Now that both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions have been completed and we are headed into a heated 90 day battle between the big choice of two candidates, it’s time to start comparing them. Unfortunately, when it comes to the environment, neither are looking so hot (unlike our planet….but that’s another story).  Sure, one is  lesser of the two evils when it comes to energy policy, but it would be nice if we had a few more people to choose from (once again…that’s another story).  And since there are no third-party candidates who are likely to take any votes from these two, let’s just look at them!

Let’s start with the newcomer, Mitt Romney. AP and Romney share an interesting history, as he was once the governor of our founding state: Massachusetts.  Now you might wonder how such a progressive state would vote in a conservative, well he ran on a different platform back then (yet again…that’s another story). If we were talking about Romney from 6 years ago, this would be a different story. In fact, some of his environmental moves have inspired some of Obama’s.

However, let’s talk Romney running today. He does have some interesting ties to Big Oil and has accepted campaign donations from them. In return, he has stated that he will expand drilling for both gas and oil in the United States. He also plans on extending the Big Oil tax cuts and subsidies, yet at the same time, opposes any tax incentives to alternative energy production within the US. And on that note, he is also against raising standards for energy efficiency in general. He seems to oppose any environmental technology advances, even making the statements: “You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it,” and “[fuel efficiency standards are] disadvantageous for domestic manufacturers.” Even further frustrating is his stance on public lands. He has supported the Paul Ryan budget that calls for the selling of 3.3 million acres of public lands to private industry. And don’t even get me started on Global Warming, although once stating that humans were speeding up the production of carbon emissions, he now mocks that idea.

If this future seems a little bleak, we do have a little better news coming from the blue camp. During the 2008 election, Obama spoke a LOT about the environment, clean energy, and green jobs. However, his track record as President hasn’t actually put these ideas into motion. He has mentioned in State of the Union addresses and taken a pledge  that the Federal government should cut oil subsidies and use them to invest in alternative energy.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened in the last four years. Perhaps it something for the future four years? He has also mentioned  investing Federal funds in alternative energies, however, he lists “clean” coal and nuclear as sources of renewable energy. In a bit of good news, he has put into place some energy efficiency standards that will bring commercial facilities to be more efficient by 2025, initiated new rules on emissions from coal power plants that will save lives, and set a goal of 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025.

We are pleased with some of these initiatives, but disappointed in his track record. He does support green jobs and promised 5 million, however, we haven’t really seen that plan come to fruition. He’s also increased offshore drilling and done little in the way of ending fracking. He also has spoken for fighting Global Warming in the past, but has failed to mention it in this campaign or done little to work on this issue over the past four years. However, it should be noted the State Department under his administration is working on international pollution regulations. That being said, he has a pretty inconsistent record on environmental policy. 

So there you have it, a quick rundown of both main candidates views on the environment. It’s looking like we have a choice of a C or F student. So take your pick! Personally, we will have to go with the lesser of two evils on the environmental front. Here’s to hoping over the next few months the campaign focuses on these environmental issue a little more!

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The popsicles are melting and the temperature gage continues to rise. The kids have taken to the streets to cool off under the stream of the fire hydrant and even the dogs are hiding under the shade of the trees. It’s a bonafide heat wave! If this sounds familiar, it’s because the US has been under a nationwide heat wave for the past few weeks. Yes, it is the middle of July, but is there something more sinister at work? With temperatures rising steadily, a lack of winter, and crazy, unpredictable weather, it’s hard not to pose the question. In fact, last week the entire country suffered temperatures well into the 100’s.

In a new study from the American Meterological Society they answer that very question. It states that heat waves are directly related to global warming and  they are on the rise!  The study points out that several heat waves have been connected to human-made global warming. These heat waves include last year’s brutal heat in Texas which was considered 20 times more likely to occur due to global warming and November’s warmer than normal temperature in England was 62 times more likely.   This study marks a new feature in climate science, where it has usually taken years to compile weather studies, this one was able to be analyzed and published within several months. This is groundbreaking science that is sure to help shed some light on the issues we are to face.

If you thought that was bad news, it only gets worse. In another study published by Stanford last year stated that the US is “likely to undergo extreme summer temperature shifts within 60 years.  Yup, expect more droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, tornados, fires, floods and any other weather extreme that will terrify and complicate our modern lives. But not all disasters have been directly connected to global warming including recent floods in Thailand. Monsoons are common in Thailand and researches have related these particular floods to rapid development, meaning more people in more vulnerable areas.

And as the temperature continues to rise, we lose more and more of our polar ice. In 2011, the Artic warmed as a whole and was at it’s second lowest level since we humans started keeping track. In case you haven’t heard, this is causing the sea levels to rise at a steady pace.  Higher sea levels means less land for humans and animals alike and with our population reaching 7 billion, major social issues are headed our way.

Basically all this news is bleak and a bit scary. Is there anything we can do? It’s unlikely we will be able to slow the affects already set in motion. However, we need to get serious about changing our ways. What we have done to the Earth over the last Century needs to stop now. We need to figure out more sustainable energy and stop using gasoline like it’s water running from a tap. We also need to start planning for the future. Rather than deny the Earth is warming, we, as a society, must plan for the future. Acting now, could save countless lives and resources. You and I need to start pressuring our leaders to pay attention to these issues and we need to change our everyday actions. The heat is on, as the say, so let’s cool it down.

