Tag Archives: Environment

Lexington 2030 – A Vision

What will we be like in 20 years?  20 years ago this summer, the first Bush war for oil began its intial stages.  Tim Berners-Lee was formulating his idea for the world-wide web – yeah the web as we know it hadn’t been born.  The world’s population was 5.2 billion humans.  (Today, it’s 6.8 billion. When I was born in 1964, it was 3.2 billion)

This vision acknowledges the imminent threats of energy descent, and climate change, and the end of globalization.  It accepts the fact that “local” is the path to independence.

This is based on Portland’s climate action plan primarily, as well as other peak oil plans such as Bloomington’s.

I’ve been thinking about what Lexington should be doing to prepare for its next comprehensive plan.  I’m betting on business as usual – denial is very strong here - but I’m also beginning now to sound the alarm:  business as usual will not improve or even maintain our quality of life.  And that’s really all we have, isn’t it?

This is not about my values.  This isn’t a choice between values.  The world is changing rapidly to the negative. We must act now to protect ourselves and our place.

Here’s the goal:  An 80% reduction in carbon usage by 2030.   

An 80 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2030 will entail re-imagining the entire community— transitioning away from fossil fuels and strengthening the local economy while shifting fundamental patterns of urban form, transportation, buildings and consumption.

A vision:

■ In 2030, Lexington and Fayette County are at the heart of a vibrant region with a thriving economy, rich cultural community and diverse, ecologically sustainable neighborhoods.

■ Personal mobility and access to services has never been better. Every resident lives in a walkable and bikeable neighborhood that includes retail businesses, schools, parks and jobs. Most people rely on walking, bicycling and transit rather than driving. Pedestrians and bicyclists are prominent in the region’s commercial centers, corridors and neighborhoods.

Public transportation, bikeways, sidewalks and greenways connect neighborhoods. When people do need to drive, vehicles are highly efficient and run on low-carbon electricity and renewable fuels.

■ Green jobs are a key component of the regional economy. Products and services related to clean energy, green building, sustainable food, green infrastructure, and waste reuse and recovery providing living-wage jobs throughout the community, and Lexington is one of North America’s  hubs for sustainable industry and clean technology.

■ Homes, offices and other buildings deliver superb performance. They are durable and highly efficient, healthy, comfortable and powered primarily by solar, wind and other renewable resources.

■ The urban forest and green roofs cover the community, reducing the urban heat island effect, sequestering carbon, providing habitat, and cleaning the air and water.

■ Food and agriculture are central to the economic and cultural vitality of the community, with backyard gardens, farmers’ markets and community gardens productive and thriving. A large share of food comes from farms within the region, and residents eat a healthy diet, consuming more locally grown grains, vegetables and fruits.

■ The benefits of green infrastructure, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, quality housing, and convenient, affordable transportation options and public health services are shared equitably throughout the community.

■ Residents and businesses use resources extremely efficiently, minimizing and reusing solid waste, water, stormwater and energy.

■ The Bluegrass region has prepared for a changed climate, making infrastructure more resilient, developing reliable supplies of water, food and energy and improving public health services. Policies, investments and programs are in place to protect the residents most vulnerable to climate change and rising energy prices.

What do you think?

If you care about these issues at all, the City of Portland and Multnomah County Climate Action Plan is a must read:  http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?c=49989&a=268612

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Climate Deniers: Dont Watch This

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The Climate Deniers Will Lose;But They’ll Lose Because We’ll All Lose

This is one of most powerful pieces on climate change I’ve ever read.  Absolutely stunning in it’s revelation of what is happening to our planet, and to that race of humans  who happen to inhabit it.  The hateful, greedy, and/or willfully ignorant minds in our country are doing everything they can to ensure our ruin.

The attack on climate-change science

by Bill McKibben

Why It’s the O.J. Moment of the Twenty-First Century

Twenty-one years ago, in 1989, I wrote what many have called the first book for a general audience on global warming. One of the more interesting reviews came from the Wall Street Journal. It was a mixed and judicious appraisal.  “The subject,” the reviewer said, “is important, the notion is arresting, and Mr. McKibben argues convincingly.”  And that was not an outlier: around the same time, the first president Bush announced that he planned to “fight the greenhouse effect with the White House effect.”

