Archive | November, 2012

Post-Sandy: Doha meets the Biggest (CO2) Loser

28 Nov

A whimsical, wishful thought about human nature and change!

 What could You do with 42 Billion Dollars?

It would be like winning the biggest lottery ever!  You’d never have to worry about a thing.  Why you could live anywhere you wanted safely and securely.  Even if it was on the edge of a cliff – fiscal or otherwise.  You could build the safest support around to stay safely perched.

Unless of course Sandy-esque storms strike and sweep you into the void below.

Of course you could afford to build a new house – anywhere.   On a beach, or, on your own island in the South Pacific.

Unless that island drowns by rising sea levels – or a Sandy-esque surge.

Living on the edge – fiscally or environmentally it’s dangerous!

Climate change will change our sense of security.

I have to mention Sandy since only a month ago NYC was hit by the costliest storm to hit this island.  It will cost NYC $42 Billion to rebuild – well, actually it will cost FEMA that amount.

Global warming is REALLY expensive!

And like the song goes:  if climate change can make it here (NYC) , it can make it anywhere.”

Well, close enough.  Post-Sandy, there was real acknowledgement – by politicians and skeptics alike – of the real and present danger of global warming courtesy of rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

So a month after this devastating storm, acknowledged to be ‘The New Normal’, global climate talks are being held in Doha Qatar.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/11/28/understanding-the-doha-climate-talks-in-three-charts/  click here for the Washington Post’s sum of the talks past and present.

Global leaders are discussing policies and actions to halt, reverse, and take action about our warming planet and its deleterious effects.

It’s been 15 years since the Kyoto Protocol and the first climate talks.  Talk is just hot air.  Hot air adds to global warming.  And there has been lots of talk over the years.

Industrialization and ‘the good life’ has led to increased carbon dioxide emissions leading to to increased temperatures causing increased melting of the ice caps, and, rising sea levels.

And all of that leads to severe weather patterns like our blistering hot summer and catastrophic hurricanes.

Insult to injury:  melting ice caps are releasing methane (aka as carbon-dioxide), increasing temperatures even more and accelerating the above process.

I somehow assumed this years climate talks would be front page news considering the extreme weather of this past year including draughts and heat, and Sandy.

I somehow assumed people would really care this year.  But assumptions are as dangerous as not believing in climate change.

China is gearing up for action in 2030; the U.S. is poised for 2015.

This means potential for 3 more Sandy-esque storms to hit the Northeast – and we know New Yorker’s won’t stand for that.  I mean, would YOU?

Three more years of sinking islands and drowning polar bears.  Three more years

for carbon-dioxide levels to rise even further.

I continue to wonder why people don’t care and why these climate talks are buried beneath worries of the fiscal cliff.

I think I have the solution to get people interested and involved and to take action:

We need a REALITY SHOW! 

Imagine:  THE BIGGEST carbon-emission LOSER.

People LOVE that show and for good reason.

This would be a chance for all of us to lighten our load since the whole planet is CO2 pudgy.  No, let’s be honest:  CO2 OBESE.

And it’s dangerous and ugly.  People can’t breathe, can’t move.

This revolution needs a better sign! Help me out here!

So here’s how The Biggest carbon-emission Loser would work:

Each week on a televised broadcast:  Nations, represented by Presidents, Ministers, Kings, or Princes would weigh the carbon-dioxide output of their citizens and their actions.

Imagine Obama competing with Angela Merkel’s EU (for starters).

During the intervening weeks, citizens would take action in their countries to reduce CO2 to help their nations win.  Well lose first to win big!

Each and every one of us would have to:

  1. Consume less stuff, energy, gas
  2. Exercise responsible use of water and electricity
  3. Work out ways to support responsible manufacturing and safe energy production

We can do this – we can win! 

And for those of us in the U.S. we can whup some EU butt by putting our good ‘ole Yankee ingenuity to good use.

