Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Corporations Aren't Automatically Bad

Do you assume big corporations are bad? If you do, you'll miss corporations doing some good things - especially when it comes to expanding markets in ways that only huge buyers can do.

The largest non-utility owner of solar panels in the United States? Wal-Mart. And a former McDonald's executive is launching a new green restaurant chain that could dramatically ramp up demand for locally-sourced, sustainably-produced food nationwide.

Yes, Wal-Mart still does plenty of bad things especially when it comes to trampling on the rights of workers. But it has a unique power to show every corner of America that clean energy and energy efficient technologies make good business sense.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Secret Environmental Scourge: Old People?

 Broadway malls, Jun 2008 - 202Call this an unfair generalization if you must, but are old people killing the planet? Follow me as I meander on a barely-substantiated round of wild speculation.

I stopped by Market Basket in Massachusetts last weekend and got some flowers for my girlfriend. I couldn't find any plastic bags to keep the flowers from dripping, but when I got to the register, the cashier offered to get me one. "Why don't you just keep them next to the flowers?" I asked.

"People take them, especially older people," she replied. Why? She shrugged, "Why do they ask for extra paper and plastic grocery bags? They like free stuff, even if it's worthless."

The next day I was at Dunkin Donuts and noticed a sign next to the register: "We will no longer be giving out extra cups out of concern for the environment." I've never seen even a whisper of green out of Dunkin Donuts before, so I have to assume this is really 4an economic concern that could go one of two ways - people are ordering a larger coffee size and splitting them, or people are asking for free cups because they want free crap.

I first noticed this phenomenon while working the Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment booth at the Arlington County Fair. The older the attendee, the more they want to stuff their goodie bag with anything you had to offer. I mean, once you're over 10 years old, why would you want a free pencil? Sure, they could've been taking it for a grandchild, but there was no apparent method to the bag-packing madness - they just took one of everything & moved on to the next table.

I understand that many seniors grew up needing to save and now are getting by on limited incomes, but businesses don't give stuff away unless individual items are of very low value anyway (i.e. if you're going to take coffee cups, why not just spend $2 on a ceramic mug that will last almost forever and save you hundreds of trips to DD?)

What do you think? And if Glenn Beck were drawing up a Secret Soros-Funded UN-Backed Liberal Scheme on the ol' chalkboard to correct this problem, what would it look like? Has to be some sort of forcible geriatric green re-education camps, am I right?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Imagine That: Most Fairhaven Wind Turbine Complaints Come From People Who Opposed Building Them

Fairhaven WindmillIn an amazing coincidence, a supermajority of the complaints filed against two new wind turbines in Fairhaven, Massachusetts have been filed by people who opposed the idea of building them in the first place:
In the letter, [Fairhaven Wind developer Sumul] Shah wrote that 42 percent of the 132 complaints had been lodged by plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the town seeking to dismantle the turbines. An additional 22.5 percent of the complaints were lodged by others who had publicly voiced their opposition to the turbines before they were operational.

"This makes one question the validity of many complaints or the rationale for why people are complaining," the letter reads.
Town officials and wind power opponents are of course shocked, SHOCKED that gambling is going on in here anyone would question the sincerity of the complaints. Noise tests are set to begin as soon as weather conditions permit.

Extensive reviews of all available scientific evidence have shown no connection between wind turbines and health effects. However, the health effects of coal-fired power plants (like the one just upwind in Somerset) are clear and deadly.

The truth is that unless you're standing right under them, wind turbines are nearly silent. I visited the Fairhaven turbines and it took me nearly a minute of standing silently to hear the turbines' faint, gentle woosh over the patter of drizzle and chirping of birds. The loud hum of a nearby longstanding electrical transformer has apparently not drawn health complaints, nor has the constant racket from a neighboring truck depot:

Here's a much closer look at (and listen to) the Fairhaven wind turbines from the Mass Climate Action Network.

Meanwhile, preliminary plans are moving forward to create more than 1,000 jobs by building an offshore wind turbine shipping hub in neighboring New Bedford.

Monday, July 23, 2012

"All Hail the King" Trumps Virginia Sportsmen's Rights?

After an encounter on the Jackson River in western Virginia where he's fished his whole life, Marc Smith is ready to revolt:
A couple of years ago I went back down to this area while fishing for browns on a section of the Jackson River (just below the dam at Lake Moomaw) with my buddy Dan Wrinn. We did okay – couple nice 10 inch browns. But what really caught our attention was us literally wading up to a sign posted on an oak tree on the bank that puzzled us. It read: “Kings Grant Land. No fishing. No Trespassing.”

Huh? is right. After all my years spending time in this area, and on the Jackson, I have never seen this sign. After some digging, now I know. This land along the Jackson was granted by King George III of England way back in the day. I am talking 17th century before there was even a thought of Virginia, much less the United States. Guess this even trumps state law. [...]

The Virginia Supreme Court have upheld this and many other Kings Grant claims in Virginia and in other eastern states. Crazy I know. Read the latest on a lawsuit involving Kings Grant land & anglers. This is huge. All anglers are watching this. This could set tremendous precedent.
"This isn't merry ol England where the peasants and commoners have no say or right to hunt or fish on the Kings Land. This is America – and 2012 America," Marc concludes. "No, we have waters and wildlife held in trust for all to enjoy." Learn more from the Virginia Rivers Defense Fund.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bill McKibben: If You're Not Terrified by Global Warming, You're Not Paying Attention

A must-read in Rolling Stone from climate activist Bill McKibben - Global Warming's Terrifying New Math:
If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice.
Read it online or if you want to support strong progressive journalism, go buy it at the newsstand.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rep. Issa's Latest Fishing Expedition Targets Cape Wind

Can a Congressman who's been unable to break open a big Obama administration scandal turn his luck around by investigating Cape Wind? Fortunately for people who enjoy things like breathing clean air and going to work building wind turbines, it doesn't look good for Rep. Darrell Issa.

