Almost all of the episodes of Eco-Logic that I do are done live and unscripted. I've been asked to transcribe shows for the internet, but I prefer to keep everything vocal, as it was on the air originally. This show is an exception because it was a show I read on the air - it was "transcribed" ahead of time, so it's a simpler matter to code it for the worldwide web. Now Eco-Logic will be found by more search engines. :-)
There was information on many different topics on this show. I had been going to a lot of conferences and symposiums to get information and guests for future Eco-Logics. They were various combinations of scientific, architectural, activist and educational. I would usually mention the events on the air ahead of time in the news section that I open every show with. But I realized that I rarely told the listeners what happened at those conferences and symposiums and even then not in great detail; I was being a bit of a tease. So it was about time I reported on them and devoted an entire show to them.
I'll leave out the announcements I made of events that have already happened. Ongoing actions I'll leave in.
There's a Chinese proverb: "If we don't change direction, we're likely to end up where we're going." Even Exxon is admitting to global warming though I believe they're still funding the so-called think tank in Annapolis that is putting out so many "global warming controversy" public relations reports. It's time to go beyond changing light bulbs and affect public policy. Together we can reverse climate destruction before it's irreversible. Many aspects of society contributed to the current climate crisis so it will take many strategies and tactics to fix it. Legislation is a tool, not a goal. The goal is less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
When Mayor Bloomberg announced PlaNYC 2030 he mentioned that buildings account for the highest percentage of energy used in New York City. Buildings are built "to code," the very minimum of standards they can design, engineer and build to and not be arrested. Those standards need to be improved and energy use included in the improvement.
There is a lot of potential for solar energy in NYC, particularly outside Manhattan. The permitting process to put solar panels on buildings discourages many installers from working in New York City and also discourages people from getting solar panels. One solar installer in Queens told me he does almost all of his work in Nassau and Suffolk Counties because the permitting process there is so much better than in the five boroughs (Long Island recently celebrated its 1,000th solarized home [by 2009, there were 2,000, while NYC has about 70!]). New York City needs a streamlined permitting process.
We've seen in the past how permit streamlining has helped an industry and created jobs. When the permitting process for filming movies and TV shows was streamlined, more movies, commercials and TV shows started being shot in New York City to great economic benefit and there are still a lot of jobs in that industry. Streamlined solar permits would be an economic and environmental benefit and environmental benefits are also health benefits because less pollution means a cleaner environment, which is a healthier environment to live in. It shouldn't be too hard to do this with positives like that, but Con Edison actively opposes it. They don't want hundreds of mini power plants on people's homes. Citizen activism has won over Con Ed lobbying before and can again. And in fact, someone from City government told me they're trying to convince Albany to let them improve the situation for solar installers and could use citizen help. Contact your state senators and assembly.
The tropical rainforests are among the greatest carbon sinks in the world. That is, they take carbon from the atmosphere, thus lessening the greenhouse effect, so climate destruction is slowed down. With enough forest, it can be reversed. Cutting down those forests has the opposite effect and one of the main reasons they're cut down is because Americans buy that wood rather than local wood or wood alternatives. The government of New York City is the #1 customer of tropical rainforest wood in the U.S., probably in the world. New Yorkers need to urge City government to switch to local wood or better yet, using recycled plastic as a substitute. Every acre of forest preserved is homes for wildlife preserved and climate destruction slowed down. Rainforest Relief is lobbying for passage of the City Council Resolution #782, which calls on the governor to pass an executive order to mandate that state agencies use recycled plastic lumber in outdoor applications and also to allow the NYC City Council to do the same. For more information, go to www.rainforestrelief.org.
The boreal forests of Canada might be the largest intact forest eco-system on Earth and another great carbon sink. The main reason those forests are destroyed is to make toilet paper and paper for catalogues. Recycled paper is available for that. Boreal forests are being logged at a rate of two acres a minute, 24 hours a day. When forests are cut, instead of taking in carbon dioxide, CO2 is given off and pollution put into the local ground and water eco-system. For more information, go to the Wetlands Activism Collective web site or phone 347-293-2217.
