Friday, December 23, 2011

November 2011: Ignoring Global Warming Fails To Make It Go Away For 321st Consecutive Month

November 2011, 12th-hottest on record & 321st consecutive month our planet's temperatures were above the 20th-century average. January-November 2011, 11th-hottest on record.

And if that doesn't sound hot, keep in mind how much the last decade - the hottest decade humans have ever recorded - has skewed the record books. Until 1995, there had never been a year recorded more than 0.4 degrees Celsius above average. Now 2011's 0.52°C above average ... and it only ranks 11th.

Here's a NOAA chart on November 2011's extreme weather events:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Car-Free Commuting as Medicine

My morning commute involves walking 15 minutes to East Falls Church Metro. This usually earns me pitying looks. "Ugh, isn't that far?" Then the person drives to the gym to pay to use a fossil fuel-powered treadmill.

My commute guarantees me 30 minutes of walking a day. In my age group, if there's no an annual fee or specially designed clothing, it's not officially considered exercise. To me, that daily walk isn't a bug, it's a feature.

Back when I drove to work, man, there were days I barely walked at all. Straight from home to car to office to car to evening event to home, and I was more exhausted when I got home than I am now that I walk or Metro almost everywhere.

And that's what most Americans do! It doesn't just make our asses bigger & our lives shorter - it makes us collectively less energetic & happy:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Washington Post Ignores Climate Impacts, Wonders Why People Are Ignorant on Climate Impacts

The Washington Post's Darryl Fears, who conspicuously left climate change out of his recent article on the impacts of sea level rise on the Virginia coast, today has a follow-up article on how some people don't think climate change is connected to sea level rise.

Gee, I wonder why people are so in the dark about climate science? It's quite the puzzler.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Occupy Grocery Store: Fake Blueberry Pancakes

I'm not usually a big basher of Big Food or Big Ag, but for some reason this drove me crazy.

Blueberries were on sale at Harris Teeter recently, so I was looking for some pancake mix to make blueberry pancakes - an excuse to have fresh blueberries AND feed my crippling maple addiction.

I almost bought this Hungry Jack "Blueberry" Wheat pancake mix, thinking between its blueberries & the fresh ones, I'd have some pretty good pancakes.

But then I looked closely at the box and in tiny letters it said "artificial blueberry bits." Number one ingredient: Dextrose, a sugar.

Where's the line between obviously fake and trying to pass something off as real? It's a hard one to figure. I mean, no one expects Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries to have actual berries (they have a trivial amount of strawberry juice concentrate and are an incredible 42% sugar according to the Environmental Working Group's Sugar in Children's Cereals report).

But you certainly expect potatoes in Hungry Jack Mashed Potato Mix, don't you?

It's stuff like "artificial blueberry bits" that makes me feel like every step through the grocery store, I have to watch out for corporate food trying to put one over on me - fake food, cheap fillers, surprise chemical additives. And I'm not even a parent.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rep. Eric Cantor Named Earth's #2 Enemy in Congress

Rep. John Boehner,  Rep. Eric CantorThe Los Angeles Times editorial board has named the "10 most powerful and outspoken opponents of clean air, clean water, conservation and climate action." Number two is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA):
2. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. The House Majority Leader released a memo in late August listing the top 10 "job-destroying regulations" his party would battle in the remainder of the congressional session. Seven were environmental rules opposed by the fossil fuel industry, including restrictions on emissions from industrial boilers and cement plants, and proposed rulemaking on smog, farm soot and greenhouse gases. None of these rules really threaten jobs, but failing to approve them would certainly threaten lives.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has rightly called this year's group, led by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) & Rep. Cantor, "the most anti-environment House in the history of Congress." A new report from Rep. Waxman, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) & Rep. Howard Berman (R-CA) details 191 House GOP votes targeting our air, water, wildlife & public health - an average of more than one anti-conservation bill per day the House has been in session.

And the number of job creation bills? Oh, right.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This is Important: Help Me Win an Internet Popularity Contest

I made the nominees for Favorite Activist in the Washington Post's DC Top Tweeps 2011, vote for me on question #11!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Will GOP Demand Drug Tests for Coal and Oil Subsidies?

