Sunday, November 30, 2008

Trees on Strike?

In ordinary autumn, acorns feature prominently at my home and office. Here in Ballston, my apartment is surrounded by big old trees that coat the ground in a crunchy carpet of acorns. And out at my office in Reston, the towering trees at neighboring Lake Fairfax Park deliver a steady bombardment of acorns plummeting through the canopy, then bouncing high off the paved paths (watching it makes you think twice about taking a walk without a helmet).

But this year, nothing. And I'm not the only one who's noticed:
Rachel Tolman, a naturalist at Long Branch, smeared a big glop of peanut butter on one of the nature center's trees. She grabbed handfuls of store-bought hazelnuts and placed them atop boxes to attract the tiny, nocturnal flying squirrels that tend to mass in the oaks every winter. Within seconds, the squirrels dive-bombed in from nearby trees, legs outstretched like fist-size silvery-gray sky divers. "They're so much more willing to be seen this year," Tolman said. "It's because they're so hungry."

Tolman was the first naturalist to notice that there were no acorns or hickory nuts this year. Each fall, starting in September, she takes daily walks through the forest to collect nuts and acorns to feed the flying squirrels and other animals at the center through the winter. This year, she found nothing. "I'm hoping this is just some weird anomaly," she said.

No wonder this little guy was so hungry! Naturalists often discourage directly feeding the critters in your backyard since it makes them dependent on people instead of foraging for themselves. This winter might be an exception.

The article doesn't draw conclusions about why acorns are so scarce this year. Seems that one year without acorns is unusual but not unheard of; however, if it happens again next year, it might be something to worry about.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Killer Fail

Looks like we have a wildlife theme this week. But considering this is the time of year a turkey makes a narrow escape at the White House, I thought this video was only appropriate. You can practically hear the orcas yelling, "Look, we don't want any trouble! Just give us the penguin!"

Thanks to Rosie for the link.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Looks Like Someone Didn't See "Anchorman"

I tried to get an interview, but they said, "You can't. He's a live bear. He will literally rip your face off." Hey! You're making me look stupid! Get out here! Panda jerk! -- Brian Fontana in Anchorman

Looks like
someone didn't have that one on his Netflix list:

BEIJING – A college student in southern China was bitten by a panda after he broke into the bear's enclosure hoping to get a hug, state media and a park employee said Saturday. [...]

"Yang Yang was so cute and I just wanted to cuddle him. I didn't expect he would attack," the 20-year-old student, surnamed Liu, said in a local hospital, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The best line comes from a park employee:

He said it was not clear whether the facility would add more signs around the enclosure or put more fences up.

"We cannot make it like a prison. We already have signs up warning people not to climb in," he said. "There are no fences along roads but people know not to cross if there are cars. This is basic knowledge."

He leaves us with the impression that the question isn't whether the zoo is doing enough to protect the people from the pandas -- it's whether they're doing enough to protect the pandas from the people.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hey, Chevron: Hasn't Irony Already Suffered Enough?

Yesterday, the League of Conservation Voters rolled out a fantastic satire of Chevron's latest greenwashing campaign. The ads are everywhere, especially in DC's Metro system.

The most obnoxious of Chevron's actual ads: "I will take my golf clubs out of the trunk." Gee, thanks, Judge Smails. Now your Porsche 911 will get 16 miles per gallon instead of 15.9 miles per gallon. Consider the planet saved!

But my friend Melanie just passed along the most ridiculous Chevron ad yet:

Yes, that's an ad urging us to reuse more.

On the side of a single-use coffee cup sleeve.

Which ends up in a landfill after a single use 99 percent of the time.

Chevron, are you trying to put The Green Miles out of business??? You have now sunk to such depths of self-parody as to be beyond third-party parody.

How am I supposed to snark that which cannot be snarked? This is simply unsnarkable.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Loudoun County Facility to be a Green Hospital?

From the Loudoun Times:
The Broadlands Regional Medical Center, if approved by the county and built, will seek LEED Certification for Health Care.

The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – recognizes environmentally friendly design, construction and operation.

HCA Virginia, the project's parent company, said if certified, the Broadlands hospital will be the first in its nationwide chain of 166 hospitals to be so recognized.

