Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reflections on the News - 8/19/2009

Today's sustainability news (see below post) gives us both reasons for hope and reasons for, um, getting our asses in gear on climate change and other sustainability solutions.

We start out with news from the renewable energy industry that in May, a record 13% of America's electricity came from renewable sources (which does includes big hydro, but growth was pronounced in wind and solar, and we're not exactly building more big dams, thankfully).

The national security benefits of climate change/clean energy solutions, which people seem to be talking about more lately -- especially since former Republican Senator, John Warner, encouraged it -- are outlined in a timely NY Times Op-ed piece. An article from the greater Portland, Oregon area tells the story about stimulus funds being used to train community college students to install wind turbines. Green jobs -- bring 'em on!

Switching topics to the many benefits of biodiversity, I loved the next piece about how common kitchen herbs like rosemary, thyme and mint can be used to create pesticides for crops. Sure, they're not necessarily super-effective yet, but researchers are looking into how to convert these herbs' pest-fighting compounds into safer pesticides that protect our crops without the nasty ecosystem and health impacts of many chemical pesticides.

Next we dive into High Country News -- among my favorite publications -- for a story about how environmental groups are testing out a new legal hammer to try to slow clearcutting in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains: the climate change/carbon impact of this cutting. This will be an interesting case to follow...

The last two stories are both "Impacts of Unsustainability" stories -- about the bad things that sustainable practices help us to avoid.

The first, the observed increase in methane bubbling up into the Arctic Ocean (and our atmosphere) as our poles warm, really gave me pause. Methane (another carbon emission - CH4) is MANY times more powerful of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So any sudden spike in methane could push our climate beyond a dangerous threshold, which might result in... Sudden collapse of the gulf stream? Unexpectedly rapid sea level rise? Climate changes that result in large-scale agricultural failures? Pick your poison -- the bottom line is that we really don't know what we're messing with by continuing practices that destabilize the earth's climate system... Do you actually want to find out?

Finally, the last piece -- from the esteemed medical establishment of Johns Hopkins University -- is yet another reminder that our food production system needs some serious work. That practices that generate pollution are also notso good for our public health. In this case, the article reports on alarming findings about how factory farms are breeding antibiotic resistant pathogens (and other diseases, like swine flu). Clearly, getting these pollution problems fixed is an important item on our to-do list for fostering the growth of a more sustainable society.

That's it for today - enjoy, and help us educate by spreading the word about CV Notes!


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