From renewableenergyaccess.com comes this: According to a recent Roper survey commissioned by Sharp Electronics Corporation, nearly 90 percent of Americans think that solar electricity should be an option for all new home construction, up significantly from one year ago when it was 79 %. Three-quarters of survey respondents perceive solar power to be more important than ever. That doesn't mean the building industry will comply nor does it mean there will be a policy change within the Bush administration. That takes citizen activism.
While I'm mentioning web sites, check out Freecycle.org and freegan.info. The best recycling is reusing and that's what they do, saving tons of usable stuff from becoming garbage. Like we need more garbage. Freecycle is national, by the way.
There is a weekly internet TV show on water issues every Thursday at noon. Go to www.goodnewsbroadcast.com and click on The Water Hour.
You can recycle old clothing, shoes and household linens every Monday at the Union Square Greenmarket. Bring your textiles to the Greenmarket at 17th Street and Park Ave, Mondays between 8 AM & 6 PM. Materials will be used or recycled through Goodwill Industries, who will provide receipts upon request for those who wish to use their donation as a tax-deductible contribution. There is also someone there doing worm composting, also on Mondays, toward the eastern end of the Union Square Greenmarket. [Since this show was aired, the composting is now done on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays as well.]
Any of you in environmental groups that want me to mention your events in this section of Eco-Logic can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. WBAI-FM is a commercial-free radio station, so they should be free events.
Sign up for more information on renewable energy and green buildings at NeighborhoodEnergyNetwork.org. Go to the "Contact us" page. Some weeks you might get some information by e-mail every other day and other weeks nothing. You'll get the full story of some of the news I summarize on Eco-Logic and a lot of news I just don't get to. NEN is linked on the Eco-Logic web page.
All WBAI shows are available on archive.wbai.org. Some, such as this one, for 90 days, some for two weeks. Go to past guests on the Eco-Logic web page to see a list of what shows we've done, then listen to the shows that interest you by scrolling to that date and time.
And last, but not least: I have an environmental story coming out. The second issue of the horror comic Psychosis has a story about a hurricane that I wrote. It's scheduled to be released in July and is mostly only available in comic book specialty stores. Check your yellow pages.
The conference and symposium reports:
Individual choices are not enough to solve global climate destruction; it'll take policy changes. It was pretty much universal at all of these conferences. That was said by Roger Toussant, president of the Transit Workers Union; David Foster, president of the Steelworkers Union; Dr. Robert Socolow of Princeton University; Werner Schneider of Germany's Alliance for Work and Environment and many others. Roger Toussant pointed out that The Market is what brought about the problem; it won't be able to solve it. So did Ken Neumann of the Steelworkers Union in Canada. David Foster called climate change the biggest failure of capitalism.
The fact that buildings waste so much energy and contribute so much to climate destruction came up on many occasions, not just in the building-oriented seminars. Many speakers pointed out that suburban sprawl is one of the biggest contributors to the climate crisis. Larger suburban homes use and waste more energy and longer commutes to work and shop use and waste more gasoline. It all adds up.
PlaNYC2030 came up in a lot of conferences. Many people who are often critical of government were praising it, but all are wondering what will actually get done. I was tempted to do a whole episode of Eco-Logic on PlaNYC2030, but it has gotten a lot of publicity already. I'd rather devote one of my nine or ten Eco-Logics per year on how it's doing, not on the rhetoric, maybe in a year. You know, actions do speak louder than words. [Since this show, very little improvement has been made, PlaNYC2030 is still mostly empty words.]
It bothers me that most of the mainstream media is on only one of the 127 points in the plan: congestion pricing. What's interesting about congestion pricing is that in all the cities that have put it in there was a public outcry against it and more often than not whatever politician put in the congestion pricing was voted out of office in the next election and the new politician would take congestion pricing away. And when it was taken away and suddenly everything was noisier and slower and unhealthier, the people who were against it were like "Oh! I like it better with less congestion" and more often than not, they'll vote the previous person back in and get congestion pricing back. What amazes me is that this will happen even in different cities in the same country as if it was going to be different in their area than in the last city.
