IBI Watch 6/2/13

2 06 2013

Happy-Talk or Sustainability? //

The future world will be the result of our choices as individuals, but also as societies. I think about that when I hear the growing chorus of well-meaning people who have a “solution” to the mounting crisis of bee die-off. They prescribe a laudable individual choice – plant more flowers, particularly native varieties. You can glean plenty of that good advice in this recent Star Tribune article, and also this NPR interview with scientist Marla Spivak.

It’s hard to argue with advice such as planting less grass and more flowers. After all, our chemically nurtured lawns are a big part of the problem – grass is nothing like a natural habitat for insects, and the fertilizers and weed killers create all manner of environmental problems. But this is clearly a case where individual virtue can make us feel good, but will go only so far in solving the serious environmental problem.

Articles about bee decline, or colony collapse disorder, carry a common theme. It could have multiple causes, we are told – fungus, landscape changes, mites, etc. Neonicotinoid pesticides are mentioned, but sometimes as an afterthought. Minnesota author William Souder – who recently wrote an acclaimed biography of environmental pioneer Rachel Carson – sees a Silent Spring connection. And look at this piece from MPR featuring beekeeper Steve Ellis. Make sure you watch the imbedded two-minute video.

Since research shows the pesticides affect bees’ navigation and orientation, and that is exactly what beekeepers are observing, a sensible approach would be to ban the stuff – particularly considering what is at stake. Our friends in Europe have seen enough. To us environmentalists, that sure looks like a prudent choice, considering the evidence and the risk. But here in the US, we are no nervous nellies, by God.

I fear this controversy is devolving into another policy-paralyzing stalemate – like the granddaddy of those standoffs, climate change. Powerful moneyed interests insist there is no danger, or insufficient proof, or the cost of fixing the problem is too high – as the situation warrants. Pick your business-as-usual-preserving argument, and go for it. It’s a winning formula. Just ask ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, back in the news this week with some creative new magical thinking.

Though the issue of bee decline is not as much in the public eye – for now – as climate change, I see the cause of “controversy” and resultant policy paralysis as one and the same – corporate control of the system. (How is that last article for a laugh?) The cure is the same as well – getting corporate money out of politics.

If we don’t get smart, we will push pollinators, the climate and who knows what else beyond the point of recovery before we finally set about creating sustainable, common-good policies that serve us all in the long run. In the meantime, let’s plant lots of pretty native flowers. They provide some beauty as we rearrange the deck chairs. And let’s play some fiddle music while we watch the fires. Worked well for Nero.

Climate Change Awareness and Action

Despite the almost daily recent weather events with varying levels of connection to climate change – the repeated pounding of the Plains by tornadoes and armadas of slow-moving storms, the freakish late-spring snowstorm in the Adirondacks, the fast-melt flood destruction of a small Alaska village to name just a few, a significant portion of the American public has still not connected with reality. Part of this refusal to respect scientific facts – carbon dioxide at about 400 parts per million is radically changing weather patterns – can be traced to the propaganda of Tillerson and company. But not all of it. Remember that accepting manmade climate change as real will require change and sacrifice, especially from us in the comfortably rich West. That’s inconvenient, and we just wanna be happy.

But prominent activists are keeping up the pressure. Former Vice President Al Gore’s latest message compares our treatment of the atmosphere to dumping waste in a sewer. Dr. Paul Ehrlich – he of The Population Bomb fame – writes about planetary limits. And Organizing for Action is raising a ruckus within the Obama Administration – trying to get the president to take a stance worthy of his campaign positions on climate change issues – mainly the Keystone XL pipeline.

This blog post offers suggestions for our mission – should we choose to accept. That would be – talking to ideological conservatives about climate change. The prime directive – awaken a critical mass of the public so we can build climate-friendly policies and clean energy before it is too late. The single biggest step, I believe, would be a carbon fee, along the lines of the system suggested by activist and former NASA meteorologist James Hansen. And an essential interim step is halting the madness of tar sands oil, by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline – a main cause of longtime climate activist Bill McKibben.