So what will you do to reduce our CO2 emissions?

Will you get  your community together to reduce and reuse?

Carpool?

Rethink holiday gifts or at least skip the wrapping paper? Re-gift?

Turn off the water?

Let’s start a revolution.

I say let’s take action and participate in the Biggest loser: carbon emission version! Pic: http://savemyblueplanet.blogspot.com/p/photos-showint-effects-of-global.html

We can all be reality TV stars!  Let’s get this on screens around the world!

Share your thoughts!

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Wetlands: a sexy environmental elastic waistband

16 Nov

Do you own elastic waistband pants?

Perhaps your pants du jour for the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner?

Wearing loose, pliable and elastic-waisted pants provides safety when overindulgence threatens to overflow the muffin top after turkey, not to mention those

tumblr_m7l57gro081qdw2uvo1_500.jpg

pre-dinner, mingle and football appetizers.

Personally, ( I) don’t want  my zipper parting like the Red Sea.

It’s more than portion control.  Party wardrobes require planning and preparation with an eye on safety.

I play it safe, careful with my pants selection and other aspects of my life.

Take my checking account.  Remember ‘back in the day’ when banks offered the equivalent of an elastic waistband known as overdraft protection with a savings account?  But that was before the surging debt known as the subprime mortgage crisis crashed the global American Dream, forcing us to toss our elastic waistband financial practices.

Now, checking overflow leads to a painful fine.

I hate that…

But overflow overindulgence:  is short-sighted.

Post-Sandy brings Katrina’ reminders of overindulgent building in  wetlands.  Result: overflowing surges from  Hurricane Sandy causing cars and waterfront property to drown.

In nature, Mother Nature creates safety to prevent overflow.  She originated an elastic waistband equivalent with marshes,  and wetlands to control flooding and preserve shorelines.

Didn’t Frank Sinatra sing:  If wetlands can make it here (NYC) they can make it anywhere?  If he didn’t, I’m sure he would have post-Sandy.

Wetlands, something you may not think about when you think NYC. WE got ’em – we need ’em even more now. Wetlands, though in prime waterfront property will save us from Sandy-like flooding and devastation. Of course it means letting wetlands recover and not building in them. pic: nyc.gov

Maybe you didn’t pay much attention to wetlands till Katrina hit.  Wetland’ loss was given credit for the expansiveness of that storm’s damage.

WEtlands New Orleans style! MRGO Must Go Coalition seeks to bring back these critical wetlands. Launched in 2006 in the wake of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, the 17-member coalition—coordinated by NWF—brought together scientists, environmentalists and local communities to raise awareness of the role the MRGO played in worsening Katrina’s damage

I’m thinking wetlands protect  NYC/NJ coastlines  like my checking account alerts prevent my spending ‘overflow’ and costly, painful fines.

Turning off my daily alerts would be short-sighted.

Building on wetlands is equally short-sighted.  It’s like wearing tight, tight pants to a holiday buffet and it’s done for the same reason:

It’s about offering a great view.  A sexy view.

But great views come with a great cost.

Farewell 2012.  Welcome 2013:

We have a new normal:  annual ‘100 year’ storms.

We need a new sexy:  healthy wetlands.

So flaunt your sexiness this holiday season by tightening your cash flow, donning your elastic waistbanded pants, and, proudly fa-la-la-ing about wetlands.

Impress your favorite tree-hugger:  Share your sexy conversation starter for making wetlands the center of conversation!

Sandy’s Mementos: Brighton Beach and Coney Island

11 Nov

Are natural disasters the new normal?

How often have I asked myself that question after any kind of change?  I don’t know if I’ve ever come up with any answer other than:

Resilience.

Resilience has to be the new normal for thinking about work, the economy, personal tragedies, and especially the environment.