I doubt that’s what the Journal will say about my next book when it comes out in a few weeks, and I know that no GOP presidential contender would now dream of acknowledging that human beings are warming the planet.  Sarah Palin is currently calling climate science “snake oil” and last week, the Utah legislature, in a move straight out of the King Canute playbook, passed a resolution condemning “a well organized and ongoing effort to manipulate global temperature data in order to produce a global warming outcome” on a nearly party-line vote.

And here’s what’s odd. In 1989, I could fit just about every scientific study on climate change on top of my desk. The science was still thin.  If my reporting made me think it was nonetheless convincing, many scientists were not yet prepared to agree.

Now, you could fill the Superdome with climate-change research data. (You might not want to, though, since Hurricane Katrina demonstrated just how easy it was to rip holes in its roof.) Every major scientific body in the world has produced reports confirming the peril. All 15 of the warmest years on record have come in the two decades that have passed since 1989. In the meantime, the Earth’s major natural systems have all shown undeniable signs of rapid flux: melting Arctic and glacial ice, rapidly acidifying seawater, and so on.

Somehow, though, the onslaught against the science of climate change has never been stronger, and its effects, at least in the U.S., never more obvious: fewer Americans believe humans are warming the planet.  At least partly as a result, Congress feels little need to consider global-warming legislation, no less pass it; and as a result of that failure, progress towards any kind of international agreement on climate change has essentially ground to a halt.

Climate-Change Denial as an O.J. Moment

The campaign against climate science has been enormously clever, and enormously effective. It’s worth trying to understand how they’ve done it.  The best analogy, I think, is to the O.J. Simpson trial, an event that’s begun to recede into our collective memory. For those who were conscious in 1995, however, I imagine that just a few names will make it come back to life. Kato Kaelin, anyone? Lance Ito? Continue reading

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Uh oh – Arctic sea ice vanishing faster than “our most pessimistic models”

From the Vancouver Sun 2.06.10: “Sea ice in Canada’s fragile Arctic is melting faster than anyone expected, the lead investigator in Canada’s largest climate-change study yet said Friday — raising the possibility that the Arctic could, in a worst-case scenario, be ice-free in about three years.

University of Manitoba Prof. David Barber, the lead investigator of the Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study, said the rapid decay of thick Arctic Sea ice highlights the rapid pace of climate change in the North and foreshadows what will come in the South.

“We’re seeing it happen more quickly than what our models thought would happen,” Barber said at a student symposium on climate change in Winnipeg. “It’s happening much faster than our most pessimistic models suggested.”

“The impact means more variability in the Earth’s climate — warm trends are warmer and cold trends are colder.” (Fox News Fans, see below)

“Dr. John Hanesiak, an associate professor at the University of Manitoba’s Centre For Earth Observation Science, said that due to human actions and the release of greenhouse gases, those extremes may include more frequent summer droughts and more spring floods in southern climates.

“We know that we’re part of the problem,” he said. “There’s no question about that. The models are telling us that now.”

Read it here: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Arctic+vanishing+fast+researcher/2532081/story.html

(Note to Fox News and it’s wonderful viewers:  Global Warming doesn’t mean that it will never snow again….Morons – my favorite was a piece where they took a copy of Inconvenient Truth and put in the snow while laughing about it….watch it here unless you are prone to righteous vileonce against inanimate objects:

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Its Climate Clown Time Again In Frankfort

(This is Gooch)

Our state is falling apart by any measure you want to look at and yet we have absolute clowns in the legislature saying shit like this: (from the Herald Leader)

“House Resolution 132 urges Congress to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide emissions until the federal government “adopts a balanced approach to address climate and energy supply issues without crippling the economy.”

Gooch said the measure is an attempt ‘to fight back’ against reports that greenhouse gases are contributing to global warming. He noted that the media have dubbed him ‘a global warming skeptic.’

He said the booming population worldwide ‘probably has upset the balance’ of the planet, ‘and we probably should mitigate that.’

But ‘now is not the time to be continuing this hysteria of imminent doom of our planet because of man-made global warming,’ Gooch said.

Co-sponsors of Gooch’s resolution include House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook.”

One brave but anonymous soul had the courage to stand up and try to introduce some reality to the proceedings, “but ‘You are not going to do that,’ House Natural Resources Chairman Jim Gooch, D-Providence, said as a Kentucky State Police trooper escorted the man out of the room.”

Folks, this isn’t helping us improve our stature in the eyes of our fellow Americans or the world.  We are moving backward….

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Wake Up, Freak Out – Then Get A Grip

Here’s a very well done clip about global warming – its been out for over a year but I just now saw it. 