Ceding Land to Nature

For environmentalists, it’s an inviting prospect – returning certain lands to something like a wild state. Watch this short video by George Monbiot (author of Heat) to get an idea of what this is about. If this sounds a bit romantic, quixotic, that’s because it is. While Monbiot points out that an area the size of Poland will be abandoned by agriculture in the next several decades, it is hard to imagine burgeoning humanity purposefully returning vast swathes of land to wildness. And yet, our technological blunders and wars have set up some dramatic, if little-realized, examples of just that.

Take Chernobyl’s neighborhood. Various accounts – including this one – have described Mother Nature’s rebound in the devastated area deemed too radioactive for human habitation. And further to the east – the standoff between the Kim dynasty in North Korea and its southern adversary has brought an endless hair-trigger drama to the peninsula. But the DMZ that divides the countries is something of a natural paradise – with no nuclear disaster either. Both areas, and so many others, are explored in a book I can’t recommend strongly enough – The World Without Us. Forget the movie by the same name, but I can guarantee that Alan Waisman’s book will get you thinking in new ways about the relationship between the natural world and humankind’s stamp upon it.

If Korea’s dictators named Kim finally come to their senses, and when Chernobyl’s curies finally diminish to tolerable levels for humans, it is hard to imagine wise leaders setting such prime real estate aside for nature. But still, groups dream and – more important – act.  The DMZ Ecology Research Institute’s work is featured in this post. There appears to be no group specifically working to preserve the Chernobyl exclusion zone, but you can learn more here from Voice of America’s bureau chief in Moscow.

Closer to home, and actually all over, this group works to connect wild areas, even in the midst of ribbons of freeways. That is exactly the message that emerges from another of my oft-recommended sources, David Quammen’s The Song of the Dodo.

Own a Little Less; Share a Little More

I am a lifelong advocate for and user of public transit. I started out riding to high school via the Q1 bus and the E train in Queens NY. Nowadays, I live in a southeast suburb of St. Paul MN. I still find ways to use transit whenever possible – I rarely drive to work for instance. But many people resist public transit because they “need” a car. And indeed, transit does not go everywhere. But several encouraging trends are sidelining more autos – and the beneficiaries are many. First, check this NPR story on bicycle sharing systems. It’s well produced and tells a very positive story. And car sharing is also on the rise. Here is an overview, with a cover quote from, of all people, the Chairman of Ford Motor Company. Young people are just not as enamored with the car as my generation, and that is a good thing for this crowded planet of ours.

Dingbats Stifled

There are two losses to report this week.

When the passing of Jean Stapleton was announced yesterday, I felt I had lost a member of my family. Her most famous character, All in the Family’s Edith, was the wise, kind foil to her husband, the irascible bigot Archie Bunker. OK, so my mom is not much like Edith. My dad on the other hand, had much in common philosophically with the immortal Arch. I reminded him of this so frequently that for the last few years of his life, he called me Meathead at least as often as I called him Arch. Of course, Stapleton was a fine actress who had other roles, including a portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt. RIP, Jean Stapleton. Those were indeed the days.

The other passing is not a death at all, but a departure nonetheless. If you can watch the eight-minute farewell video, you have more patience than me. (For a shorter, comical version try this.) But scroll down for the amazing, facts-be-damned quote collection. What politician has provided more entertainment than our own Michele Bachmann? I am indeed sad to report this departure. And cartoonists are in mourning all over. But let’s give credit where it is due. The lady did win four congressional elections – no small achievement. And she also set herself up as a weighty scientific voice. Aye, we will miss ye dearly, Congresswoman Bachmann.

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”

― Albert Einstein


Contributed links to this posting – Allyson Harper


Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN



3 responses

4 06 2013
Mr Ramatís

The R20 – Regions of Climate Actions.

Please, help us to protect our forests, all forests on world, and our planet .
Please, I want to participate of the R 20.

REF: New proposal for a new social, environmental, humanitarian, political, and economic business for a reduction of up to 45% of gge´s and REDD, a reduction of environmental catastrophes, and generate savings to avoid world economic interest.