Spirit of Freedom 2011 Jim ClyburnSteve Benen flags this quote:
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, a member of House Democratic leadership, told POLITICO he rejects a host of the top Republican offsets, illustrating the tricky path Democrats must travel when negotiating with the GOP.

“I have a real problem with what I consider a penalty to the federal employees; I got a real problem with the mandated drug testing for unemployment insurance,” he said Monday, citing an extended federal pay freeze and a favorite conservative change to jobless benefits. “We don’t demand drug testing for people getting farm subsidies.”
Will the GOP be demanding the CEO of Exxon Mobil be drug tested before Big Oil gets the billions of dollars in subsidies that the GOP supports? What about for nuclear power industry executives and the billions in subsidies House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has asked for? How about here in Virginia, where tens of millions of dollars in subsidies for mining & burning coal are handed out each year - will Gov. Bob McDonnell & Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli be forcing Dominion Virginia Power CEO Tom Farrell to fill a Dixie cup to prove he's clean?

Of course not. Republicans only want to bully the least powerful & most vulnerable among us in the 99%. The 1% can keep collecting their huge taxpayer subsidies, no questions asked.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reducing Phone Footprints

Considering how many cell phones & accessories often end up in landfills, it's nice to see AT&T taking steps to cut its impact. Some of the features on its new Motorola P793 Back-Up Battery Charger:
  • 25 percent of the plastic in the external housing of the Motorola P793 Back-Up Battery Charger is made from recycled post-consumer water-cooler bottles.
  • The Back-up Battery Charger shuts itself off automatically once fully charged, reducing wasted energy.
  • First product certified CarbonFree® by that is being sold by AT&T. Sufficient carbon offsets were purchased to offset the carbon emissions demonstrated by a lifecycle analysis to be required for the manufacturing, transport, use and end-of-life phases of the device.
  • Recently, AT&T announced plans to introduce new plastic in AT&T-branded accessory packaging, which is comprised of up to 30 percent plant-based materials sourced from ethanol harvested from natural sugarcane.
Check out more on AT&T's environmental sustainability efforts.

Perry on "Solynda": Is It a Gaffe in a Party Where Ignorance is a Virtue?

Rick PerryTo the surprise of absolutely no one, presidential candidate and Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) said something else dumb:
But his attempt to turn this tough talk into an attack on the current administration came with a few of the verbal misstatements that have plagued other public appearances by Perry. While criticizing President Barack Obama for picking winners and losers in the energy industry, he bungled the name of the most famous energy company to go under despite government assistance.

"No greater example of it than this administration sending millions of dollars into the solar industry, and we lost that money," Perry began. "I want to say it was over $500 million that went to the country Solynda."
For the record, Solyndra was a company, not a country, and its bankruptcy was a small fraction of a broadly successful program to incentivize solar power.

After Republicans suffered a series of defeats in the 2011 elections, the media tried to frame the results as a rejection of the GOP "overreaching" by passing extremist policies. But as Karl Frisch pointed out, "Republicans did not overreach. What they did is who they are. It is what they stand for. It is what they campaign on."

Republicans have spent years devaluing intelligence & thoughtfulness. Republican voters keep picking candidates on the "incompetent & incapable" or "genuinely stupid" end of Bob Cesca's spectrum of ignorance like Sharron Angle & Christine O'Donnell over "genuinely smart but wrong" folks like Mike Castle & Sue Lowden. And Rick Perry seems to be not just ignorant but unserious, repeatedly making mistakes that show he's not even bothering to put in the time to try to get it right.

If Republican primary voters don't punish candidates for ignorance & mistakes, can Rick Perry's errors really be considered "gaffes"?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's Like Boxed Wine, But For Laundry Detergent

Spotted the new Seventh Generation EcoLogic laundry detergent bottles at Harris Teeter the other day:
Seventh Generation, the nation's leading brand of non-toxic household and personal care products, introduces a cutting-edge advancement in the art of sustainable product packaging -- a new liquid laundry detergent bottle made from 100 percent recycled cardboard and newspaper.