Visit the site: http://wakeupfreakout.org/index.html

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Post Carbon Institute: Some Consensus

The PCI had its first ever Fellows Retreat last weekend.  Asher Miller recounts the big themes:

  • The next five, ten, twenty years are going to be remarkably different than the last. We have effectively reached the limits to growth, the nearly simultaneous crises of global climate change, peak oil, fresh water scarcity, debt and economic growth, population, biodiversity loss, top soil erosion, etc.
  • We must prepare for uncertainty. How events will transpire we can’t fully predict.Think about how complex climate models must be. Multiply the complexity of that system 1,000 or 1 million fold and the only thing that becomes clear is that nothing can be fully predicted. Nothing but rapid and massive change that is.
  • We need to focus on responses, not just solutions. There is no silver bullet, no combination of solutions that will allow us to maintain the status quo or avoid hardship. Does that mean there is no role for innovation, technology, or other advances? Of course not. But to think that we can invent our way out of these crises is just sheer folly. Dangerous folly.
  • We can do something. The good news is that there is no shortage of places or ways to exert our energies: building awareness and understanding, supporting individual and community preparedness, foster experimentation and re-localization in food and energy production, and—trickiest of all—changing behavior.
  • Whatever we do, it won’t be enough. There will be victims (there already are). There will be suffering. There will be loss. This reality, personally, is the hardest to bear. But that doesn’t mean we can or should give up.
  • Life can be as good, or better, than the present. It’s circumstantial, of course, but the consumer-driven way of life is not particularly fulfilling. Levels of depression, obesity, debt, social disconnection, etc. are at historic highs, at least in the industrialized world. A life more connected to community, more grounded in ecology, with the fruits of our labor more tangible and meaningful, can and will be more fulfilling.

Check the PCI out here:  http://www.postcarbon.org/

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What Does Sustainability Mean?

In today’s Herald Leader, a representative from the water company says that the $100m + solution (our money) to provide additional water to central Kentucky will be “sustainable” – or by his definition, meaning providing supply for “20-30 years.”

In an effort to be diplomatic, I will assume sincerity on the part of the-for-profit company that supplies we human’s most vital resource.

But to me sustainable means FOREVER.  Not “20-30 years.”  Continue reading

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Random Thoughts

I’ll be posting spasmodically over the next few days – I’ve got to let my mind rest a little before 2010. I am going to put up some poetry I’ve written about the times we are in.  Look for it.

That said, I’ve got some random thoughts to share – let me know what you think:

  • Governments always help someone – Do you believe government’s role is to help the rich, the middle class, or the poor?  
  • Is it more important to amass as much wealth as possible, or to do something with your life that has value to others?
  • People are always saying:  “Kentucky has too many counties; we need less than 120.”  What if instead we have not enough “state”?  That is, why not let the borders of the state, formed in 1792, evolve to meet 21st century realities?   Why not create a State of Appalachia, an Ohio River State, a Bluegrass State, a Rivers State?  These new states could merge with similar areas surrounding them, forming blocks of places with similar assets, opportunities and challenges.  Each would have a stronger, unified  voice in lobbying for the things needed in each area, rather than the system we have now where eastern Kentucky is pitted against the cities of Kentucky, for example.  ‘Course, the United States would need a new flag, ‘cause we’d have more than 50 states.  But we could still be the United States.   
  • How will we know peak oil is coming?  By watching what the people who are in the know do!
    • Warren Buffet bought a railroad for $34 billion – is that because he is a rail freak?  Or is that he knows that the trucking industry will be paralyzed by peak oil within a few years? (I don’t think railroads are a very good place to hide from peak oil, but what do I know?)
    • The US Air Force is planning to use a 50:50 blend of synthetic and ordinary jet fuel to power its plane by 2016 – 6 years from now!   This isn’t because they are concerned with the environment, being more involved with the actual blowing up of the environment, but rather this screams that they clearly see conventional fuel being very limited very soon.    The Navy is making similar plans. 
    • Buried on page 82 of the December 12-18 edition of the Economist, a magazine with limited credibility on most things, is the admission of the International Energy Agency’s admission that peak oil will occur by 2020.   The Economist has dismissed peak oil for years.  It must kill them to have to even put a small report on page 82 acknowledging reality.
    • Oil has been near $80 a barrel for several months, before declining to below $70 for the past couple of weeks.  Friday the 18th oil shot up to over $73.  Experts have told us that this is because the dollar is extraordinary weak, yet the dollar’s value has shot up this past week – and oil prices did too – wtf?  Could it be that it’s demand and not a weak dollar that will drive up prices?