And everywhere I saw examples of how Germany is going to be 100% renewable electricity by 2030. They're still ahead of schedule on that. I saw many examples of how their homes use less energy, which is the key to getting to 100%. The less energy you use, the sooner you can supply ALL your needs with renewables. Conservation and efficiency costs less to do - in fact it's often free - it's easier to do and gives you benefits immediately. And when I say benefits, I mean to you monetarily and to the planet by less greenhouse gases being put into the atmosphere, and also to the local job market. What kind of economic powerhouse will Germany be in 20 years? Free electricity for all, healthcare for all, and higher education for all who show aptitude. How can a U.S. company compete if we stay on our current path? Predictably, many European countries are copying the German renewable model. I wish that would be done in the U.S.!
The NY Academy of Sciences did a presentation on Asthma. I went to it thinking, "All you ever hear about asthma is sound bites. Maybe I can get more info." This is what I got: pollution from cars and trucks makes asthma worse. That's it. For three hours, that's what I got. Well, "Duhh!" There were a lot of community groups there and they wanted to know more. The scientists wouldn't say that it causes asthma. They made analogies to the claims in the '60s that tobacco causes cancer; that it took a long time to have absolute scientific proof that would stand up in court. So therefore, they're being cautious. It's okay for a community group to say pollution obviously causes asthma because where do you have a lot of asthma? In places where there's a lot of pollution. "Duhh." But scientists take years because the polluters will say, "You can't say it's us! You can't say it's us!" So, so far they can prove that car and truck pollution makes asthma worse and now they're trying to see whether pollution causes asthma in the first place.
I went to two related building seminars, both sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association and American Institute of Architects and organized by Architect Chris Benedict, one on Building Science and one on Building Zero Net Energy homes. Marc Rosenbaum maintained that a house can be built that uses so little energy to run that you can supply the energy on site and he proved it with data from homes he helped build and showed us how to do it. He gave a lot of the same advice that Joe Lstiburek and John Straube gave at their seminar: insulate and seal intelligently, with careful consideration of where walls meet the floor, ceiling and roof, and to the windows. They gave information for building it right the first time and also for retrofitting a home that was built without considering how much it would cost to maintain it. I saw a lot of diagrams about air flow and water flow in and around buildings.
When homes are built, there are a lot of openings to the outside, which is where most of your energy leaks are going to occur. Not only around windows - and I heard over and over that there are only two types of windows: ones that leak and ones that will leak - but also where the plumbing and electric goes into the home. Many builders will make holes much bigger than the pipe or wiring that goes through them and then seal them poorly. Bear in mind that the people who design buildings usually won't be living there, the people who build buildings won't be living there, the people who sell them won't be living there and often the people who own the buildings won't be living there so they often just don't care how much it will cost to live there. Now, I don't know if that attitude is just as common in other countries, but the U.S. uses more than twice as much energy per person as Europe does and many times more than Asia, Africa, the Caribbean or South America and our buildings are one of the main reasons.
I learned that cellulose is a better insulator than fiberglass, that quality of insulation is better than the quantity of it and that mold is caused by a combination of insulation and vapor barriers improperly installed in hollow walls. Window technology over the past few years has made it so that homes don't lose as much energy through their windows as they used to, but they are still major places of energy leaks: heat goes out the window glass and frame in the winter and air conditioning goes out the window glass and frame in the summer. Window frames haven't changed much over the years and having metal window frames is like piping energy from your home to the outside because metal conducts heat and cold.
You don't need to ventilate a leaky building, but you do have to control airflow of a tightened building. I saw many examples of different ways to heat buildings. The best efficiency comes from co-generation, which is getting two different uses of energy via one source.
Buildings are better when the architect and the engineer are a team, working together on building after building. In the U.S., they generally team up on a project by project basis only.
Many award-winning buildings get their awards before the building is built, based on the outside of the building, not the structure. They often don't work well. I was surprised to find out that architects are rarely taught basic building science. They often don't know how buildings actually work, just how to make them look good. Joe called an all-glass building - you know the type - the architect sending a message and the message is giving mother nature an insult [not his exact words].
I also heard over and over that energy efficiency, comfort, building durability and saving money are so linked that it's hard to do one without doing the others. The last point they made: There will be a huge business in retrofitting.
For information on upcoming events of this nature, go to the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association web site.
There was a two-day Labor and environmental conference in early May organized by Cornell University's Global Labor Institute, the NYC Apollo Alliance and the Sierra Club. The conference was mostly about solutions to climate destruction and was three or four times the size of last year's conference.