Climate change is fun!  No, wait.  Human-induced change of our global climate that threatens all life on earth is shocking and alarming.  But, that doesn’t mean one can’t have fun raising awareness of the looming threat of global warming on a day in which people all over the world come together in like fashion to demonstrate how important this crisis is to them.  The day is this Saturday, October 24th, the International Day of Climate Action.  350.org is the day’s motivating force, the brainchild of Bill McKibben, renowned activist and author of the first book on global warming, “The End of Nature.”

350 Pyramids Action--Provided by 350.org

350 Pyramids Action--Provided by 350.org

The concept of 350.org is simple: 350 parts per million CO2 in our atmosphere is the limit at which global temperatures can remain balanced and non-destructive; anything beyond and we begin to see far-reaching effects, such as polar melting and erratic weather patterns.  And you guessed it: our current CO2 level as measured for 2009 is 387 parts per million, well into the danger zone.  350.org seeks to help reverse this destructive rise by calling critical attention to it through the use of mass demonstration around the world, this Saturday.

350 in the Maldives--Provided by 350.org

350 in the Maldives--Provided by 350.org

“There will be big rallies in big cities, and incredible creative actions across the globe: mountain climbers on our highest peaks with banners, underwater demonstrations in island nations threatened by sea level rise, churches and mosques and synagogues and ashrams engaged in symbolic action, star athletes organizing mass bike rides—and hundreds upon hundreds of community events to raise awareness of the need for urgent action.”  And the coolest thing is all of these events, largest to smallest, will incorporate “350” as an image, sometimes on signs and banners, sometimes spelled out over large areas with (live) human bodies.  These images will then be collected and presented to world leaders as an eye-opening expression of concern before they descend on Copenhagen in December to compose a new treaty on reducing emissions.

The beauty of this combined effort is that it’s “open source,” meaning you or anyone you know can spontaneously organize an event of any size or join one already planned.  International Day of Climate Action is a unique way to get out and help make change happen beyond the normal scope of one’s daily life.  Take advantage tomorrow and bring the idea of 350 to those who need to recognize it most!


earth-hour-logoAs many of you are aware, tomorrow Saturday March 28 marks the 3rd annual Earth Hour event when millions of people around the globe will switch their lights off for one full hour as a statement against global warming.

Earth Hour began in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses in Sydney, Australia switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness in solidarity of the event.

light-switchThis year, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people in cities and towns all over the globe all switching off their lights.  The media buzz around Earth Hour has grown so big that even restaurants and hotels are getting in on the fun and offering special Earth Hour promos  and romance packages as they dim their dining rooms to old fashioned candlelight.

earth-hour-posterIndeed, the folks behind the Earth Hour movement have done quite an impressive job at garnering attention, creating media buzz, and turning the heads of people and businesses not usually attuned to environmental causes.  Of course it didn’t hurt to have popular street artist Shepard Fairy (made ultra famous by his rendition of campaigning Barack Obama) rebrand the organization and create snazzy new posters and downloads for this year’s pledge to darkness.

However, not all environmentalists are impressed with this awareness initiative and many are criticizing the action as having little to do with the actual fight against global warming and more to do with celebrating the popularity of the group’s ability to create such a grand “feel good” gesture for the majority of the world.  It is slightly disturbing to see how many individuals are posting comments on blogs and participating in discussion groups that they are planning on diligently turning their lights out like a herd of sheep blindly following a shepherd without giving one thought to how they can more effectively help Mother Earth or make Earth Hour-like actions a part of their daily routine.

As Joel Makower of the Green Buzz states, “Turning off the lights for one hour seems a meek and hollow gesture, a feel-good measure that may fleetingly raise awareness, but does little to educate or change long-term habits, let along “take control over the future of our planet.” It is, simply put, a media event in search of actual content.”

Makower has a point.   Earth Hour’s Take Action campaign simply tells people how to help spread the word about Earth Hour, how to stage their very own Earth Hour event (do people really need more of an excuse to throw a party in the dark??) and how to win their video contest on what they did during Earth Hour, rather than giving any real advice or imparting any true wisdom on what people can do to help stop global warming.

Non-profits and other small organizations that campaign tirelessly for environmental causes and struggle daily to get the general public involved with their actions are understandably fed up and irritated with the Earth Hour blitz.  competitive-enterprise-institute-logoThe Washington DC-based think tank the Competitive  Enterprise Institute is staging its own event tomorrow in protest.  This free-market advocacy group has been known to promote market-based, non-solution solutions to environmental crises.  They’ve recently been in the press for their satiric “Celebrate Coal!” rally last month.  Their very public knock against Earth Hour is the “Human Achievement Hour” in which humans are celebrated and encouraged to go about their regular Saturday night routine of going to the movies or going out to dinner.  As CEI states on their website, “Anyone not foregoing the use of electricity in [Earth] hour is, by default, celebrating the achievements of human beings.”

So what will you be doing tomorrow night?  Sitting in the dark or brilliantly enjoying the fruits of human innovation?

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