Seventh Generation's Natural 4X Laundry Detergent bottle, designed with its partners at Ecologic Brands, is unlike any other packaging currently found in the laundry aisle -- or any other aisle, for that matter. It features a rugged, fully-recyclable and even compostable outer shell made from 70 percent recycled cardboard fibers and 30 percent old newspaper fibers that supports a recyclable lightweight plastic pouch inside. By using 66 percent less plastic than typical 100 ounce 2X detergent bottles, the new container allows consumers to conserve effortlessly.
When it's empty, the outer cardboard & paper shell, #4 plastic pouch and the #5 cap can all be recycled. Makes you wonder why the pouches in boxed wine aren't recyclable like the boxes themselves.

It's a good reminder that recycling in your home is just one half of the equation. It's just as important to buy products made from recycled material to demonstrate there's a market for recycled material. And at the same time, products made from recycled material keep waste out of landfills, save energy, and reduce pollution.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Clarence Thomas' Wife Embraces The Nuttiest Climate Science Denier

Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, does weekly video conversations with some of the most extreme voices in conservative politics for the website The Daily Caller. I wouldn't even describe her guests as Republicans - most are from the extreme conservative fringe, well outside the party mainstream. And they're not interviews - the website describes them as "sit downs" and Thomas doesn't hide her full political support ("What can people do who believe in what you are saying?").

Lord Monckton confronted by youth climate change activists
One of Thomas' most recent fawning videos was with infamous science denier Lord Christopher Monckton. Revealingly, Monckton doesn't just deny climate science - he denies President Obama was born in the United States. Monckton has also called American climate activists "Hitler Youth." He had to be admonished to stop falsely claiming to be a member of Britain's House of Lords. And if all that wasn't enough, Monckton believes people with HIV should be quarantined.

It's telling how Thomas introduces the session. "The left despises Lord Christopher Monckton," she writes. No need to start with scientific credentials or the public good - right to bare-knuckled politics. While Thomas is clearly trying to ingratiate Monckton with her audience that despises the left, the statement simply isn't true. I love Lord Monckton! He's my favorite climate science denier! What better face of the movement of wealthy polluters trying to protect their reign over our land, air & water than this upper-class twit?

But Thomas's ridiculous source for climate propaganda comes into more serious question when you consider that Justice Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito are the final two holdouts on the Supreme Court still refusing to accept climate science or carbon regulations under the Clean Air Act. This puts Justice Thomas to the far right, beyond even Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia. If Lord Monckton's considered a credible climate voice, it's no wonder the Thomases are so misinformed.

Here you might be asking, but shouldn't a Supreme Court justice's spouse be allowed his or her own career? Unfortunately, Ginni and Clarence have repeatedly proven an inability to separate their personal & professional lives:
  • Justice Thomas refused to recuse himself from Bush v. Gore in 2000 even though Ginni was working at the conservative Heritage Foundation gathering resumes for appointments in a possible Bush administration
  • Common Cause revealed Justice Thomas failed to disclose nearly $700,000 of Ginni's Heritage Foundation income on Supreme Court reporting forms, prompting House Democrats to call for an investigation
  • After quitting Heritage, Ginni formed her own consulting firm, "So you can hire Ginni Thomas to help determine whether a bill will pass constitutional muster if it comes before, you know, her husband," as Slate's Dave Weigel put it
Can you imagine what Glenn Beck would've done to the Thomases if they were liberal? He'd have needed a second chalkboard to diagram all that.

Above and beyond climate change, I was blown away Thomas asking Lord Monckton, "How are today’s politicians transferring real legislative power away from the consent of the governed as laid out by our founders?" If the Founding Fathers heard someone asking a hereditarily-titled British aristocrat for advice on how to run America's government, they'd urge that person to take the next loyalist boat back to George III's kingdom.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Surprise: Study from Energy Industry-Packed Commission Presented as Pro-Uranium Mining

As the Virginia General Assembly considers a mining company's request to lift the state's longtime moratorium on digging up radioactive uranium, a new study is making some big claims about economic impacts. But considering the commission that requested the study, should we be surprised the study puts questionable jobs claims first and buries ominous warnings further down?