The second speaker was Dr. Robert Socolow of Princeton University who gave the union organizers some basic science and introduced the issue of climate destruction, which I think is a more accurate term than global warming, and pointed out that a new coal plant is a commitment to keeping the climate crisis going for years.
This was the conference where I first heard about the 1,000 MW solar tower from Germany. What they've done is made a giant refracting mirror and what that does is collect sunlight that goes beneath a big lens, which then rises up a tower. As it rises, like a hot air balloon, it turns a turbine. That turbine makes electricity; that's basically how most electricity is made. Water going over a waterfall turns a turbine. Nuclear fission or burning coal boils water to make steam, which turns a turbine and makes electricity. The big solar refracting lens will turn a turbine directly and I assume as it comes down it will turn the turbine again. This guy from Germany told me they're getting 1,000 megawatts. That's bigger than most natural gas power plants. If the Indian Point Nuclear Plant ever operated at peak efficiency, that's what it could make.
Now, that's centralized power. Normally we think of solar energy as de-centralized so you may suddenly see the utilities saying they like solar power after all. [Since then, I spoke with a solar installer from upstate New York at the Hudson River Revival on June 17 and she confirmed this. She said the tower has been built; it's not merely something on the drawing board. She hadn't heard 1,000 MW, but she had heard it goes 35 miles per hour. If it's big enough, it could make that much power. This is different than the parabolic reflector solar tower from the early '80s, by the way, which never became popular. If you do an internet search for "solar tower" you'll learn about more countries that are building them, but none of the 1,000 MW size.]
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont pointed out that it will take 60 senators, not merely 51, to bring about environmental legislation because of presidential vetoes. He also pointed out that money influences Democrats, too. He mentioned a bill, S309, which I have not read so I merely mention it.
I expected to get many points of view at the workshop on carbon trading, but it seemed like even the people from organizations that were for it had a lot of negative things to say about it. Clearly, carbon trading is not a solution to the climate crisis, but is another way for industry to pretend to do something without actually helping. A great example of industry and market denial. Remember, "The Market" helped us get into this mess.
Werner Schneider of Germany's Alliance for Work and Environment told us what an economic boon the renewable energy industry has been in Germany. It's created thousands of jobs in many different fields and the air and water is cleaner. 1.6 million people work in the environmental sector, more than are in the auto industry.
Bill Banig from the Mineworkers Union acknowledged that coal emissions must be reduced, but of course still maintains that coal is a necessity and did not mention conservation or efficiency. He brought up that there's no place to put the CO2 from carbon sequestration. There is one proposal that the carbon from coal plants will go into the ground as oil comes out in order to keep it out of the atmosphere. Mr. Banig told us that in one year, five coal plants would completely fill the soon-to-be-empty Prudhoe Bay oil field. In other words, coal sequestration won't work because there is simply no room for all that pollution!
Howie Hawkins from the Teamsters Union in New England reminded everyone that a "G.I. bill" for cross-training workers was promised 15 years ago. Corporate welfare in the form of subsidies for corporations diverts money from real solutions and keeps the current problems going.
Jim Hunter of IBEW simply likes the construction jobs from new coal and nuclear plants. He did not mention construction jobs from windmills or other renewable energy sources at all. Nor jobs from retrofitting buildings or other types of efficiency.
Mary Olson of NIRS mentioned that windmills give you two to three times the electricity per dollar spent than nuclear plants do.
Despite that, Mark Williams of Genergy (and former Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant worker, who confirmed the wind turbine data) said there is no alternative to nuclear plants, though he didn't say anything specifically as to how that could be true. I guess he wasn't listening to the other presentations of the day. He did point out that due to loss of power as electricity is transmitted from the power plant to the home, 1 watt saved in the home saves an average of three watts at the source.
Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club California pointed out that the basic politics of energy did not change in Washington last November. I'll add that the basic politics of all environmental issues haven't changed, but that there are more people active on environmental issues and that is what will lead to an improvement. Carl said that 100 of the Fortune 500 are talking about reducing CO2.