Especially the environment?  Without the environment, there is no life as we know it.  No life as we may want it.  Hint:  Hurricane Sandy

Election day in Brooklyn at the makeshift polling place for displaced Brighton Beach and Coney Island residents, the consensus was natural disasters are the new normal.

More of Sandy’s Global Warming Warning:

The ‘F’ train runneth! NYC’s subway system is miraculously  up and running a week later. Thanks to this amazing system, MILLIONS of New Yorkers don’t need cars, lessening our carbon footprint.
I’ll be singing the F train’s praises for weeks to come, and not complaining about its quirky service.

On Thursday, two days after the hurricane, partial F train service brought me about 1/2 mile from the ocean.

Avenue X.

Walking down this street on my way to Coney Island, everything looked ‘normal’.

Except for the towels draped on fences.

And the garbage bags.

I stopped to talk to this man and his wife.  In 55 years this is the worst they’ve seen as the ocean turned their street into a river, flooding basements.

They were lucky.  Of course they were two of the most optimistic octogarians I’ve ever met.  I was lucky to have met them.

A man we would all want for a neighbor! The dark mark on the telephone pole shows the height of the water surging down the street flooding basements, moving cars.

The new normal? Cars that find themselves new parking spaces? Less than a mile from Coney Island.  Hundreds and hundreds of cars now sit sand-dusted and abandoned, ready to be trashed!

Deciduous trees buried in sand almost as high as the boardwalk. Seen as you walk to the boardwalk between Coney Island amusement park and Brighton Beach

Brighton beach is filled with fruit and vegetable stands like this one, opened Thursday after Sandy even much of the street and neighborhood was without power, or, stood flooded. Open stores like this gave comfort that life would be, could be ‘normal’ again.

Yet, over a week later, people are still without heat and hot water, elevators that work.    Many have to walk down then up over 20 flights of stairs to shop – and on Tuesday to vote.  Needless to say, many did not make the trip.

Arriving at the Brighton beach boardwalk and looking down at the restaurants filled in summer with (mostly) Russian residents luxuriating in their ‘Little Odessa’ – it almost looks normal – but it’s not

Brighton’s wonderful Tatiana Grill weighed down by Sandy. Brighton’s residents are immigrants – from Russia – who years ago made this neighborhood their own. Tatiana will be grilling again soon I’m sure as residents drink, eat, chat and enjoy.

Coney Island still stands! Amazingly, the storm struck, leaving the amusement park sand swept but not devastated.Or not totally.   I always think of Coney Island as NYC’s last unpretentious area. Friday night fireworks delight the lower of the 99% (including me!) and a reminder that the simplest things in life can be some of the best.

“when it rains you don’t go to the beach – your garbage does”
is an MTA poster reminding us to carefully secure and throw away garbage. Does it work where you are?
It doesn’t work here…  but we can do better – I think – can’t we?

 

What do you think is the new normal?

How do you maintain your resilience after devastation?

 

Hurricane Sandy’s Global Warming WARNing

4 Nov

Horrific devastation of a flooded then burned Breezy Point, Queens after Sandy struck – and compared to a bombed WWII city.
Are we at War?
If we are, we are losing – and we’ve been warned.
photo from: cnbc.com

A week ago we were preparing for Sandy.  Now, many parts of the city are dealing with unbelievable devastation.  Sitting in a Starbucks  close to Central Park, there’s an eerie sense of normalcy.

Runners from around the world limp by in their brightly colored shirts.  They’ve  run their 26 miles without the help of the cancelled NYC marathon.

At the southern tip of Brooklyn, the Atlantic Ocean nips the beaches of Coney Island and the Russian neighborhood of Brighton Beach.

Subtle.  We’ve all been transfixed by dramatic images of floods and fires.

Here are subtle but real images of the storm.

Starbucks on Brighton, a block from Brighton Beach’s boardwalk, still shuttered on Thursday, 10/31 after Sandy.