LEED awards points for site development, water savings, energy efficiency, construction materials and indoor environmental quality. The Broadlands hospital has pledged to treat storm-water runoff to reduce phosphorous and the amount of light that escapes from the site, to use water-saving bath fixtures, to hire an energy management consultant, and to seek National Wildlife Federation designation as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

TGM on CleanSkies.TV: The Governator's Global Climate Summit

The Green Miles will be on CleanSkies.TV this morning at 9am talking about California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's bipartisan Global Climate Summit. You can watch it live at 9am or later by clicking on "Interactive Program Guide," then clicking on the 11/19/08 edition of "The Energy Report."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Great Little Idea: The ChicoBag

In my gift bag for buying VIP tickets to the Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment Hallowgreen 30th anniversary event, I found this little guy. It's called a ChicoBag (named after the city in California) and it's changed my standards for reusable bags.

Most of my reusable bags (like the canvas ACE bag seen next to the ChicoBag) are sturdy but bulky. Since I walk to the grocery store, I have to cram my bags into my pockets, which only works well if I'm wearing cargo shorts or baggy jeans. And forget about keeping one with me in case of unexpected bag needs.

But the ChicoBag is not only small enough to fit into any pocket, it's light enough that you don't even notice it. And it expands to hold just as many groceries as the sturdier ACE bag.

The containing pouch is sewn right into the side of the bag, so once you've unloaded your groceries, you can fold the bag right back inside. Oh, and they're only $5.

I suppose my only concern is whether the light bag will survive dozens of trips to Harris Teeter. I'll let you know how it holds up!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Will Richmond Accept Climate Commission's Challenge?

Governor Kaine's Commission on Climate Change has issued its final recommendations. Simply put, there's a lot to like:

Kaine had asked the commission to find ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions - mostly carbon dioxide from cars, power plants, factories, landfills, buildings and homes - by 30 percent of the projected levels in 2025.

But the commission voted during its last work session Thursday to go further and faster. It recommended that Virginia shoot for reductions of 25 percent below 1990 emission levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

The goals mirror what President-elect Barack Obama has endorsed for a federal program to combat global warming and follow closely what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has embraced. That group shared a Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore last year for its scientific efforts.
People like Paul Ferguson and Skip Stiles deserve credit for fighting over the last year to make sure the commission delivered strong targets. It looks like they got much of what they wanted, even coming within a single vote of a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants until carbon-capturing technology is available.

Now it's up to Gov. Kaine and the General Assembly to put these recommendations into action. If Republicans in the General Assembly are thinking about reject the results of this bipartisan commission, they need to know they'll face voters in the fall who want climate action now.

Cross-posted from RK

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shoo It Away? Or Offer It a Long Spoon?

Looked out my back door the other day to find a squirrel helping itself to a Halloween pumpkin I'd had on my back step but never got around to carving:

It would climb inside, pull out a seed, then perch on top of the pumpkin to eat it:

You can learn more about the history of the DC area's squirrels (including where the black ones came from) in the Washington Post's recent article, Critter City.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Beating an Undead Trojan Horse

The state can't afford it. Arlington doesn't want it. So why does I66 expansion keep moving forward?

The Arlington Civic Federation, by a two-thirds margin, said no again this week to a wider I66. That's after a public hearing at Washington-Lee High School a couple of weeks back at which nearly everyone opposed expansion plans.

Pushed by Rep. Frank Wolf and Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) wants to make "spot improvements" to the westbound lanes of I66 in three spots in Arlington. "What’s proposed here is a gross waste of money," Arlington County Board Member Chris Zimmerman (D) said. "All you’re doing is moving the bottlenecks around."

Of course, the "spot improvements" are just a trojan horse to fully expand I66 through Arlington to three lanes. And that pesky media, not clued into the charade, keeps giving it away. One story back in October called plans to expand the road finalized. All this public comment is apparently just a charade.

With money for transportation projects so tight, funding for the $75 million "spot improvements" is being pieced together. Meanwhile, the federal government is reluctant to step in to help Metro with its current financing mess. Where are the priorities?

Wolf and Davis claim the widenings will help evacuations of DC in case of emergency. But if I66 is packed for a simple morning rush, how will a few extra stretches of pavement enable tens of thousands of cars to pile on at the same time? After all, even a full lane of highway moving at top speed can only handle something like 1,500 cars an hour.

But what do they care? The evacuation route argument is just another gimmick. The real goal is the same as it was when the road was first proposed in 1956 -- force the road on Arlington, and force Arlingtonians to breathe the pollution of vehicles from making their commutes from sprawling developments in Fairfax County, Loudoun County and beyond.

To learn more about the history of I66 and how to get involved, visit the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation.

