I’d also like to mention that the St. Louis Police, who were out in the hundreds, were courteous and professional.   The protesters were there merely to protest-to get their message out.  There were no untoward incidents that would distract from the central message of the protests.

For more on yesterday’s protest, see this description by St. Louis blogger Gloria Bilchik at Occasional Planet. See also, this post by another St. Louis blogger, Adam Shriver at St. Louis Activist Hub.

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