Normalcy is Starbucks where on the most ordinary of days is filled with chatterers and writers.  This particular Starbucks a block from Brighton Beach was shuttered as of last Thursday.  A small reminder.

Life will never be the same.  Or will it?  Memory is fleeting: our strength and challenge as humans.

Post-Sandy, I took a walk down Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.  Ocean Parkway is Central Park’ architects (Vaux and Olmstead) tree-lined grand promenade, linking Prospect Park  and Coney Island.

Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s landscaped park courtesy of Vaux and Olmstead – and the park they preferred!

NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg and NY Governor Cuomo murmur loud enough to be heard over election babble:  Sandy’s vengeance  is the face of disasters to come.

And is the result of global climate change.

This is NYC’s third natural disaster in two years.

A killer 2010 snowstorm buried buses and cars for days on end, devastating holiday plans and shopping

Maybe we are at war?  Maybe Mother Nature is trying to tell us something?  If we are at war, who are our allies?  Our enemies?

A casualty!  This tree-crushed car must have horrified it’s owner. Luckily for the owner, this neighborhood suffered no power loss, flooding, or fires.

Luck is in the eyes of the beholder, especially after a disaster.  My neighbor complained about the lack of milk and eggs in the stores.  And of course no gas.

It seems the less we have to complain about, the more we complain.  I bet a week ago, people in Staten Island would have focused on this complaint.   Things change – like the climate.  And what we complain about.

Uprooted trees fell to their death, united with chunks of the earth which had kept them stable and solid for so long. What will we do without them? How will we live?

Thousands of trees were killed during the hurricane. Sadly, these fallen trees now block streets, damaged houses, cars, and, even killed people.
(If you look carefully…)
I guess someone realized this dead tree could no longer feed herself (photosynthesis) SO LEFT A BOTTLE OF JUICE on her fallen trunk. For the tree to drink.

Irony:

Killed trees = less absorbed carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Less trees = more carbon dioxide  = increased temperature.

Increased temperature = warmer ocean.

Warmer ocean = more hurricanes.

But we all know this.

Attack of the killer tree? Tree suicide? It almost looks like the tree attacked this car. She knows killing cars is one way to fight climate change.

Environmentalists have been crying ‘global warming’ for years, going back centuries.  Remember singing:  ‘they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.’ (Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi)

No Gas! Every gas station I saw was closed and lineless.
One more reason I am thankful and thrilled with a great public transportation system which IS up and running!
It’s as if the cars not crushed by trees were silenced by lack of gas. Coincidence?

Close to where Ocean Parkway meets the boardwalk,  the ocean’s surge took action on cars:

Cars were nudged out-of-place, not as dramatic as pictures of piles of boats in people’s yard. Disquieting. Like the ‘clean’ sidewalks and ‘dust’ in the air the closer one got to the ocean.

Sandy turned the entrance to the boardwalk into a sand dune!

Piles of sand, rearranged from one side of the boardwalk to the other – not major, not dramatic, subtle. Kind of like climate change so far. Kind of like small islands disappearing. Unless you live there. Or unless your car becomes buried in sand.

The ocean was apologetically quiet post hurricane. While I passed over a dozen wanderers, only one fisherman sat patiently waiting for signs of life to emerge on the end of his line.

There’s a ‘neutral zone’ between the energy of Coney Island’s amusement park and the calm, European flavor of ‘Little Odessa’, the Russian neighborhood of Brighton Beach.  In that zone is the NY Aquarium.

NYC’s diversity is its strength. We’ve survived 9/11, we’ll survive this. Diversity adds dimension and as perspective, the planet loses way too many species every year no thanks to human actions. I don’t think we can even begin to imagine how this loss of diversity will impact life as we know it.

Please donate to the victims of this natural disaster and for those who will suffer from disasters to come.

And vote:  remember only one candidate has spoken about climate change.  Climate change alone will focus our jobs and needs in years to come!

What do you think?  How can we save the planet?  What can each of us do?