Joaquin Nieto Sainz of Sustainable Labor Spain said that worldwide carbon emissions have to be reduced by 80% and pretty much scolded the U.S. for creating two to three times more carbon emissions per person than the average European. One initial roadblock in Spain was that with the U.S. not doing their part, why should Spain? They started with an alliance of labor unions, environmental groups and anti-poverty groups. And now, changing from non-renewable to renewable energy has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, increased employment and reduced healthcare costs in Spain.
Jerry Van Den Berge of the Netherlands spoke of successes there, hoping to inspire similar successes in the U.S. He pointed out that as his country got greener, it got healthier.
Someone in the audience pointed out that the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi just opened up in New York state and all the wind turbines were built in Viet Nam and shipped over. Meanwhile, there are auto-making plants closing in the U.S. and car axles are almost identical with windmill axles and the bearings are identical. Jim Rogers of the United Auto Workers called a windmill a "car upside down."
Ron Carver of the Teamsters told us that the biggest contributor to air pollution in Los Angeles is the Port of L.A. and almost half of that pollution comes from trucks going back and forth. The drivers tend to be new immigrants in old trucks and are both emitters and victims of pollution because they tend to live near-by.
Elizabeth Yampierre of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance pointed out that what is environmentally bad for whites is extra bad for others.
Only the Steelworkers and Transit Workers Unions sent top management, although some unions sent vice presidents. I heard people say that environmental policy must be openly pro-union, but not that labor policy must be openly environmental, despite the health (and health cost) connection. The World Trade Organization protests were an alliance between labor unions and environmentalists, but that alliance seems to have dissolved since 9-11.
Shipping jobs overseas to where there are no environmental laws is not just a matter of jobs vs. the environment because that pollution affects our climate, too, through the greenhouse effect. One teamster organizer said labor and environmentalists are "diametrically opposed" because pollution controls cost money and "We see that at contract time." When I told him that less pollution means a healthier environment and that means health care costs go down and you see that at contract time, he agreed with me then asked me to explain it again 20 seconds later. Clearly the blue-green alliance has a lot further to go. Let's call it Great Potential.
Go to the Global Labor Institute web site to learn about next year's conference [which never happened].
At a Health, Environment and Labor program not connected with the conference I just told you about, there were half a dozen speakers, but very little comment was made on the environment. One person mentioned that NYC has the slowest buses in the U.S. and that the Department of Transportation refuses to give them their own lanes. It keeps some people off buses - in fact I'm one of them - but I can see DOT's point about taking up an entire lane for sporadic use. Perhaps during rush hours? Another person pointed out that lead paint was banned when labor and environmentalists combined forces in the '50s. That's about all to report from over three hours.
I spent a day at the UN during Committee on Sustainable Development activities. They had a little eco-fest in the hallway outside the main restaurant and there were tables for OPEC and nuclear energy. Nothing the least bit sustainable there, quite the opposite. The person staffing another table told me they were the renewable energy folks, not nuclear. When I read their literature, it was all about nuclear power and full of misleading statements and outright lies, which is the only way they promote such a poisonous energy source. So I was outright lied to by the staffer and it was so easy to catch her in the lie - all I had to do was read the literature she gave me. Another table was about Barbados tourism. I asked that staffer how high the island rose. "Not very high," he told me. "So you're one of the countries that are being hit by the sea level rise." "Oh yes very much." So I asked him if he had any literature on that. No. And he seemed surprised by my question.
After those experiences I started asking all the UN employees and people I met who work with the UN what the UN actually does to mitigate climate destruction. All I got was hopes for a better response in the future, stories about potential and how the UN is better than nothing. I felt like I was talking to fans of a sports franchise. I was reminded that it's an inter-governmental agency and all governments' interests must be addressed. I only saw the richest countries' interests being addressed. I saw the status quo being protected. What I saw that day was resources being diverted away from actually improving the world. I left the UN wondering why the conservatives are so against it.
At the CUNY grad center, NYC professors spoke specifically about the effects of climate destruction on New York City. Everyone was local, all the panelists taught at different colleges in the area. What changes have already been noticed? There have been changes in first leaf dates and there's been nearly a foot of sea level rise at the Battery (the southern end of Manhattan).
John Waldman of Queens College told us there are some winners and some losers in fish species due to climate destruction with the losers being species desirable to people. Don't it figure?