CPDT-EFF – Our Actions immediate:

1 -Request of a meeting to introduce a new proposal world interest to promote social, environmental, scientific, political, and economic education.
2 – Implement immediate actions to reduce gee´s up to 45%, hyper rationalization of water, to protect amazon forests, any forests and property against fires, reduction of catastrophes and reduction of us$3 trillion/year in losses that threaten world economy. (UN)
3 – A joint effort among nations (220 countries) (UPPP) to implement this new technology and methodologies to immediately help and protect the planet, and create the green found for this (1, 2, 3).
4 – Important link from NASA = http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators#co2
5 – The Climate Central: = http://www.climatecentral.org/news/wild-weather-swings-may-be-a-sign-of-climate-change-15910
6 – The Climate Change = http://www.climatecentral.org/news/from-drought-to-floods-in-midwest-as-dryness-intensifies-in-west-15904
7 – The NASA – Climate Change = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0X3bp8NpDw and http://1.usa.gov/UsMPTK and http://eyes.nasa.gov/earth/

Dear Sirs,

I am a researcher, developer, and environmentalist.
My job is totally focused on the development of projects and solutions to reduce environment catastrophes originated from global warming and their consequent climate unbalance. These catastrophes have already caused losses between US$ 7,5 trillion dollars for the countries.
These new Technologies and new methodologies allow us to rewrite Science and the history of environment protection with the INSTANTANEOUS fighting of fires and the adoption of preventive actions that are much more EFF – Eco Fire Fighting Environment Prevention and Protectionicient for an immediate extinction of fires in buildings, offices, farms, reforesting companies, forests, oil rigs, oil wells, ships, etc. All of this adds up to guarantee the immediate success of our proposals.
These new technologies and our new methodologies when used together allow us to break paradigms through the exchange of 4.000 ° C of heat to sheer 45 ° C of heat in only 3 seconds (see attachment Fire Extinguisher)
These features that allow us to immediately extinguish all kinds of fires serve to help us reduce emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere and reduce the greenhouse gas effect, EFF (REDD) from 25% to 45% that, according to McKinsey Company, generate every year billions of dollars in CARBON CREDIT (see potential description in English in attached file – carbon credit) Therefore, we are introducing a proposal of a new great and sustainable business in the Twenty-first century that adds very low risk to the investors.
Not only carbon credit becomes a source of income, but also the sales of new equipment, additives, capsules, etc… the monitoring service plus the “assets and environmental protection plan” that can guarantee the development of a monthly portfolio of clients even without the occurrence of fires, as it happens with car insurance plans, real state insurance plans, or health plans.
To provide support to the interests of countries , our Research Center EFF, we also consider the need of performing via the full institutes, foundations. It will be institutes or foundations, ongs etc. an important tool working as a social and environmental arm to raise funds, collect donations and resources from the memberships and that will help to support the expenses of company’s and EFF and enable the company to render free fire extinguishing services to countries that cannot afford it and that do not have such technology and methodology to fight their fires, to protect lives and Nature.
The Institutes, foundations, ongs, will pay EFF to extinguish the fires to help countries. (see attachment with description in English – carbon credit + institute)
With all of this already planned and ready to be implemented in several steps, we bring the solution of major problems for which the world has not found a solution, yet.
We invite you to accept the invitation of joining EFF efforts and making money protecting the whole chain of life in the planet.
We count with your participation and support to help people, planet, and countries.
Best Regards

Mr. Ramatís
UPPP – Uniting Peoples to Protect the Planet.
Center of Researc and Technological Developments – CPDT-EFF – São Paulo – Brazil
RMT System – Forest Protection Program – Reduction of Environmental Catastrophes
CPDT-EFF – Eco Fire Fighting Prevenção e Proteção Ambiental – Eco Fire Fighting Environmental Prevention & Protection
São Paulo – Brasil – Phone: 55 11 9 9974-8553 VIVO – 11 9 6061-6272 TIM – 11 9 8990-9203 CLARO
Email: incendios.florestais.nuncamais@uol.com.br
Skype: ramatis.ramatis
Facebook: Ramatís Ramos

9 06 2013
IBI Watch 6/9/13 | IBI Watch

[…] piece, looks promising. Watch the trailer here. Also – I wrote a lead story on this issue in last week’s post – see Happy Talk or […]

18 08 2013
IBI Watch 8/18/13 | IBI Watch

[…] plight of pollinators – mainly honeybees and bumblebees – has been very much in the public eye of late. And the pace, sadly, seems to be quickening. Not necessarily in public policy debates at a level […]

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