Rep. Issa has spent much of the last two years using his position as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a desperate search for something - anything - to embarrass the Obama administration. Issa came into the chairmanship brashly predicting he'd take down climate scientists, but that's gone absolutely nowhere. In fact, Issa has had so little luck, the Obama administration's lack of scandals has become a story in itself.

But fortunately for Rep. Issa, when you're a member of Congress, past investigative failures don't preclude future fishing expeditions! And it's no coincidence Issa is fronting this fight - the big polluting Koch family is leading the charge against Cape Wind and some Issa's staffers have Koch links:
Several have ties to billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, who have made much of their fortune in oil and chemical businesses and have established a reputation as staunch small-government conservatives. Their influence through campaign contributions, lobbying and nonprofit groups--such as Americans for Prosperity, an activist organization with connections to the Tea Party movement--has become more pronounced since the shift in power in the House last November.
Rep. Issa has long been a champion of polluting interests. Issa has taken more than $376,000 from electric utilities and the oil & gas industry. 

And if there's any question about whether Issa's latest pole in the water is political, just check out where the news broke - with a long exclusive story in the far-right Boston Herald.

Wind Park in the HazeCape Wind has now been going through the federal regulatory review process for an astonishing 11 years. With multiple points for public input along the way, it's been vetted by, among others:
  • The Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board
  • The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
  • The Massachusetts Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs
  • The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation & Enforcement
  • The Federal Aviation Administration
As The Daily Show pointed out, it should've been approved long ago, but its opponents are really, really rich. And now here comes Rep. Issa, by far the richest member of Congress according to OpenSecrets.org with an average estimated net worth of $448 million.

It needs to be asked by someone not named the Boston Herald: Who's Rep. Issa really looking out for here? The American public? Or Issa's wealthy, politically connected friends?

New GOP Climate Change Strategy: Ignore It Altogether

In the past, the climate strategy of Congressional Republicans has been to crow about "sound science" and bitch & moan when hearings don't include spokesmen for polluter front groups. But now they've got a new scheme: Refuse to talk about climate science at all

For the 15th time this Congress, House Energy & Commerce Committee Republicans have rejected Democratic efforts to hold a hearing on global warming. That's despite the wildfires raging in the West, drought killing crops in the Midwest, and intense storms knocking out power to millions in the Mid-Atlantic.

Instead of trying to win debates on what to do about things like global warming-fueled extreme weather and sea level rise, Republican leaders are now just pretending the problems don't exist. I'm sure the grandkids will be proud.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Global Warming-Fueled Maine Lobster Boom: A BAD Thing?

Maine Lobster from EricI've covered how global warming will be bad for lobsters from Massachusetts to Virginia, stressing them out with higher temperatures. But further north, warmer water has been great news for Maine lobsters, who've been booming in population. You'd think that would be good news for lobstermen, but instead the global warming-fueled Maine lobster glut has sent prices tumbling:
Harbors up and down the coast of Maine are filled with idle fishing boats, as lobster haulers decide that pulling in their lobster pots has become a fruitless pursuit.

Prices at the dock have fallen to as low as $1.25 a pound in some areas—roughly 70% below normal and a nearly 30-year-low for this time of year, according to fishermen, researchers and officials. The reason: an unseasonably warm winter created a supply glut throughout the Atlantic lobster fishery.
What about consumers, aren't they enjoying lower prices? Not unless you live in Maine:
Retail lobster prices in Maine have started to fall along with the glut, and Mr. Bayer said that some fishermen have begun selling lobsters out of their trucks for as low as $4 a pound. But consumers elsewhere in the U.S. aren't likely to see bargains. The Maine lobsters that currently are in season can't be shipped long distances due to their soft shells, and retailers have other fixed costs that limit big price drops.
While warmer ocean temperatures are clearly tied to man-made global warming and June was the 4th-hottest on record globally, the article in the Wall Street Journal (motto: "Fox, Print Edition") doesn't even mention climate change.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Green Miles Migrates North

You may have noticed more and more Massachusetts-related posts here, and it's true: After 10 years in Northern Virginia, The Green Miles is taking his talents to South Coast.

I'm moving to New Bedford, MA to live with my girlfriend, who's already been mentioned here. I'll also be closer to my family and in a more forgiving climate than DC's global warming-fueled record heat and storms. And fortunately, the National Wildlife Federation* will continue to let me work for them from MA, so I'll still be menacing science deniers nationwide.

While I'll continue to watch & weigh in on Virginia politics, I'll be getting more connected in Massachusetts. Step one: Saying goodbye to my Tom Perriello bumper sticker & replacing it with an Elizabeth Warren:

Coincidentally, this is my 1,500th post here at TheGreenMiles.com. Thanks for reading over the last six years, and I hope you'll stay with me through more milestones in Massachusetts!

* - The Green Miles is my personal blog. The opinions here are mine alone and do not reflect the positions of the National Wildlife Federation.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Heating of Pot No Reason for Alarm, Reports Frog Media

frog in a pot 3It's not true that if you slowly turn up the heat, a frog won't notice that his surroundings are getting hotter - the frog will jump out of the pot if he can. That's an allegory - but whether humans will recognize & respond to their warming climate is a very real & open question.

Mainstream media coverage of Friday night's extreme storms in the Mid-Atlantic region shows no sign of hoppiness:
Reading these stories, I can't help but think of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. Past dominant societies have proved quite capable of blissfully ignoring all evidence of impending doom. So far, America's media is proving no different. Will 2012's record temperatures and extreme weather change that? Or be just another milepost on the road to disaster?