The report was produced by Chmura Economics & Analytics for the Virginia Coal & Energy Commission. As Bacon's Rebellion blogger Peter Galuszka first pointed out, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) is so terrified of the possibility of any dissent on the Coal & Energy Commission, he didn't appoint a single representative from conservation groups or from activist groups in Virginia's Southside, where the proposed uranium mining would take place.

Stacking the deck doesn't even begin to describe McDonnell's appointees:
  • Barbara Altizer, president & executive director of the Eastern Coal Council
  • Jodi Gidley, president of Virginia Natural Gas
  • Ken Hutcheson, former GOP strategist and president of Virginia Alternative and Renewable Energy Association, whose main mission seems to be to help Gov. McDonnell and the Virginia Petroleum Council greenwash
  • James K. Martin, senior vice president for Dominion Power
  • John Matney, president of the Harbor Company & president of the coal mining Stearns Company
  • Donald L. Ratliff, vice president for coal mining Alpha Natural Resources, LLC
  • Rhonnie Smith, retired from nuclear reactor maker B&W
When reporting to a commission like that, it's no wonder Chmura made sure to highlight the positives and downplay the potentially disastrous negatives:
  • “[T]he risks and rewards are not balanced, and the adverse economic impact under the worst-case scenario is nearly twice as great as the corresponding positive impact in our best-case scenario.” (page 7)
  • "[T]he historic track record of the uranium industry—largely forged in the unregulated period of the 1950s and 1960s—is poor with an established legacy of water, soil, and air contamination, which has elevated the health risks for the surrounding communities.” (p. 17)
  • "Even under the best of circumstances, Chmura judges some adverse health effects and environmental contamination is likely.” (p. 83)
Up next is a National Academy of Sciences recap of existing science surrounding uranium mining. Among the questions still unanswered: What do we know about the risk to drinking water in case of a natural disaster? Would already-underfunded Virginia agencies be able to sufficiently protect the public? What do we know about the quality of the uranium and how that could affect demand for it in an uncertain market?

Learn more about why eliminating the uranium mining moratorium would be such a bad deal for Virginia at

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why I'm Sorta Glad Jon Huntsman Flip-Flopped on Climate Science

Republicans DebatePresidential candidate Jon Huntsman might be best known for tweeting his support for the science of evolution and climate change. But at a blogger event today at the polluter-funded Heritage Foundation, TPM reports Huntsman was flip-flopping his way back to the GOP presidential pack's consensus science denial:
Jon Huntsman attended a packed blogger sit down at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro attended, pressing the GOP presidential candidate about his position on climate change.

In August, Huntsman acknowledged the broad body of science pointing to climate change. Seated at an elite conservative think tank, however, Huntsman played a different tune, saying climate scientists “owe us more” information before we can decide if climate change is real.

“I think there’s probably more debate to be played out within the scientific community,” he said.
Obviously, it can't be considered a good thing when the leaders of a major political party are required to reject mainstream science. But then again, it wasn't exactly helping the scientific cause to have Huntsman be the only GOP candidate in the field to fully accept climate science ... while polling at 1%. And it was crazy to see reporters overlooking Huntsman's extremist plan to raise taxes on seniors, veterans & the poor to fund huge tax cuts for the 1%, calling him "moderate" solely based on his support for science.

What IS heartening is that the Republican field's climate science denial may actually be turning some voters into climate science believers. A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed the public’s awareness of climate threats up in recent months. Meanwhile, majorities of Republican voters continue to say the world’s temperature is going up, and that it’s partly or mostly due to human activities. And a new Pew poll shows the GOP primary race hurting the party among independents, with 29% taking a dimmer view of the party, compared to just 10% with a more favorable view (the unmoved 61% is probably a testament to just how few voters are paying attention yet).