Cross-posted from RK

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wednesday: Sierra Club Forum on Energy in Ballston

The Green Miles will be moderating a forum on energy and the environment tomorrow night in Ballston:
Town Hall Meeting -- Achieving an Energy Efficient Virginia
Wednesday, November 12, 7:30 pm
NRECA Building, 4301 Wilson Blvd, Arlington

Energy efficiency is the most cost effective, least polluting, and safest way to meet increasing electricity demand. Energy efficiency programs are an investment in a state's economy that encourages innovation, creates non-exportable jobs, and increases competitiveness. What's more, energy efficiency can meet new electricity demand for 50% of the cost of new generation. Unfortunately, Virginia has lagged behind other states in establishing and funding efficiency programs.

Speakers at the Town Hall meeting will review the methods for creating and managing electrical energy efficiency programs and recommend the best and most relevant ones to be used to craft a strong, viable program for Virginia.

The meeting will be held at the NRECA Building, 4301 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, which is within 5 minutes of the Ballston Metro. Parking is also free under the building from North Taylor Street.
The event is being organized by the Sierra Club's Mount Vernon Group. Scheduled speakers include current Arlington County Board Chair Walter Tejada and past chair Paul Ferguson. Hope to see you there!

TNRtv: What Obama Could Do for the Environment on Day One

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Global Warming Deniers' Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Election Day 2008 will be remembered for being a lousy day to be a global warming denier.Nowhere was this more apparent than right here in Virginia:
Jim Gilmore: Told the Virginian-Pilot, "We know the climate is changing, but we do not know for sure how much is caused by man and how much is part of a natural cycle change." Lost by 30 points.

Thelma Drake: Told the Virginian-Pilot, "There is tremendous disagreement about whether climate change is caused by human behavior or other natural forces." Despite final pre-election predictions she'd win by six points, Thelma instead lost by 4 points.

Virgil Goode: Told WSLS-TV global warming is "overly hyped" and holds a strong financial stake in Big Oil. Despite final pre-election predictions he'd win by eight points, Virgil is currently losing by 100 votes.
And look just east to Maryland's 1st Congressional district, which Republican Wayne Gilchrest had represented for 16 years before losing his primary to hardcore conservative Andy Harris. The moderate Gilchrest had cruised to re-election in the slightly red district, getting at least 61 percent of the vote in his last seven races.

But general election voters took one look at Harris' 9 percent lifetime voting record from Environment America record and turned their noses up. Democrat Frank Kratovil is currently beating Harris by just over 900 votes.

And look across the country. In the House, longtime clean energy opponents Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) went down, while Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) narrowly survived a surprisingly close race in a deep red district.

In the Senate, Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), who each only found religion on climate action on their electoral deathbeds, lost their re-election bids. On the other hand, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), a more vigorous supporter of clean energy and climate action, has so far been able to cling to a slim lead in his race against Al Franken.

The bottom line? If you expect to hold public office in America today, you better be on board with clean energy. It's about American jobs, it's about lowering energy bills for consumers, and yes, it's about curbing the worst effects of global warming. If you don't buy in, you better hope you're lucky enough to be in a district as conservative as Michele Bachmann's.

But hey, if you want to roll those dice like Andy Harris did, be my guest. Good luck with that recount, Andy! You'll need it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Nice Touch at the Polls from Arlington Democrats

UPDATE: Here's my review of the overall experience at Arlington Central Library this morning.

The Green Miles is volunteering for Arlington Democrats today, greeting voters at Arlington Central Library! I'm stationed at the front door of the still-closed library making sure voters find their way to the hour-long line snaking around from the library's back door. Most people seem to know the drill, but seem to appreciate having a friendly face to reassure them they're heading the right way.

In any case, it gave me an excuse to bust out the laptop and get this picture up:

Will recycling sample ballots save the planet? Of course not. But it shows they're thinking about the little things. And The Green Miles subscribes to a variation on the broken windows theory when it comes to environmentalism -- if you're not sweating the small stuff, it makes me wonder if you're getting the big stuff. Good to see Arlington Democrats paying attention to this detail.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Green Miles' Greatest Hits: Voting Green

With 24 hours until the polls open here in Virginia, here are some links to posts over the last year about voting on environmental issues:
Nov. 6, 2007: Think Green, Vote Blue

June 3, 2008: Remember in November: Senate Republicans Fight Climate Action

Sept. 29, 2008: Ask The Green Miles: McCain vs. Obama on the Environment

Saturday, November 1, 2008

From Trashable to Recyclable in 60 Seconds

Sometimes it only takes a few seconds to keep an item (or most of it) out of a landfill.

Just as I was about to toss an old dry erase board in the trash, I realized its core was cardboard, so I thought I'd see if I could salvage the recyclable part. Sure enough, it was easy to pry off the plastic frame and the plastic front wasn't even glued on.

Three cardboard pieces that made up the backing -- 95 percent of the weight of the board -- ready for the recycling bin ...