 FOLKS, PEAK OIL IS HERE.

  • The world is not flat, as Friedman so lucratively phrased it just 2 years ago.  The world is huge, and peak oil will make it ever bigger.  So big in fact, that local will be the only radius of our world very soon.
  • Our signature industry in the Bluegrass – Thoroughbreds – is completely at the mercy of peak oil.   From the oil rich sheiks who play here, to the Europeans, to the fine grained transportation system needed to sustain the industry – all will change with peak oil.
  • A second signature industry in the Bluegrass – automobiles – is completely at the mercy of peak oil.
  • A third signature industry – UK – is completely at the mercy of peak oil.  UK Basketball sustains the university – how can it continue to thrive in a low energy world? 
  • A forth signature industry – retail shopping  - is completely at the mercy of peak oil.  Cheap goods from far away wont be so cheap anymore, nor will the ability to drive scores of miles to try and find them – or from store to store in one well know Lexington sprawl, for that matter.
  • Shouldn’t we have a plan for peak oil?
  • I’m coming more clearly to see that the plan for peak oil (and climate change) is to build a solar economy.  More on this later – but make no mistake it will be a LOT different, but I think better.

Here’s a great idea for some solar collar jobs:

  •  installing woodstoves in suburbia;
  • Suburban salvaging – taking apart the things that were passed off as “houses” over the last 20 years and selling components – of course this does mean that for most people in suburbia, the economic value of their house is its salvage value.

 

  • A very smart writer in Lexington continues to use the phrase “when the economy recovers….”:  The economy won’t recover to what we had before because it was broken.  And anyway, humans go to “recovery” to get healthy.  Our system was profoundly unhealthy.  Why would we want to “recover” to ill health?  Why shouldn’t we be trying to get healthy economically, environmentally, and socially?
  • The economic development of this city has been the opposite of the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen – continuous improvement.  Our philosophy is “we’ll take it anyway you care to give it to us.”   There is a word for people who act like that.  This is why “recovery” makes no sense to the long term health of our city.

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Cheap Energy Will Save Kentucky

This just in: Cheap energy – based on our never to decline coal deposits – will help the state succeed economically! And we in Lexington better get on board. We’ve got a duty to support our brother coal barons in the east.

The problem is that cheap energy has not helped our state succeed economically. We’ve had cheap energy since coal was found, and yet by any indicator one wishes to choose, we’re still one of the poorest states in the U.S.

Oh, NOW it will be different, some say…..That’s right: we’ll market ourselves to the rest of the world as a cheap place to do business. Cheap land, cheap wages, cheap energy. THAT will get the ball rolling!

Only it hasn’t. And it wont – a race to the bottom on cost will only get us to the bottom. So instead of rising, we languish, our people get fatter and less educated, mining and sprawl ravage our landscapes, and we get poorer by the year.

Yes, cheap electric rates seem to be a benefit. But all we are doing is eating the future. Our children will have to pay the costs we avoided. The dead mountains, the polluted water, the changed climate all come with costs. Perhaps they won’t curse us, but they damn sure will pity us for our foolishness.

Those people who promote coal are only doing so out of self interest: they’ve got money to make from coal barons, or they have to take orders from the people who make money from coal barons.

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The Pope and The Earth

earth

That up there is it. All we have. Can it be that our primary purpose is to make as much money and consume as much stuff as possible?

Disclaimer:  As a husband and parent, I hope that there is something out there that takes care of our loved-ones, children especially.  I am skeptical of many things that come from religious organizations, especially the Catholic Church. 

But I just came across something of great interest from them.

Pope Benedict XIV recently released “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth), an encyclical addressing the conditions of humans across the world. According to the Pope, to develop humans to their full potential, we must revere the earth: “The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole.” Continue reading

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This isn’t your grandmother’s great depression

I recently found an old picture of my grandmother when she was a young woman.  The picture was taken in 1932, in the very depth of the Great Depression.   She is surrounded by friends, all smiling and in nice dresses.  In the background is a nice looking car.  My great-grandparents were by no means wealthy –they were farmers – but the overall appearance of the scene is of happiness, or at least contentment.  I am still marveling at that thought:  how can these people be happy?  Isn’t the world crashing down around them?

And I think of our current predicaments, the wounded economy, environmental concerns, strife everywhere.  Surely if they found ways to manage during those times, we Continue reading

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