So do I wish Huntsman had stuck to climate reality? Sure. But Huntsman's abandonment of the truth says a lot more about his own desperation to get in lockstep with an out-of-touch GOP field than it does about climate science.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Today's Reminders the Climate Crisis Continues Unabated

As UN climate talks meander along in South Africa, Grist's David Roberts says our window for being able to stop catastrophic climate change with small steps may have already closed:
It's simple: If there is to be any hope of avoiding civilization-threatening climate disruption, the U.S. and other nations must act immediately and aggressively on an unprecedented scale. That means moving to emergency footing. War footing. "Hitler is on the march and our survival is at stake" footing. That simply won't be possible unless a critical mass of people are on board. It's not the kind of thing you can sneak in incrementally.

It is unpleasant to talk like this. People don't want to hear it. They don't want to believe it. They bring to bear an enormous range of psychological and behavioral defense mechanisms to avoid it. It sounds "extreme" and our instinctive heuristics conflate "extreme" with "wrong." People display the same kind of avoidance when they find out that they or a loved one are seriously ill. But no doctor would counsel withholding a diagnosis from a patient because it might upset them. If we're in this much trouble, surely we must begin by telling the truth about it.
Also today, The Onion looks back at what a science-based response to the climate crisis might have looked like.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Uranium Mining to Make Virginia Glow "an Eerie Green," Says House GOP

The "un-official blog of the Virginia House of Delegates GOP Caucus" put up a post on uranium mining this morning that quickly disappeared. Maybe someone thought that telling Virginians that uranium mining would make something (land? water? Virginians?) glow "an eerie green" was maybe not the best messaging? Heck, even the words "uranium deposit" are written in Incredible Hulk green:
The blog is written anonymously, calls itself unofficial, and isn't hosted on a government or party site. Given how sloppily written the blog is and how it presents House Republicans as little more than industry sock puppets, I'm not surprised there's no name on it. Unfortunately that makes it impossible to know who wrote it, what they were thinking, or who made the frantic phone call to for god's sake take down that post before anyone sees it.

But isn't that symbolic of the whole effort? Virginia Uranium is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into political donations and lobbying hoping to jam through a repeal of Virginia's sensible uranium mining ban before anyone notices its wild inflation of economic impacts or how similar fool's gold like oil and gas fracking has brought unhappiness to towns from North Dakota to Pennsylvania.

Learn more about why lifting Virginia's ban uranium mining would be such a bad deal for Virginians from Keep the Ban and ProgressVA.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Wish This Was ...

I wish this was a grocery!A New Orleans artist has created an interesting way to let both owners of derelict properties and city officials know the space could be greater. Candy Chang has printed (easily-removed) stickers that read "I Wish This Was" with space for residents to fill in what they'd like to see in their neighborhood. The responses are revealing - everything from the practical ("a grocery") to the truly wishful ("Brad Pitt's house").

More background on the project:
I Wish This Was began in New Orleans in November 2010. It was inspired by vacant storefronts. There are a lot of them where Candy lives in New Orleans. There are also a lot of people who need things, including a full-service grocery store. What if we could easily voice what we want, where we want it? How can we influence the businesses and services in our neighborhoods?

Combining street art and urban planning, Candy created fill-in-the-blank stickers that say "I wish this was ____." With support from the Ethnographic Terminalia exhibit, she placed boxes of free stickers in businesses around the city and posted grids of blank stickers and a permanent marker on vacant storefronts to invite passersby to write their thoughts. The stickers are vinyl and they can be easily removed without damaging property. Responses ranged from the functional to the poetic: I wish this was… a butcher shop, a community garden, a bike rack, an affordable farmer's market, a Chinese restaurant, a place to sit and talk, Brad Pitt's house, real soul food, a dancing school, full of nymphomaniacs with PhDs, Heaven. It's a fun, low-barrier tool to provide civic input onsite, and the responses reflect the hopes, dreams, and colorful imaginations of different neighborhoods.
You can learn more (and buy the stickers) at

One of my favorites:
I wish this was a bike rack

Are there any places in your neighborhood you'd stick these up? What do you wish it was?

Crop Fail

Sadly, my spontaneous backyard corn never rose above three feet or so. As my friend Andrea first pointed out, does this mean I get to cash in my federal crop insurance?