William Solecki of Hunter College said that New York City rainfall is about 45 inches per year and seems to be the same amount over a year, but coming in fewer days, so there is less benefit to it. What used to be called a 100-year flood is now occurring every 4 to 40 years, depending on which scenario models you use.
George Henry of Brookhaven Lab talked about 30 million people flooded in Bangla Desh and suggested that many of the world's eco-refugees will end up in New York City.
The most interesting slide was of the effect of a category 3 hurricane hitting the New Jersey shore. Not a worst case scenario by anyone's definition and the effects shown were considerable. Basically, all of Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, Howard Beach, Jamaica Bay, Broad Channel and the Rockaway peninsula would be severely flooded as well as eastern Staten Island, lower Manhattan, the South Bronx and northern Queens. (Being an NYC-oriented presentation, the south shore of Long Island was not shown, but you can be sure the barrier islands would be flooded.)
They recommended reading the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, which are available on the web at www.ipcc.ch. There are a LOT of reports there for you. That's not .com or .org, but ipcc.ch.
My favorite conference of the bunch was probably the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation's two-day Microbes conference in late April mostly because it's the one where I learned the most. At many conferences, speakers leave when their part of the program is over. Not so this one. I think it's because of the interdisciplinary nature of the conference. They were learning from people not quite in their field, but in related fields. Many insights were shared.
If you heard the April 3rd episode of Eco-Logic, you got an introduction to this conference. I suspect many people feel that anything to do with microbes is negative, which is not true and that's why they divided the conference into "Can't live without 'em" and "Can't live with 'em."
A lot of discussion during both days was on the definition of species and the irrelevance of the term species in the case of microbes. There was a great slide showing the genetic similarity between a white man and a black woman who have 99.9% identical genes, a human and a chimpanzee 96% identical genes, a human and a banana 50% identical genes and a culture of E. coli where there is a 30% difference in the genes between individuals. Genetic material can transfer between microbes. That doesn't happen with macro organisms.
Microbes respond to climate change better and faster than macro-organisms and arrive in species-poor areas first. That is, areas low in bio-diversity; areas where an eco-system is out of balance. As temperature increases, so do microbe processes. Microbes are important to the whole eco-system and the whole eco-system is important to human survival.
Mark Siddall of the American Museum of Natural History pointed out that only 1400 different microbes are human pathogens. Out of the 100s of thousands that exist. There are less pathogens if there is more biodiversity.
Peter Groffman of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY pointed out that microbes can do things we can't. They can digest what we can and also what we can't, such as rocks and poison, whether they have oxygen or not. They can eat pcb's, though they are slower than dredging. The science of biodegradability is new. Maybe they can eat human drugs, too. Peter's an expert in the nitrogen cycle - he admits to being a "nitrogen nerd." Plants need nitrogen and microbes help them get it. When the soil freezes, they can't take in nitrogen. How is climate destruction making that worse? A fascinating paradox. Snow is an insulator, so when there is no snow the soil freezes. Nitrogen leaches into the water instead of being taken up by plants.
David Relman of Stanford talked about the human body as a microbial eco-system. Though much remains to learn about the rain forest eco-system, even more is unknown about the human body's eco-system. Among the many benefits of microbes to us are vitamin production, digestion, and resistance to disease. The more closely related two organisms are, the more similar are their microbe populations, especially if their eco-systems are similar.
Mya Breitbart of the University of South Florida told us that marine viruses have transferred genetic material between species so that there are similarities between species throughout the world. Individual eco-systems seem to determine what is most numerous where.
Andrew Dobson, a parasitologist from Princeton University, said a healthy eco-system not only has species diversity of macro-organisms, but of parasites, too. Every plant and animal has parasites. When eco-systems are disrupted, one or two parasite species take over, and that's a problem. One parasite that lives part of its life in a fish and part in a fish-eating bird actually causes the fish they're in to swim slower and higher so they're more likely to be eaten by birds. Bad for the fish, good for the birds.
A recent study on obese people found that their microbe populations are different than thin people and that the microbial species population changes as a person's weight changes. They're still trying to figure out if that's a cause or an effect and if there is a corollary with that story about parasites and fish behavior.
Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation, told us global warming is increasing plankton blooms, which in turn increases cholera. Patricia Gilbert of the University of Maryland pointed out that plankton blooms called red tide poison about a million people per year. They are worsened by a combination of warmer water due to global warming and farming practices that put nutrients into the water. Life has adapted to seasons and changing that…well….
Rich Ostfeld of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY told us a high biodiversity of birds lessens West Nile Virus because West Nile prefers some bird species over others. Poison kills all species indiscriminately so poison gives us more West Nile Virus, not less.
Kate Jones from the Zoological Society of London told us that Emerging Infectious Diseases have been increasing since 1940. She didn't have to add that so has climate change.
Shahd Naeem of Columbia University did a wonderful experiment in biodiversity with his students. He sectioned off a meadow, changed species here and there and measured the results. Biodiversity is more important than biomass when it comes to the amount of CO2 plants take up. CO2 is a greenhouse gas and the more different species of plants there were in an area, the more CO2 they took in. How big the plants were was not as big a factor, though it is a factor, too, of course. That's a simple explanation of why tropical rainforests are so important to help deal with climate destruction. It's the most diverse eco-system the earth has. It must be protected.
You might say that Marilyn Roosinck of the Virus Genome Project was speaking up for viruses. Only 1% of them cause disease, but they're the only ones studied despite the fact that so many are necessary for many plants to survive; viruses of agricultural plants are just beginning to be studied. 17% of the human genome might be viral.
"If humanity were to disappear, the remainder of life would spring back and flourish. If all ants were to disappear, there would be the opposite effect and it would be catastrophic." -- B. Holldobler and E. O. Owen
Next year's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation conference is on human cultural diversity. It'll be April 2nd to the 5th. Their web site: www.cbc.amnh.org.
Transportation Alternatives hosted Todd Littman's slide presentation. He made a wonderful analogy about those of us who are trying to halt and reverse climate destruction. When a doctor tells someone to quit smoking and exercise and eat better, many people will call that doctor a nag. But the surgeon who saves your life because you didn't do those things is called a hero. [Dr. Ali, whose health show follows Eco-Logic, loves that.] The analogy with environmental activists is pretty obvious.
He had a lot of interesting facts about transportation. For example, current tax policies favor company cars over paying for transportation, putting more cars on the road. Walkers and bicyclists refuel using food, which helps local economies. There have been riots in Mexico because corn is subsidized in the U.S. for ethanol, so Mexicans are paying more for corn to eat.
He put up a graph showing that the bigger the city, the more traffic congestion there is with the exception being New York City because of our mass transit system.
He also asked the audience how many people knew someone who moved from the city to the suburbs because it was safer. Nearly everyone raised their hand. Then he showed a graph of fatalities in cities and suburbs from crime and from traffic accidents. Many more people die from those two things in the suburbs than in cities, despite lower population density. And energy use per person is less in cities than in suburbs, I will add.
He compared government putting in solutions to greenhouse gases with banning public smoking.
Transportation Alternatives is at 212-629-8080 & www.transalt.org.
I attended two programs on mercury. The Lower Washington Heights Neighborhood Association did one; the National Audubon Society did the other. Mercury poisoning has been linked to Attention Deficit Disorder in kids and reproductive failure in fish-eating birds such as loons and a whole host of other problems in humans and in wildlife. The U.S. EPA took mercury off the toxins list a few years ago. A ton and a half of it was sold in the Bronx alone, mostly in botanicas, in 1995, the last year they could get figures for, though most mercury in the outside environment comes from power plants that burn fossil fuel. I find inaction with indoor mercury on the part of politicians to be rather racist because most of the apartments that have mercury poisoning are in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods and the kids that are being poisoned are not relevant to them. For more information, call the Lower Washington Heights Neighborhood Association, 212-862-8958. They even have a mercury monitor for apartments.
I've been noticing and hearing that most topics I cover on Eco-Logic later become topics of shows on NPR. Well, folks, today was a whole lot of ideas for them. But you heard it on WBAI first! This is Ken Gale on Eco-Logic, WBAI, New York, 99.5 FM, listener-supported Pacifica network radio.
After this show aired, I received e-mail and phone comments on many different parts of this show. I'm glad not all the comments were the same subject. I can't help but wonder if that will be the case with the print version because of what people find with search engines.
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